When the presidential race was officially called, and we learned that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris had made history as our next president and vice president, I took a deep breath and sighed with relief.
As the first Black woman to serve in the United States Senate, I found myself thinking of other Black women who made history as “firsts,” women like Sojourner Truth, Mary McLeod Bethune, Shirley Chisholm, Yvonne Brathwaite Burke, Barbara Jordan, Dorothy Height, and Arnita Boswell—and now Vice President-elect Kamala Harris. I thought of the millions of little girls who now know that a woman can ascend to the highest political offices in the United States.
And I prayed, grateful that this dream had become a reality. I know Joe Biden; I served with him in the Senate. He supported me on the Senate Judiciary Committee, and he stood with me, even when it came to tough decisions, such as denying a patent for the Confederate flag. I saw him bring people together, build consensus, and move us toward progress. I believe he’s the leader we need to address the multiple crises facing our country and to heal our nation, with Sen. Harris as a strong partner in that effort.
It’s been a long journey to reach this moment, and it would not have happened without all the women who sacrificed and paved the way. One hundred years ago, after a hard-fought effort, women won the right to vote with the adoption of the 19th amendment. After several decades of work, sacrifice, and lives lost, African American women won the right to vote with the adoption of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Over the years, we’ve seen more women run for office, and now we have a record number of women serving in the United States Congress.
And we’ve seen women run for the presidential nomination. In fact, I did so myself in 2004. At the time, my 12-year-old niece showed me a picture of all the presidents and noted that “all the presidents are boys.” I corrected her, saying, “No, girls can be president, too.” But I knew that wasn’t true. We’d never had a female president before. We never even had a major female nominee at that point. Then in 2016, Hillary Rodham Clinton became the first woman to lead the ticket for a major party.
Now, just four years later, we’ve elected a woman of color as our next vice president, and it was women who helped us get here. The Biden-Harris ticket enjoyed support from one of the broadest, most diverse coalitions we’ve ever seen, and women from every walk of life were essential to its success. In particular, 91 percent of Black women supported the ticket—and made a difference in key swing states.
I couldn’t help but feel joy when Vice President-elect Harris took the stage on that Saturday—dressed in suffragist white—and reflected on the determination and the vision of women who came before her. She declared: “While I may be the first woman in this office, I will not be the last.” What a powerful statement to little girls everywhere, who can now see endless possibilities. It was a speech that I will never forget.
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But our work is not over, even with Joe Biden and Kamala Harris in the White House. We must continue the effort to bend the arc of the moral universe toward justice, as Martin Luther King Jr. said, and perfect our democracy. We have much to do, and with the new leadership the American people have chosen, we will continue to move toward equality and to heal the divisions we face.
Those divisions are deep, and over the last four years, Americans have been challenged on every front. The current administration has undermined the rule of law, respect for institutions of government, and our democratic process. COVID-19 is wreaking havoc across the country, particularly in communities of color. We are facing an unprecedented economic crisis. And we are having a long overdue national reckoning on systemic racism.
There’s a big job ahead, but I worked closely with our new President-elect for six years and believe he and Harris are the leaders we need, with comprehensive plans to address these challenges.
And just as we had their backs throughout the campaign, we’ll have their backs as they enter the White House and get to work. It’s been a long road to reach this moment, and it only continues. We’ll move forward together, with this new team leading the way.
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