Indian mother taught me to fight for change: Kamala Harris

Gopalan, who came to the United States from Chennai and was a breast cancer researcher, passed away in 2009. But she has remained the most enduring influence in Harris’s life, the US senator wrote ahead of her failed White House bid in 2019.
Democratic vice presidential running mate, US Senator Kamala Harris, speaks as Democratic presidential nominee and former US Vice President Joe Biden during the first press conference with Joe Biden in Wilmington, Delaware, on August 12, 2020. (Photo by Olivier DOULIERY / AFP)(AFP)
Democratic vice presidential running mate, US Senator Kamala Harris, speaks as Democratic presidential nominee and former US Vice President Joe Biden during the first press conference with Joe Biden in Wilmington, Delaware, on August 12, 2020. (Photo by Olivier DOULIERY / AFP)(AFP)
Updated on Aug 14, 2020 05:03 AM IST
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Hindustan Times, Washington | By Yashwant Raj

Appearing with Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee for president, for the fist time after he named her his running mate, Senator Kamala Harris on Wednesday credited her Indian-born mother for inspiring her into a life in public service that led her to this historic moment.

“Don’t just sit around and complain about things,” Harris, 55, said her mother, Shyamala Gopalan, would tell her and younger sister Maya Harris when they were growing up. “Do something.”

Gopalan, who came to the United States from Chennai and was a breast cancer researcher, passed away in 2009. But she has remained the most enduring influence in Harris’s life, the US senator wrote ahead of her failed White House bid in 2019.

Harris made history on Tuesday as the first Indian-American and Black woman to run for vice-president.

“Kamala is smart. She’s tough. She’s experienced. She’s a proven fighter for the backbone of this country, the middle class and those struggling to get into the middle class,” Biden said in his first public explanation of why he picked Harris, from the 11 other women candidates he considered for the job.

And, after listing out her accomplishments, the former vice-president said, “As the child of immigrants, she knows personally how immigrant families enrich our country, as well as the challenges of what it means to grow up Black and Indian-American in the United States.” He added: “Her story is an American story – different from mine in many particulars, but also, not so different in essentials.” The former vice-president then went on to frame his pick in a larger context of a changing America: “And this morning, all across this nation little girls woke up – especially little Black and Brown girls who so often may feel overlooked and undervalued in our society — but today, maybe they’re seeing themselves for the first time in a new way. As the stuff of Presidents and Vice Presidents.”

Biden and Harris used their first public appearance together after the announcement to launch a blistering attack on President Donald Trump. “As someone who has presented my fair share of arguments in court, the case against Donald Trump and {vice president} Mike Pence is open and shut,” said Harris.

After the historic announcement on Tuesday, Wednesday was a quiet affair, held at a school gymnasium in Wilmington, Delaware, which is Biden’s home-state. There were no on-stage handshakes or hugs, and the candidates stayed socially distanced for the photo-op, joined by their spouses. And they put on their masks as they left.

“Just look where they’ve gotten us,” Harris said, taking aim at the Trump administration for its handling of the ongoing Covid-19 epidemic. “When other countries were following the science, Trump pushed miracle cures he saw on Fox News.”

Polls show a large chunk of Americans do not approve the Trump administration’s response to the biggest public health crisis faced by the US since the 1918 flu epidemic that killed 675,000 people in the country.

The president’s changing position on social distancing and use of masks and his “delusional belief that he knows better than the experts”, Harris said, are the reasons why “an American dies of Covid-19 every 80 seconds, why countless businesses have had to shut their doors for good.”

Continuing to hold Trump personally responsible for the crisis and the resulting unemployment, among other consequences, the Senator said, “He inherited the longest economic expansion in history from Barack Obama and Joe Biden — and then, like everything else he inherited, he ran it straight into the ground.”

Harris also spoke of her commitment to “root out systemic racism from our justice system”, pass a Voting Rights Act, support for dreamers and immigrants, LGBTQs (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queers) and identified herself with the anti-racism protests, saying, “All across this country, a whole new generation of children is growing up hearing the cries for justice, and chants of hope, on which I was raised” during the civil rights movement in the 1960s. On November 3, voting day, she said: “We need more than a victory … We need a mandate that proves that the past few years do not represent who we are, or who we aspire to be.”

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Sunday, October 17, 2021