Leading up to the Inauguration, I thought that I understood the significance of the day. It would have been difficult to ignore the many headlines that celebrated the historic nature of the event. Kamala Devi Harris would be our nation’s first female, and female of color, Vice President.
But it wasn’t until just before noon on January 20th, when I saw women at the highest levels of all three branches of the U.S. government, that I realized just how monumental this moment really was. In a brief exchange, Senator Amy Klobuchar (the first elected female Senator from Minnesota) introduced Justice Sonia Sotomayor (the first woman of color Supreme Court Justice), who then swore in Kamala Harris (the daughter of Jamaican-Indian immigrants).
During that moment, young girls across the nation could look up at the screen and see themselves performing the essential functions of government. Whether they grow up in a suburb of Minneapolis, a Puerto Rican community in The Bronx, or a segregated neighborhood in the Bay Area, they will know the highest levels of this nation are not outside their reach.
But of course, while we’ve made monumental strides, there is still work to be done:
- Women make up only 27% of the Members of Congress
- There are zero black women senators
- Nearly 60 years after the Equal Pay Act was signed, women (and women of color especially) do not receive equal pay
- More than a century after the 19thAmendment was passed, women have yet to be elected to the nation’s highest office
This sentiment of unfinished business was expressed throughout the day. In her first speech as Vice President, Kamala Harris acknowledged, “A great experiment takes great determination, the will to do the work, and then the wisdom to keep refining, keep tinkering, keep perfecting.”
Or as Amanda Gorman, the first National Youth Poet Laureate, articulated in her inaugural poem;
And yes we are far from polished
far from pristine
but that doesn’t mean we are
striving to form a union that is perfect
We are striving to forge a union with purpose
Let’s all move forWARD to a more perfect union whose purpose is equality for all.