'She'll Look Like A Boss': Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris Inspires Young Girls

Nov 12, 2020
Originally published on November 12, 2020 5:04 pm

When Vice President-elect Kamala Harris delivered her victory speech on Saturday night, she spoke directly to a certain slice of the population.

"Every little girl watching tonight sees that this is a country of possibilities," Harris said.

Throughout her primary campaign, Harris was known to pay special attention to girls who came to her events, at times offering advice on leadership or encouraging ambition.

If the girls were tiny and shy, she might kneel down and tell them to always hold their chin up.

At one stop, she gently insisted to a newborn girl, "You are going to lead. You are brilliant; you are strong. I know you hear me. You remember that, OK?"

Harris poses with Jasmeen Coronado, then age 9, at a campaign event in Hemingway, S.C., last year.
Frank and Danisha McClary

In March 2019, Jasmeen Coronado stood up amid a sea of grown-ups at a Harris campaign event in Hemingway, S.C., and the then-9-year-old quietly asked the candidate this question: "Is it possible that if I try hard enough in life that I could become president?"

"Absolutely! Absolutely!" Harris responded. "There is no question."

"Here's how I think about it," she told Jasmeen. "We are all born as leaders, and it's just a matter of when you decide to activate that. ... Leading up to you being president, understand every day of your life you have an opportunity to lead. Today, tomorrow, every day of your life."

Jasmeen took that message to heart. Hearing it from a biracial woman has special meaning for her, she says, "because I myself am biracial. And the fact that there is a woman like, um, doing this stuff just makes me happy to know that there's people who will stand up for our gender."

Paris Bond was 13 when she met Harris last November in Muscatine, Iowa, shortly before Harris dropped out of the primary race.

Harris poses with Paris Bond, then 13, at a meeting of supporters in Muscatine, Iowa, last year.
Athena Gilbraith

Paris recalls telling the candidate that she had been elected president of her fifth-grade class on the same day in 2016 that Harris was elected to the U.S. Senate.

"I remember her telling me a quote, like, 'You can be the first to do something, but don't be the last,' " Paris says. "So she was telling me to create my path and inspire other people and little girls like she does."

This summer, when then-presidential candidate Joe Biden picked Harris as his running mate, Paris says she and her mother were elated.

"We were just dancing and holding hands and jumping around," Paris says. "It was a really joyful moment."

Now, Paris considers Harris' ascension as vice president-elect "a big breakthrough for young black people, boys and girls, 'cause it shows us that we can do something that we set our mind to."

For Sadie Bell of Putney, Vt., her Harris encounter came during the primary season in April 2019, she was 12.

"I just remember that day being really, really magical," she says.

Sadie went to hear Harris speak in neighboring New Hampshire, and afterward she managed to work her way right up next to the candidate.

"I was small, so I got to squeeze past people," she explains.

When she got close to Harris, Sadie — worried about her upcoming class presentation on climate change — burst out with this: "You're such a good public speaker! How are you so good?"

"Remember that it's not about you," Harris told Sadie, clasping the girl's hands and leaning in close. (This was pre-pandemic, when we could do these things.)

Harris offered this analogy: "If you are on the Titanic," she said, "and you know the ship is about to sink and you're the only one who knows, are you gonna worry about how you look and how you sound? No, 'cause the thing that's most important is that everyone knows what you know."

"I really felt this connection," Sadie now says.

When it came time to make her climate change presentation in class, she says, the advice helped: "I was thinking about being bold and just really getting the message out there."

As for Harris' trajectory to the second-highest office in the land, "it's a little bit disappointing that it's 2020 and just now we're having a woman become vice president," Sadie says. "But I definitely think it's also uplifting."

And, she adds with a laugh, "I think that she'll look like a boss! Which'll be very cool."

In September 2019, at the Polk County Steak Fry in Des Moines, an Iowa presidential campaign ritual, Harris jumped in and danced with gusto alongside the Isiserettes, a legendary youth drill-and-drum corps.

"She hopped right in line, and she started to groove with us," says Jonna Coleman, 17, who has been dancing with the team since she was 7.

