US VP-elect Harris tells women she won't be last

By: AFP      Published: 10:29 AM, 8 Nov, 2020
US VP-elect Harris tells women she won't be last

Kamala Harris on Saturday shattered barriers to become the first woman vice-president and, in a symbolism-heavy victory speech, told girls she would not be the last.

Introducing President-elect Joe Biden in an optimism-fuelled outdoor rally, Harris -- also the first Black woman and Indian-American as vice-president -- sported a white suit in recognition of the suffragist movement that fought to give US women the vote a century ago.

"While I may be the first woman in this office, I won't be the last," she said to cheers and honks from the crowd gathered in socially distanced cars. "Because every little girl watching tonight sees that this is a country of possibilities."

Harris vowed to fight to "root out systematic racism" but, like Biden, made a broad appeal to unity, saying that Americans "have elected a president who represents the best in us."

The California senator's speech was in itself a sign of the prominent role that she has been given by Biden, with newly elected presidents historically keeping the spotlight on themselves rather than sharing the podium with their number twos.

A beaming Harris raised her hands in celebration as she entered to the energetic beats of Mary J. Blige's song "Work That," an ode to Black women's self-confidence.

She opened immediately by hailing John Lewis, the civil rights icon turned congressman who died in July -- and whose state of Georgia startled pundits with its sharp swing in Tuesday's election toward their Democratic Party.

Harris also paid tribute to her mother, Shyamala Gopalan Harris, who emigrated from India when she was 19 and died in 2009.

"Maybe she didn't quite imagine this moment," Harris said.

"But she believed so deeply in an America where a moment like this is possible. 

"So I'm thinking about her and about the generations of women -- Black Women, Asian, White, Latina, and Native American women throughout our nation's history who have paved the way for this moment tonight."

India hails Kamala Harris

Residents set off firecrackers in the ancestral home of Kamala Harris on Sunday as India celebrated the vice president-elect's victory in the US election, as others hailed her achievement as historic and a "proud moment" for the country.

Harris -- daughter of breast cancer specialist Shyamala Gopalan from the southern Indian city of Chennai -- paid tribute to her late mother, who "believed so deeply in an America where a moment like this is possible" in a national address with president-elect Joe Biden on Saturday.

At Thulasendrapuram village in Tamil Nadu state, once home to Harris' maternal grandfather P.V. Gopalan, celebrations broke out with locals lighting firecrackers, praying at its main temple and waving posters bearing the 56-year-old's face.

Women in the village made a rangoli -- a colourful work of folk art drawn on the ground -- with the words: "Congratulations to Kamala Harris."

"It is a matter of pride for the entire womenfolk," housewife Arul Mozhi Sudhakar told AFP.

Harris's uncle, academic Balachandran Gopalan, said he always knew she would be successful.

"I am relieved, because I knew she's going to win, and I told her yesterday... my tension is now gone away," he told WION TV in the capital New Delhi.

Gopalan told AFP on Friday that Harris' family in India would fly to the United States to attend her inauguration.

"We were together as a family when she was sworn in as senator. And we will all be together now during her swearing-in as vice president of the US. It's a big moment for us," he said.

In Delhi, people cheered the Harris family's Indian origins. Yash Iyer, 25, told AFP "it's a proud moment for us too as Indians since she traces her roots here".

"Kamala Harris being the US VP is a monumental accomplishment not only for the US and Indians but for women across the globe," Smitashree Mishra, who works in international health and development in the capital, told AFP.

"What I take away from this victory is a ray of hope, hope to stand strong in a society that constantly judges you on archaic notions of gender, race and ethnicity... I am proud as a woman to see another woman represent our perspective in the politics of the world's most powerful country."

Early Sunday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulated Biden on his White House victory and called Harris a source of "immense pride".

"Your success is pathbreaking, and a matter of immense pride not just for your chittis, but also for all Indian-Americans," Modi wrote.

"Chitti" is a Tamil term of endearment for the younger sisters of one's mother, which Harris used in her acceptance of the Democratic nomination for vice president.

Senior opposition Congress party figure Rahul Gandhi added on Twitter: "It makes us proud that the first woman to serve as Vice President of the USA traces her roots to India."

Sunday newspapers hailed the Democrats' victory with front-page photos and stories featuring the pair.

Harris "creates history" as the first vice president-elect of Indian descent, The Sunday Express said along with the headline: "Finally."