If you've been paying attention to the 2020 presidential race, you may feel that you know Kamala Harris' mother almost as well as you know the Democratic VP nominee. Whether it's in interviews, on social media, in her memoir, or in speeches delivered on the campaign trail, Harris speaks regularly about her mother. In fact,
quotes from Harris that center around her mother show just how much of an inspiration the India-born single mother was to her.
maiden speech on the Senate floor in 2017, Harris was quick to express gratitude for her mother, a woman she has regularly credited with shaping her into the woman she is today and instilling in her the spirit of a fighter. It wasn't the first time Harris had invoked the memory of her mother, Shyamala Gopalan Harris, and it certainly wouldn't be the last. In fact, Harris discussed how it was her mother who inspired her to seek public office in her first public address since being named former Vice President Joe Biden's running mate.
Harris' mother was
a breast cancer researcher from India's southeastern state of Tamil Nadu who initially came to the United States to attend the University of California, Berkeley, according to The San Jose Mercury News. After meeting Harris' father while attending protests as a student, Gopalan Harris opted to stay in the United States upon graduation. She raised Harris and her younger sister Maya as a single-working mother following her divorce and has been credited with shaping the California politician into the fighter she is today. Sadly, Harris' mother passed away from colon cancer in February 2009.
As Harris continues to hit the campaign trail with Biden, here are 10 quotes that showcase the 2020 Democratic VP nominee's admiration for her mother:
"My mother always use to say, '
Don't just sit around and complain about things. Do something,'" Harris wrote in a tweet on Aug. 13, a few days after Biden announced he'd selected her to be his 2020 running mate. "I dearly wish she were here with us this week."
Throughout her time in public office, Harris has repeatedly cited her mother's spirit and activism as being part of what inspired her to get into politics.
"Don't Let People Tell You Who You Are."
"Don't let people tell you who you are.
You tell them who you are," The Wall Street Journal reported Harris said, quoting her mother's own advice, while speaking at a Democratic primary event in South Carolina during the summer of 2019.
The Wall Street Journal, Harris quoted advice her mother had given her as a girl while pushing back on critics who accused her of not doing enough for minorities while working as a prosecutor. "She Was Determined To Make Sure We Grew Into Confident, Proud Black Women"
"She knew that her adopted homeland would see Maya and me as black girls, and she was determined to make sure we would grow into
confident, proud black women," Harris wrote of her mother in her memoir, The Truths We Hold: An American Journey, as The San Jose Mercury News reported.
The California senator has said her mother exposed both her and her sister to African-American leaders from a young age. In fact, Harris learned about
George Washington Carver, a prominent Black scientist, before she learned about President George Washington, according to Mercury News. "You May Be The First, But Make Sure You're Not The Last."
"Kamala, you may be the first to do many things, but
make sure you're not the last," Harris told CNN's Jake Tapper that her mother repeatedly told her when asked during a January 2019 town hall event what it would mean to her to be the first female Black president in the history of the United States.
While Harris ended her presidential campaign, her appointment as Biden's running mate could see her become the first woman of Black and Indian heritage to serve as vice president. However, while speaking to Tapper in Des Moines, Iowa in 2019, Harris said she preferred to focus more on how she could blaze a trail for the next person rather than how she'd been the first.
"Marching & Shouting For This Thing Called Justice."
"That's how they met — as students, in the streets of Oakland,
marching and shouting for this thing called justice, in a struggle that continues to this day," Harris said in her first public remarks since being named Biden's running mate. "And I was part of it. My parents would bring me to protests, strapped tightly in my stroller. And my mother Shyamala raised my sister Maya and me to believe that it was up to us and every generation of Americans to keep on marching."
Harris has regularly drawn on her mother's early involvement in protests as a means of emphasizing her own long history of political activism.
"She Focused On The Work In Front Of Her."
She wasn't fixated on that distant dream," Harris wrote of her mother in The Truths We Hold: An American Journey, according to the Associated Press. "She focused on the work right in front of her."
In her memoir, Harris shared that she'd framed her own philosophy about getting things done around the example her mother had set as a breast cancer researcher. According to Harris, her mother opted to work toward achieving overarching goals by focusing on smaller, daily actions.
"The Greatest Source Of Inspiration In My Life."
"My mother, Shyamala Gopalan Harris, was a force of nature and
the greatest source of inspiration in my life," Harris wrote in an Instagram post published March 1 to mark the beginning of Women's History Month. "She taught my sister Maya and me the importance of hard work and to believe in our power to right what is wrong. There's no one I'd rather honor this first day of #WomensHistoryMonth." "She Coupled Her Teachings Of Civic Duty & Fearlessness With Actions."
"My mother was very intentional about raising my sister, Maya, and me as strong, Black women," Harris wrote in a Feb. 9 Instagram post celebrating Black History Month. "She coupled
her teachings of civic duty and fearlessness with actions, which included taking us on Thursday nights to Rainbow Sign, a Black cultural center near our home. There we were always greeted with warm hugs and exposed to extraordinary people like Shirley Chisholm, Nina Simone, and Maya Angelou who helped show us what we could become." "My Mother Never Asked Anyone Permission To Tell Her What Was Possible."
"My mother, who raised me and my sister, was a proud woman," Harris said in a video shared across her social media accounts last November. "She was a brown woman. She was a woman with a heavy accent. She was a woman, who many times people would overlook her, or not take her seriously. Or because of her accent, assume things about her intelligence."
"Now, every time my mother proved them wrong. Every time she proved them wrong," Harris continued. "And because of who my mother was, and what she believed, what she had the ability to dream was possible and then work to make possible, the fact that
my mother never asked anyone permission to tell her what was possible is why within one generation I stand here as a serious candidate for president of the United States." "There Is No Title I'll Treasure More Than To Say I'm Shyamala Gopalan Harris' Daughter."
"There is no title or honor on earth I'll treasure more than to say I am Shyamala Gopalan Harris' daughter," Harris wrote in her memoir, as the Associated Press reported. "That is the truth I hold dearest of all."