"She did good for her first time!" reports Jonna's friend and Isiserettes teammate Dierra Coleman, also 17. "She was trying to, like, replicate our moves, which was pretty funny to see. She definitely stepped the bar up with what she did, for sure."

kansaspolitics / YouTube

Harris may have had girls like Jonna and Dierra in mind when she said this in her victory speech on Saturday night: "Dream with ambition, lead with conviction and see yourselves in a way that others may not, simply because they've never seen it before. But know that we will applaud you every step of the way."

For Dierra, Harris' intention is clear.

"I think by that she just means, you know, step outside of the box. Turn right when they think you're gonna go left. Just always expand your mind to new things, because nobody's gonna expect you to do that because of their image of you."

"And," Dierra says, "you can always, always prove them wrong."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

When Vice President-elect Kamala Harris delivered her victory speech on Saturday night, she spoke directly to a certain slice of the population.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

KAMALA HARRIS: Every little girl watching tonight sees that this is a country of possibilities.

SHAPIRO: NPR's Melissa Block has been talking with girls around the country who met Harris during her campaign to hear what they took away from those encounters.

MELISSA BLOCK, BYLINE: Jasmeen Coronado was 9 years old when she stood up amid a sea of grown-ups at a Kamala Harris event last year in Hemingway, S.C., and asked this question.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JASMEEN CORONADO: Is it possible that if I try hard enough in life that I could become president?

(APPLAUSE)

HARRIS: Absolutely. Absolutely.

BLOCK: This was in March. Harris was just a couple of months into the Democratic primary.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

HARRIS: Leading up to you being president, understand every day of your life you have an opportunity to lead.

BLOCK: Jasmeen says hearing that message from a biracial woman has special meaning.

JASMEEN: Because I myself am biracial. And the fact that there is a woman, like, doing this stuff just makes me happy to know that there is people who will stand up for our gender.

BLOCK: Throughout her campaign, Harris was known to pay special attention to girls who came to her events. If they were tiny and shy, she might kneel down and tell them to always hold their chin up. She even gently insisted to a newborn girl, you are going to lead. I know you hear me.

Paris Bond was 13 when she met Harris last November in Muscatine, Iowa.

PARIS BOND: It's a big breakthrough for young Black people, boys and girls, because it shows us that we can do something that we set our mind to.

JASMEEN: Paris recalls telling Harris that she had been elected president of her fifth-grade class on the same day Harris was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2016.

PARIS: I remember her telling me a quote like, you can be the first to do something, but don't be the last. And so she was telling me to create my path and, you know, inspire other people and little girls like she does.

BLOCK: Sadie Bell was 12 when she had her Kamala encounter during the primary last spring.

SADIE BELL: And I just remember that day being really, really magical.

BLOCK: Sadie went to hear Harris speak in New Hampshire and afterward managed to work her way right up next to the candidate.

SADIE: I was small, so I got to squeeze past people.

BLOCK: When she got close, Sadie burst out with this - you're such a good public speaker. How are you so good?

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

HARRIS: I can tell you.

SADIE: OK.

HARRIS: So when you're standing up to speak...

BLOCK: In a video of the exchange, we see Harris clap Sadie's hands and lean in close to answer. Remember, this was pre-pandemic. Sadie now says, I really felt this connection.

SADIE: It's a little bit disappointing that it's 2020, and just now we're having a woman become vice president. But I definitely think it's also uplifting. And I think that she'll look like a boss (laughter) which will be very cool.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED ISISERETTES PERFORMANCE)

BLOCK: The Polk County Steak Fry is an Iowa presidential campaign ritual. Last September, Harris danced with gusto there alongside the Isiserettes, a legendary youth drill-and-drum corps.

DIERRA COLEMAN: She did good for her first time. She was trying to, like, replicate our moves, which was pretty funny to see.

BLOCK: That's 17-year-old Isiserette, Dierra Coleman. Kamala Harris may have had girls like Dierra in mind when, months later, she said this in her victory speech.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

HARRIS: See yourselves in a way that others may not simply because they've never seen it before.

COLEMAN: I think by that she just means, you know, step outside of the box. Always expand your mind to new things because nobody's going to expect you to do that because of their image of you. And, you know, you can always, always prove them wrong.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED ISISERETTES PERFORMANCE)

BLOCK: Melissa Block, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED ISISERETTES PERFORMANCE) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.