First US senator of Jamaican father sworn in

First US senator of Jamaican father sworn in
Associated Press / Kevin Wolf

Before friends and family in a packed United States Senate chamber, Kamala Harris, the daughter of a Jamaican father, was sworn in Tuesday as California’s newest United States senator.

Harris made history by becoming the first black woman the “Golden State” has sent to the US Senate and the first Caribbean American and Indian American to ever serve in the body, according to the Lost Angeles Times.

In telling her “story,” Harris, 52, a Democrat from Los Angeles, said her mother, Shyamala, was born in India and came to the United States to study science, specifically endocrinology and the complex mechanisms of cancer.

Her father, Donald Harris, on the other hand, grew up in Jamaica, “where he became a national scholar and earned the opportunity to study economics,” said Harris, adding that her parents were both graduate students at the University of California at Berkeley.

Harris was sworn in by US Vice President Joe Biden, as Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and her new Senate colleagues looked on.

Harris’ husband, Los Angeles attorney Doug Emhoff; her stepchildren; brother-in-law Tony West; sister Maya Harris; and her extended family, as well as several state officials from across the country, who traveled to celebrate with the former state attorney general, watched from the gallery, the Times said.

The former California attorney general won the US Senate election on November 8 in a landslide, India-West reported.

“I am humbled and honored to serve you and the people of California. Let’s get to work,” Harris tweeted following her swearing-in ceremony.

The new US senator, one of seven new senators sworn in, replaces Barbara Boxer, who retired after 24 years in office.

“Whatever advice she wants, all she has to do is ask,” Feinstein said. “I have said to her that I would like to have a close relationship.”

In her “story,” as she campaigned for the US Senate seat, Harris said that, many times in her career, she has heard the word “can’t.

“Kamala, you said you’re committed to social justice. You can’t be a prosecutor,” she wrote on her web page. “Kamala, you can’t beat an eight-year incumbent San Francisco district attorney. It’s not your turn. It’s not your time. You can’t run for attorney general. It will be too hard, or too much work.”

But Harris said she has never been a fan of the word “can’t” — aimed at her, or anyone else.

“No person should live in the shadows because Washington can’t pass comprehensive immigration reform,” she said. “No hard-working American should believe they can’t find a job that will support their family. America is a place built on ‘can,’ where opportunity exists for everyone. California families depend on that.”

No matter how many people said she couldn’t do it, Harris said she still won her races for district attorney and attorney general.

“I’m a fighter – I’ve fought for the people of California, especially those most in need,” she said. “And now I’m ready to take that fight to Washington.”

Harris received her undergraduate bachelor of arts degree from Howard University, and her law degree from the University of California, Hastings College of the Law.

She said she began her career in the Alameda County District Attorney’s office, where she was offered a job as a deputy district attorney.

In 2003, Harris said she challenged and defeated an eight-year incumbent to become the first woman, the first African American, the first Caribbean American and the first South Asian District Attorney of San Francisco.

Seven years later, Harris said she decided to run for attorney general, “believing that the innovative work we did in San Francisco should be done statewide.”

She said she took on and beat a very popular Republican District Attorney from Los Angeles to become California’s 32nd attorney general — and once again, the first woman, the first African American, the first Caribbean American and the first South Asian to hold the office in California’s history.

My mother told me, “‘You may be the first to do many things, but make sure you’re not the last.’ And that’s what I’ve worked to do,” Harris said.

“From my first job until now, whenever I’ve prosecuted a criminal, protected a child, or stood up for a Californian, my work has been about fighting for the vulnerable and voiceless, and making our state a safe, equitable place for all families to live and thrive,” she added.

“After nearly two years of hard work and dedication, I am proud to tell you that we won our election,” Harris told supporters. “I am humbled and honored to serve you and the people of California in the US Senate. “This campaign for Senate has ended, but the work is just beginning. Please stay involved. Please own a piece of the next four years and help us fight for the future of this country.”