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U.S. Senator Kamala Harris Speaks at Spelman

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Start of QuoteWhatever the future holds, toil and pain, know that you can walk into any situation, you can lead in any field, you can take on any challenge, and you will go forward unburdened, unwavering, and undaunted by the fight,” End of Quotesuppress our vote, then we will vote them out of office. Because that is a fight worth having.

 

Being Unburdened by What Has Been

Kamala Harris Speaks at SpelmanSo looking back at my career so far, it may feel like it was all meant to be. But when I was standing at that grocery store behind my ironing board this was not clear. And you will have those moments. You will have a lot of those moments. Where you believe in yourself and hopefully you will surround yourself with people who believe in you. But many others may not. Many others may try to discourage you when you decide you want to start up a small business or a software company. Or you want to pursue science and discover the thing that has yet to be discovered.

You will have those experiences I promise you. Where deep in your heart you know you can do something, and you may not receive a lot encouragement, but you must be undaunted. You must be undaunted.

And the second point I’ll make then is this -- that being undaunted by the fight means being unburdened by what has been, and instead knowing what can be. Right? Being unburdened by what has been and knowing what can be. So like you here at Spelman, Howard University taught me to reject false choices. Howard taught me to reject false choices, and by that what do I mean? Well it means you don’t let anybody put you in a box. You don’t let anybody put you in a box. My mother would say, don’t you let anyone tell you who you are, you tell them who you are.

My mother would say, “Don’t you let anyone tell you who you are. You tell them who you are.” Right? And so, it’s interesting, because as the first black woman elected to the many positions I’ve been elected to, I am often in room, and have been in rooms, where a reporter or someone else will come up to me and they’ll say, “so talk to us about black women’s issues.”

And I’ll look at them and think, “you know what, I am so glad you want to talk about the economy.” Or sometimes say, “I am so glad you want to talk about national security.” Because what we know is this: yes, there are issues that explicitly impact the Black community.

And we care, of course about the fact that black women are 3 to 4 times more likely to die because of pregnancy than white women. And I’m glad to be working, by the way, with Morehouse Medical School to author legislation to address that. But when more than half of Americans are $500 away from financial catastrophe, the economy is a Black woman’s issue. Which is one reason why I’ve proposed a middle-class tax cut that would basically give families earning less than $100,000 a year, a $6,000 tax credit that they can collect at $500 a month, so they can meet those needs. Because, that is a Black woman’s issue, that is everyone’s issue.

Let’s talk about Black women’s issues. Let’s talk about when a major UN report this month says we could be experiencing a climate crisis as early as the year 2040, which means that coastal cities will be underwater, there will be more droughts, there will be more extreme hurricanes and wildfires. Well climate change is a Black woman’s issue. Let’s think about that.

Let’s think about when the Russians used racism and hate, which have always been America’s Achilles heel, to attack us, demographically, and geographically. You had better believe national security and election security is a Black woman’s issue.

Simply put, every issue is a Black woman’s issue. And Black women’s issues are everyone’s issues. In fact, there was a time that Ruth Simmons, the former provost here at Spelman, and the first Black woman to lead an Ivy League university, was asked why she got a PhD in French literature and I love what she said. Because of course, the implication was that it would not be an appropriate topic for a Black woman to study. And what she said, is, when they asked her why, she said, “Well, because, everything in the world belongs to me.”

So I want you to know that when you walk, you walk into every room, when you walk into any room, when you walk into every room you ever walk into; do not be burdened by someone else’s assumptions of who you are. Do not be burdened by their perspectives or judgement, and do not let anyone ever tell you who you are.

You tell them who you are. And go be the next Roz Brewer, who is shattering glass ceilings at the highest levels of corporate America. Go to law school like Marian Wright Edelman, who became the first Black woman admitted to the Mississippi Bar and founded the Children’s Defense Fund. Go run for office yourselves, like the record number of Black women who are running in 2018.

In fact, one of your Spelman sister from my hometown of Oakland told me that in these last few years she said, “we are understanding what our political power looks like.” And indeed, we should all be filled with joy to see candidates like Ayanna Pressley in Massachusetts, Jahana Hayes in Connecticut, Lauren Underwood in Illinois and Lucy McBath here in Georgia. I ask you to look to Iowa, look to Iowa where Deidre DeJear, who I was just campaigning with last week, may well be the first African American ever elected state-wide in the state of Iowa.

And of course, time to raise that sign. Look at Stacey Abrams! Who I love what she says, this is Stacey Abrams’ quote. She sees a world and she sees a Georgia, and this is what she says: “Where no one is unseen, no one is unheard, and no one is uninspired.” Undaunted.

The third point that I’ll make is that being undaunted by the fight – now get ready for this – being undaunted by the fight can sometimes mean getting hurt.

So here’s the truth about breaking barriers.