Watch CBS News

Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, a woman of many firsts

The women who paved the way for Kamala Harris
The women who paved the way for Senator Kamala Harris 05:19

As President-elect Joe Biden claimed victory Saturday, he and his running mate made history. "While I may be the first woman in this office, I will not be the last," said Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.

The California senator is heading back to Washington as the first woman on a winning presidential ticket.

"What a testament it is to Joe's character, that he had the audacity to break one of the most substantial barriers that exists in our country and select a woman as his vice president," Harris said.

During her acceptance speech Saturday, she honored all the women who came before her, and who courageously fought to protect and secure the right to vote, saying, "I stand on their shoulders."

Joe Biden Delivers Remarks After Winning U.S. Presidency
Vice President-elect Kamala Harris smiles during a victory celebration in Wilmington, Delaware, on Saturday, November 7, 2020.  Sarah Silbiger/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Correspondent Nikole Killion reports that people from all walks of life are saying Harris' election to the second-highest office in the land is a huge milestone and an inspiration to them.

She was born in Oakland as the daughter of two immigrants – an economics professor from Jamaica, and a breast-cancer researcher from India – crediting her mother for paving the way. "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," she said.

Harris graduated from Howard University, a highly-ranked historically Black college and university where she pledged Alpha Kappa Alpha, the first Black Greek-letter sorority. From there she blazed a trail of firsts, as San Francisco's first Black district attorney, then California's first female attorney general. And in 2017, she became a U.S. senator.

Biden said, "As a child of immigrants, she knows personally how immigrant families enrich our country, as well as the challenges of what it means to grow up Black and Indian-American in the United States of America."

Harris has said she often draws her words and inspiration from political powerhouse Shirley Chisholm, the first Black woman from a major political party to run for president. Announcing her candidacy in January 1972, Chisholm said, "I am not the candidate of Black America, although I am Black and proud."

Only two other women have run as vice presidential nominees of a major party: Republican presidential candidate John McCain selected Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as his running mate in 2008; and in 1984 Democratic Congresswoman Geraldine Ferraro made history alongside Walter Mondale.

"America is the land where dreams can come true for all of us!" Ferraro said at the Democratic National Convention.

Nearly 40 years later, Harris hopes to inspire a new generation.

In her speech Saturday in Wilmington, Delaware, Harris said, "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."

The Biden-Harris ticket is historic in other ways, too: Harris' husband, Douglas Emhoff, will become America's first second gentlemen; and Jill Biden, a professor, will be the first first lady to work while her husband is in the Oval Office. 

Vice President-elect Kamala Harris delivers remarks after projected victory 10:55
View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.