Harris brings long awaited representation to executive branch

MILA BARRY, Editor-in-chief

History was made multiple times over last week, but no milestone was marked with quite the same jubilation as the inauguration of Vice President Kamala Harris. Making strides as the first women – as well as the first Black and South Asian person – to serve in the office, citizens celebrated the long sought after representation. 

Harris grew up in California, where her parents met at the University of California Berkeley. Her mother, Shyamala Goplan, was from the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, while her father Donald Harris hailed from Jamaica. After their divorce, Harris spent the majority of her  remaining formative years in the care of her mom, whose name she so often invokes when reflecting on her achievements. 

Preceding her executive nomination, Harris pursued an extensive legal career. Her judicial stints include 2 terms as attorney general for San Francisco and six years as attorney general for California. It’s this period that her critics usually have the most to say about; though she attests that she set out to remedy racial disparities in criminal justice, many cite inconsistencies in the policies she implemented. 

More recently, in 2017, she was elected to the Senate, making her the second African American woman to serve in such a position and the first to represented California. She made a presidential bid but failed to receive the nomination only to be elected Vice President alongside Joe Biden. 

Harris’s success was a breath of fresh air following four years of an administration stagnated by misogyny and bigotry. And though social change is painfully slow, this spark of hope provides proof that change is possible, and is happening before our eyes! Now is no time for complacency – the sinister events of the last few weeks alone more than prove how much work we have to do. Still, it’s pretty cool to consider how much this country has changed in the last few centuries and appreciate the conviction and perseverance of those who made that change happen. 

Because Kamala Harris isn’t the only one making history in this new administration. Many of Biden’s Cabinet nominees represent firsts in their positions, should they be confirmed. 

Firsts in Economics

  • Adewale “Wally” Adeyemo – First Black Deputy Secretary of the Treasury / awaiting confirmation
  • Janet Yellen – First female Secretary of the Treasury / CONFIRMED
  • Cecilia Rouse – First woman of color to chair the Council of Economic Advisers / awaiting confirmation
  • Neera Tanden – First woman of color and first South Asian woman to direct Office of Management and Budget / awaiting confirmation

Firsts in National Security

  • Lloyd Austin – First Black Secretary of Defense / CONFIRMED 
  • Avril Haines – First female director of national intelligence / CONFIRMED
  • Kathleen Hicks – First female deputy secretary of defense / awaiting confirmation 
  • Alejandro Mayorkas – First Latinx and immigrant Secretary of Homeland Security / CONFIRMED

Firsts in Land Management

  • Deb Haaland – First Native American Cabinet Secretary (Secretary of the Interior) / awaiting confirmation
  • Michael Regan – Second Black person (and first Black man!) to lead the EPA / awaiting confirmation  

Firsts in Other Departments 

  • Xavier Becerra – First Latinx leader of  the Department of Health and Human services / awaiting confirmation   
  • Pete Buttigieg – First openly LGBTQ+ person to be approved by the Senate (Secretary of Transportation) / CONFIRMED 
  • Carlos Elizondo – First Hispanic American White House Social Secretary / CONFIRMED 
  • Katherine Tai – First woman of color to serve as a US trade representative /  awaiting confirmation  

Read CNN’s report here to see information on each of the above, as well as to check for updates on their confirmation status. 

It’s revitalizing to, for a moment, take solace in progress after a year seemingly fraught with regression. So if you come away from this with anything, let it be a little hope. This just might be proof we’re starting to move in the right direction.