Even the girls too young to understand her were rapt when Sen. Kamala Harris gave her first speech as vice president-elect
When Harris spoke to the nation and singled out women and girls and the possibilities her victory inspires, many of them watched her and took her words to heart.
Families flooded social media with photos of their daughters and nieces glued to the screens as Harris, the first woman, the first Black person and the first South Asian person to become Vice President-elect, celebrated. Her victory, their mothers and aunts told CNN, proves to the young women and girls in their lives that they, too, can dream all the way to the White House.
Harris makes them excited to vote one day
In 2016, Hanna Nichols watched the presidential election results pour in while she held her infant daughter in her arms. Four years later, she kept her daughter close again – and this time, the 4-year-old watched along excitedly.
Nichols shared a black-and-white photo of her daughter in her pajamas, paying close attention to Harris from their home in Golden, Colorado.
“‘Is she talking to me?’” Nichols said her daughter asked. “Yes baby girl, she is.”
Like any toddler, Nichols’ daughter eventually grew bored of the lengthy speeches Harris and her running mate, President-elect Joe Biden, delivered on Saturday. But Nichols said she’s continuing to talk with her daughter about the importance of Harris’ win – and the significance of kindness.
“She also thinks we should let kids vote, as she told me this morning!” Nichols said.
They feel their future is limitless
Rosa Guzmán-Snyder’s 7-year-old daughter Eliana watched Harris’ speech from a laptop. Guzmán-Snyder said her “heart exploded” when she heard Harris say she wouldn’t be the last woman in the White House.
“I saw Eliana watching on Saturday so intently,” Guzmán-Snyder told CNN. “(Harris) was speaking right to Eliana.”
Guzmán-Snyder was born in El Paso, Texas, to Mexican parents. The last four years of racist rhetoric and restrictive immigration policies were “incredibly disheartening,” she said. Harris’ win feels like “rising up for air and catching a glimpse of a brighter future” – for immigrants and for her daughter.
They can follow her example
Cassandre Bonhomme’s two nieces, ages 2 and 3, giddily played in front of the TV in Hamilton, New Jersey, while Hamilton celebrated her victory with her family.
“One day, these two can run for any office they want, and they will not be judged by the color of their skin,” Bonhomme told CNN. “A dream indeed.”
They may not have recognized the significance of Harris’ win, but Bonhomme certainly felt it. A daughter of immigrants, she wept when Harris spoke. She said Harris’ victory was one she could share with her 20-year-old daughter, who attends an HBCU and voted for the first time this year.
“My parents’ sacrifices were not in vain,” she said. “This is truly a tiny step, but a step nonetheless.”
They see themselves in Harris
Neelam Patel Crawley in Durham, North Carolina, watched her 1-year-old daughter, who is half Black and half Indian like Harris, peer up at the Vice President-elect as she addressed the nation on Saturday, dressed in suffragette white.
Seeing a woman who shares her daughter’s racial background was important, Patel Crawley said.
“It’s inspirational to know that she will have endless opportunities, and that she can see through Kamala what those opportunities look like,” she told CNN. “Honestly, several months ago, I was nervous and scared for her, but that weight has now been lifted.”
Her daughter will continue to play and prattle before she’ll realize how momentous Saturday was for her family. But she’ll grow up in an era that emphasizes acceptance – something Harris’ win cemented for her, Patel Crawley said.
Their families know there’s still work to do
Many of the families who spoke with CNN said they knew the weeks and even years ahead wouldn’t be as easy or as celebratory as Saturday had made them feel. The country remains deeply divided, as the election results proved, and President Donald Trump refuses to concede. Harris has already had to withstand racist attacks from opponents and purposeful mispronunciations of her name and will likely face more of the same throughout her tenure as vice president.
But having Harris in the White House, serving in the second-highest office in the US, is a tremendous start, they said.
“I’m sure it will take a lot more time before we can say ‘Madam President,’” Bonhomme said. “But for my nieces, to think that this country is finally accepting that women can lead, women can have a say in the order of things … and a women of color! This is a major step in the right direction.”
The Biden-Harris victory, plus the political tension that’s followed, opens up the opportunity for conversation between parents and kids living through this historic time, Nichols said.
“Grown-ups need to be willing to have conversations with kiddos in their world, even when its uncomfortable … because they are listening,” she told CNN. “Their ability to create a brighter world depends on us in addition to their innate curiosity and humanness.”
All eyes will be on Biden and Harris during their transition and throughout their term in the White House. Among the most watchful of their constituents will be the children who look up to Harris or look like her – and if they heed her words, they may end up inspiring the generations that follow.