Katherine Zappone: The beginning of a Harris era that will be a force for good

Kamala has the character, charisma, and skill to unify people on topics which matter most, writes Katherine Zappone
Katherine Zappone: The beginning of a Harris era that will be a force for good

Kamala is a girl who dreamt, she will now inspire countless girls of any colour, but especially black, Indian, and other Asian girls to dream and to grow up with more vision. File picture: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

You always remember where you were when hearing news of a momentous happening. It is a phenomenon often associated with the death of JFK, the first steps on the moon, or the Freedom of Nelson Mandela. Last Saturday was just such a moment.

Taking a break from rolling election coverage, I was strolling down Broadway when a wave of noise came washing down the avenue. 

Balconies filled with people banging pots and pans, cars started honking, even the New York Fire Department had trucks sweeping up and down the island blaring sirens.

I knew the news we had been waiting for had arrived. It meant the end of Trump, but I will always remember this moment as Kamala Harris smashing glass ceilings.

Earlier this summer in Grand Central Station, I visited a card store, on the shelves I came across one which read ‘Girls who dream become women with vision’.

Kamala is a girl who dreamt, she will now inspire countless girls of any colour, but especially black, Indian, and other Asian girls to dream and to grow up with more vision. 

This cascading impact has the ability to become a movement which will impact far beyond American shores.

Some 230 years after the US constitution was written, politics has been reset. A woman, a woman of colour, and a woman of proud American, Indian, and Afro-Jamaican heritage has shown what can be achieved.

We can see what drives Kamala in her book The Truths We Hold: An American Journey

Strikingly she quotes Thurgood Marshall, the first African-American supreme court justice from a 1992 speech.

“Democracy just cannot flourish amid fear. Liberty cannot bloom amid hate. Justice cannot take root amid rage. Americans must get to work. We must dissent from indifference. We must dissent from apathy. We must dissent from the fear, the hatred, the mistrust.” 

The US vice president-elect holds truth as the core of her values. "Our fight must begin and end with speaking the truth". This is a belief which must never go out of fashion.

Kamala generously says: "And you will see that nothing I have ever accomplished could have been done on my own. 

"We see this reflected in her acceptance speech as candidate for vice president when she told voters "democracy is on the ballot".

These values are the polar opposite to the policies of the past four years. They represent the antidote, the vaccine to the virus which has been the Trump administration.

US President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris. Picture: Andrew Harnik/AFP/Getty 
US President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris. Picture: Andrew Harnik/AFP/Getty 

Born in Oakland California, Kamala first learned about democracy during visits to India, walking along the beach in Chennai as a six-year-old asking questions of her grandfather.

It is from those far shores that the journey which is now going to the office of the vice president began.

The seeds of politics may have been sown in India, but it was back home in California that the incoming veep made her mark. 

As a senator, a former attorney general in California, and a former district attorney she set a record of bulls-eye questioning, a laser focus attention to detail and communication skills which help focus minds.

Throughout, solidarity provides the foundation for her successes. This is not a journey she has taken on her own. It was the organising of black women that put pressure on the Biden campaign to select her as the running mate in the first instance.

Through organisations and in neighbourhoods they rallied, they embarked on registration, education, and positive social media and above all they committed to get the vote out.

How Kamala Harris got elected is almost as important as her actual election. Seamus Heaney captures it in 'The Canton of Expectation': What looks the strongest has outlived its term: The future lies with what’s affirmed from under.

It is something which those who want to see Ireland advance to true equality of representation, such as the National Women’s Council of Ireland, Women for Election, and others, will no doubt study and echo.

We are also seeing it play out now in Georgia where a January 5 run-off election for two seats will decide which party controls the US Senate. 

Expect Harris and her political doctrine to be central to this effort. Groups such as Vote Forward, Fair Fight, Black Voters Matters, and Reclaim our Vote will be among many unifying and taking up the cause.

A veep who will lead, Joe Biden and Harris presented themselves to the electorate as a team, and that is what minority communities which rallied to the cause are expecting. Joe Biden in his victory speech acknowledged the Black community has always had his back.

Biden also knows how an effective vice president can have a huge input. He did this very thing for his previous boss Barack Obama by taking a lead on economic recovery, the response to the threat of Ebola, and supporting marriage equality.

Now that sharing of power and joint responsibility needs to be repeated.

Kamala has the character, charisma, and skill to unify people on topics which matter most. 

She has the potential to unite and drive people on immigration reform, equality, childcare, climate action, and that one issue which has dogged America for centuries — race.

She can deliver leadership that understands and practices solidarity while using brilliant emotional and rational intelligence.

This week the shattering of glass ceilings was heard by women and girls around the world — but it is just the beginning of a Harris era which will be a force for good into the future.

  • Katherine Zappone is a former Independent minister for children. A dual citizen and a lifelong member of the Democratic Party, she campaigned for Biden-Harris in the US Presidential election.

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