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Secrets behind Kamala Harris’s powerful leadership

As America’s highest-ranking woman in its 244-year existence, the trailblazer turned a dream into reality.

Kamala Harris image: Getty

US President-elect Joe Biden may have won the 2020 election against Donald Trump, but it’s Vice President-elect Kamala Harris who has attracted global attention.

Kamala made history as the first woman and first woman of colour to be elected Vice President following the Democrats’ historic election win after months of tireless campaigning.

The momentous victory isn’t just an incredible triumph for the White House, but also an inspiring demonstration of the opportunities that arise when glass ceilings are smashed.

“I may be the first woman in this office, I will not be the last,” Kamala shared. “Because every little girl watching tonight sees that this is a country of possibilities.”

From the outside looking in, Kamala may appear to have suddenly soared to national prominence overnight – but that’s far from reality.

The lawyer steadily rose through the ranks of the US legal system before becoming a district attorney for San Francisco and attorney-general in California.

Kamala was first elected to national office in 2016 and made headlines a year later when she questioned the then-US Attorney-General Jeff Sessions regarding Russian election interference.

Described as being a cultural figure after hitting the campaign trail in her trademark Converse shoes, the trailblazer is championing millions of under-represented people in the US.

“I may be the first woman in this office, I will not be the last.” – Kamala Harris

“This is a sign that women in America can achieve the highest political offices in our country. It is sending a very positive message to young girls and boys,” Sharon Austin, Professor of Political Science at the University of Florida and Editor of The American Political Science Review, told the ABC.

Kamala is set to be the highest-ranking woman in the nation’s 244-year existence. For the daughter of Indian and Jamaican immigrants, it’s a power that was once just a dream.

Leadership lessons from Kamala Harris

It takes a village

She may be the Vice President-elect, but it’s Kamala’s humble acceptance and appreciation that truly shines through.

Shyamala Gopalan Harris, who was a biomedical scientist, fuelled her daughter’s drive for success, helping her break barriers along the way.

“To the woman most responsible for my presence here today, my mother, Shyamala Gopalan Harris, who is always in our hearts,” Kamala said during her victory speech. “When she came here from India at the age of 19, she maybe didn’t quite imagine this moment. But she believed so deeply in an America where a moment like this is possible.”

Equally as important, the influential politician – who wore white as a nod to the suffragettes during her victory speech – believes her awe-inspiring achievement wouldn’t have been possible if it weren’t for the women who came before her.

“I am thinking about [my mother], about the generations of women – Black women, Asian, white, Latina, Native American women who, throughout our nation’s history, have paved the way for this moment tonight,” Kamala said. “Women who fought and sacrificed so much for equality and liberty and justice for all, including the Black women who are too often overlooked but so often prove they are the backbone of our democracy.

“All the women who have worked to secure and protect the right to vote for over a century, 100 years ago with the 19th Amendment, 55 years ago with the Voting Rights Act, and now in 2020 with a new generation of women in our country who cast their ballots and continued the fight for their fundamental right to vote and be heard.”

Be the change

While she has fought inequalities her entire life, it is something the 56-year-old hopes others will continue fighting.

Meena Harris – Kamala’s niece – shared some of the powerful messages her “Vice President Auntie” has championed for decades.

“When Aunt Kamala and Mum were young and would come home from school complaining about something they felt was unfair, my grandma would reply, ‘Well, what are you going to do about it? Don’t sit around and complain about things, do something,’” Meena told NBC News. “Aunt Kamala always emphasised this lesson to me by urging me to make my own unique contributions to issues I care about.

“None of us can do everything, but we all have the responsibility to do something.”

Be driven by purpose

Kamala was just seven when her parents divorced and she and her younger sister, Maya, were raised by their single mother.

From leading a protest at her apartment building against a policy that banned children from playing on the lawn at just 13 to passing the bar in 1990 and being shunned by police unions for a decade after she declined to pursue the death penalty against the man who murdered police officer Isaac Espinoza, the leader has always challenged policies and opinions.

Following a rich law career where she fought injustice from inside the system – including when she created an online platform to make criminal justice data available to the public – Kamala hopes to inspire younger generations to follow their dreams.

“To the children of our country, regardless of your gender, our country has sent you a clear message – dream with ambition, lead with conviction and see yourselves in a way that others may not, simply because they’ve never seen it before,” she says.

Don’t forget your roots

One of the refreshing qualities Kamala embraces is a grounded approach to life.

Despite being the most powerful woman in the US, the Vice President-elect always remembers where she came from.

Influenced by her grandfather, who was a high-ranking government official, and her grandmother, who was an activist teaching poverty-stricken women about birth control, Kamala was surrounded by pioneering relatives.

While she was raised by her South Asian mother, her Black heritage wasn’t forgotten.

“My mother understood very well that she was raising two Black daughters,” Kamala wrote in her autobiography. “She knew that her adopted homeland would see Maya and me as Black girls, and she was determined to make sure we would grow into confident, proud Black women.”

True leadership

Promising to be the Vice President Joe Biden was to former President Barack Obama, Kamala unveiled what true leadership means to her – loyalty, honesty and preparation.

“Anyone who claims to be a leader must speak like a leader,” Kamala shared on Instagram. “That means speaking with integrity and truth.”

Feature image: Getty Images

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