Woman VP has been a long time coming

We have started down an incredible new path in history.

Yes, given the events of the last four years, that statement is a no brainer.

But I’m not speaking just about the presidential flip from Republican to Democrat, or from conservative to liberal, or even from unorthodox to traditional. Rather, I’m talking about the gigantic leap that garnered support from more than 80 million Americans who in November cast ballots for a presidential ticket shared not only by a woman, but by a woman of color.

Indeed, it’s a new era for politics and a new era for America.

It was Kamala Harris who broke the barrier that has kept men as America’s top elected executive since George Washington held office. She is a strong, intelligent and educated woman who speaks eloquently and — at least so far into this new adventure — seems to be maintaining a positive outlook and good sense of humor.

The glass ceiling that Sen. Kamala Harris shattered by becoming vice president may not be the highest in American politics, but it’s almost as close as they come.

Lots of Americans have been predicting it, especially given the number of women seeking the office of the president, but each time it seemed inevitable, it wasn’t meant to be.

Many thought Hillary Clinton was a sure thing in 2016. Then, this time around, six women, including Harris, sought the presidency, greatly increasing the odds.

And of course, many of us recall the first woman to run atop the national ticket, Geraldine Ferraro, D-New York, a no-nonsense former prosecutor plucked from relative obscurity to be the 1984 running mate for Walter Mondale. They lost to incumbent Ronald Reagan.

I recall as a high school student watching the vice presidential debate involving Ferraro with my parents. As it went on, my dad, a skeptical old-school Italian Catholic, commented about how impressed he was with Ferraro’s responses. I think that opened my eyes for the first time that it really could happen sooner rather than later.

Of course, it ended up being later. Much later.

Wednesday, following her oath of office, Harris spoke about American aspirations.

“Even in dark times we do not only dream — we do,” she said.

Indeed, she did and she will.

“We not only see what has been, we see what can be,” she continued during her speech outside the Lincoln Memorial later in the day. “We are bold, fearless and ambitious. We are undaunted in our belief that we shall overcome, that we will rise up.”

Adding yet more meaning to this incredible undertaking — with Harris now serving as the second-highest leader of the free world — is the timing. It comes, of course, as Americans struggle with challenges brought about by insidious, ongoing racism in a nation so full of freedoms and liberties that we were supposed to be free by now of these terribly grim struggles.

But there is hope.

During his inaugural address, new President Joe Biden reflected on the 1913 march for women suffrage the day before President Woodrow Wilson’s inauguration.

Of course, we know that our little city of Warren played a significant role in the suffrage movement.

The 180-year-old home of suffragette Harriet Taylor Upton is right here in downtown. It served about 117 years ago as headquarters for the National American Woman Suffrage Association. It was here that began the movement to achieve the right for all U.S. women, including Kamala Harris and, yes, even myself, to vote.

Under the direction of Warren’s Harriet Taylor Upton, the crusade eventually culminated with the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution just over 100 years ago in 1920.

And then Wednesday, I stood in the newsroom watching the TV screens shortly before noon as both Harris and Biden took their oaths of office.

“Today we mark the swearing in of the first woman in American history elected to national office, Vice President Kamala Harris,” Biden said in his inaugural speech. “Don’t tell me things can’t change.”

Indeed, they can. Harris is proof.


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