Senator Kamala Harris, who is the Democratic Party’s vice-presidential candidate, has attributed her entire life’s success to her mother Shyamala Gopalan, saying she was a fighter for women.
During a podcast conversation with the former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, Harris said, “There are so many stories I could tell about her that have influenced who I am. My mother was a fighter for women her entire life. Her specialty was breast cancer, and, you know, before I was probably aware of it, I was hearing her passion for the importance of women receiving dignity in the health care system.”
Harris, 55, is the first-ever Black, African-American, and Indian-American woman to be the vice-presidential candidate of a major political party.
Harris' mother Shyamala Gopalan, a cancer biologist came from India to the US at the age of 19 to pursue her dream of curing cancer.
“She saw the impact of the non-violent Gandhian movement, and so coming to Berkeley and being attracted to, you know, the Civil Rights Movement would just be a continuation for her,” said the former Secretary of State.
“She had a huge presence, and she raised us, my sister, Maya, and me. She raised us with, you know, certain principles. And one was that it is your duty. Not — you know, not - you're not being charitable or benevolent,” Harris said.
“It is your duty to concern yourself with the condition of other people and to help them, and so it was never a debatable point. It was literally, you know, because duty is, you know, for those of us who feel strongly about duty, it's not a choice,” she added.
During the conversation, Harris fondly remembered her childhood days.
“Oh, it was profound. I'll never forget one night she came home — Maya and I were what you call latchkey kids, right? We'd come home after school and my mother would come home hours later. But when we came home after school, there were always fresh baked cookies,” Harris said amidst laughter.
Harris told Clinton that her mother was the eldest among her siblings.
She grew up at a time where she was expected that her accomplishments would be to get married and have children.
But she wanted to study science and she wanted to cure cancer.
“She convinced my grandfather that one of the best schools to learn was UC Berkeley. Without my grandfather knowing, actually, she applied and got accepted... And then informed my grandfather that this had happened,” Harris said.
"Later my grandfather told my mother that if this is what you want to do, then I will not stand in your way. And so having never been to the United States, my mother got on a plane at the age of 19 by herself and arrived in Berkeley, California,” she said.
“And immediately because of how she was raised and who she was, she just became attracted to the Civil Rights Movement that was starting to really evolve in a very passionate way in Berkeley and Oakland, California. And, you know, my mother was all of five feet. I joke that if you ever met her, you would have thought she was, you know, seven feet tall. But I don't actually don't know if she was exactly five feet,” Harris said.