What Kamala Harris Learned About Power at Howard

Oct 14, 2020 · 57 comments
Mutt Furball (The Great Flyover)
Harris strikes me as the kind of person who could take your head off, hand it back to you and, you’d want to thank her for giving it back. Harris 2024!
sboros (denver)
It's interesting to see the difference between how Senator Harris' classmates feel about her vs. the way Trumps Warton classmates go out of their way to distance themselves from him.
Henry Porter (Middletown, Ct.)
Another story of adulation on Senator Harris. The New York Times has had the articles author Astead Herndon writing never ending stories on the Senator since she kicked off her campaign in Oakland. I hope the author is getting a fee from Senator Harris.
Mutt Furball (The Great Flyover)
Republicans have a problem with her now, just wait till she’s the President...four more years!
penney albany (berkeley CA)
This article highlights the dilemma of working in the system or trying to change it from outside. There is room for both approaches. Ms Harris is bright and full of energy which is needed by the mess we face in this country. The thought of all the environmental regulations being removed by the Supreme Court (the Koch delight) is a scary thought. We desperately need her in office to counter that.
kathleen cairns (San Luis Obispo Ca)
I've been a fan of Harris ever since her election as California's attorney general. She has managed to thread a very small needle with aplomb, humor, and intellect. She, and others like her, are the future of our country. Hate, hate, hate the racism and sexism that has again reared its head with a smart woman candidate. It would be comforting to believe such attitudes will fade into the background with her election; sadly, they will not.
M. A. (Los Angeles CA)
Great picture of Kamala's early life - I love that she was fearless then as she is now. We have a real scary time right now and we need brave Americans. Her understanding of law and years experience in govt. will put needed expertise into a Biden White House. PLEASE VOTE
WellWisher (Schenectady, NY)
I am "over the moon" about Kamala winning the 2020 election as Vice President. Let it be so!
Linda (Virginia)
Mr. Herndon, thank you for this vivid portrait of Kamala Harris at a key stage in her life. Her positive energy, intelligence, heart, professionalism, and multiple perspectives will be a breath of fresh air in the White House.
Jensen Parr (Watsonville, CA)
I like Senator Harris more because of this history of her attendance at Howard University. But I didn’t always like her. The article says that she was well-prepared and moderate but a strong supporter of protest and participation. While I disagree with her positions I cannot help but admire what a strong courageous fighter we have to shatter glass ceilings of white male dominance. I’m a white male but I don’t feel guilty about it. I know that my ancestors were around during massive inequality and that I inherited a lot by virtue of being privileged. This is far from guilt, but more historical fact. Harris is a step in the right direction.
Myasara (Brooklyn)
So many are looking for revolution. I get it, it's hard watching the decades pass with no real systemic change. You feel like time is running out. As a woman of a certain age, I feel like time is running out. Still waiting for the ERA, and instead watching Amy Coney Barrett get a seat on the Supreme Court. Time's not just running out, it's going backwards. But America moves slowly. Change here is akin to turning a herd of buffalo. And patience is a virtue, they tell me. So I'm voting Biden/Harris, and counting on those two to work within the system to improve it, to whittle away injustice, since destroying the system outright isn't going to happen.
AJ (Trump Towers sub-basement)
I was in school in DC (not at Howard) around the same time. I remember being struck how when you went into federal office buildings, the lower floors were staffed almost exclusively by African Americans. The higher you went, the Whiter the staff got. It was amazing how visible the demarcation was. While I hope there's been major change, I would guess it's not been nearly enough. President Obama and hopefully Vice President Harris, help usher the needed change along. I am also so fondly and favorably struck by how closely Ms. Harris stays in touch with her sorority partners and how much fun and impact she appeared to have in her college years. Go Kamala! Bring community and union to our country.
Mag2 (Wisconsin)
There are plenty of Blacks at the top as well. You might say that now being white is a disadvantage. Since I work for the government I know that unless you are a member of one of the ethnic/racial power groups, you would find climbing the ladder pretty tough if not impossible.
John Zotto (Ischia)
“extolled the values of racial representation” it is called getting a job. She went to an elite expensive school. Just another example of privilege.
Allegra McCullough (Dover DE)
@John Zotto Mr. Zotto, you know nothing about the circumstances of students attending Howard University then or now. While African Americans and others consider Howard University to be one of the finest institutions of higher learning anywhere, most attending students face challenging circumstances to be there. It is indeed a privilege to attend any institution of higher learning; it is especially fine to be an alumnus of one with such historical significance. I do not know, nor do I care about your race; however, I do care about you assuming that Senator Harris' attendance at Howard University was based on anything other than scholarship.
Lkelly (Orlando)
@Allegra McCullough. Well said, thank you
@John Zotto Spot on. Upper, middle class, privileged elitist who conveniently pulls out whatever noble victim card is useful that day: ethnicity, gender, race, etc.
AKJersey (New Jersey)
As a child of immigrants, Senator Harris represents the American dream. If elected, she will be the first woman VP, the first Asian-American VP, the first African-American VP, and the first child of two immigrant parents to become VP. She would also be the only VP born in California, except for Nixon. She would probably be the only VP to graduate from a foreign high school (in Canada). VOTE BIDEN/HARRIS in November! The future of American Democracy depends on it!
Joy (NorCal)
Several responders to this article criticize Senator Harris for choosing Howard over Harvard, for her history as a prosecutor, for her knowledge of history, and for being too insubstantial to be an asset to Joe Biden. Seriously? This article is about an 18 year old girl getting her start in leadership. It is an insubstantial article about a woman of substance. Let me ask readers - would you, as a single mother of two, want to send your black daughters to that bastion of wealthy, spoiled white boys, Harvard? Would you, readers, assume that a short article about a vey young woman believe it represents the whole, mature woman? Would you assume that the job done as a prosecutor represents how a person would perform as a Vice President of a country? If you follow Senator Harris or know anything about her, here is what you know. She is intelligent, incredibly hard working, and going to make a great VP.
MC (California)
Howard University was a smart choice for someone with Kamala Harris's background and ambitions. I'm reminded of another smart Blasian choice -- Naomi Osaka playing for Japan!
Mrs. Danvers (Manderley, Cornwall, UK)
The denigrating comments below were all written by (what I assume are) white people who (appear to) live in Red States who are not going to vote for her any way. It’s interesting that the paid trolls started their social media smear campaign of Senator Harris 4 years ago. I guess someone saw her as a threat way back then.
jnl (NY)
@Mrs. Danvers Not all negative comments were written by paid trolls and republicans. I'm a minority woman. I supported Harris when she first started her primary campaign, but soon I discovered her lack of authenticity and substance. There are reasons why she nose-dived to a single digit and had to withdrew even before the first vote was casted. She was the worst performer in the primary and got picked because of identify politics. I will vote for Biden/Harris ticket because four more years' Trump is unimageable, but may not support Democratic party in the next election if the party continues running the identify politics. We deserve the best person and true democracy.
Socrates (Verona, N.J.)
You go, girl ! Men have done enough macho damage to this country.
Trevor Diaz (NYC)
After Nov 3, 2020 Election, if Joe Biden wins, Democratic Party will be henceforth Kamala Harris's party. Biden may not run for office in 2024 at age 82, which will make Kamala at the helm of the Party, possibly first woman POTUS of USA.
P. Oates (Philadelphia)
Historically Black Colleges and Universities have given birth to scores of brilliant African Americans that have made extraordinary contributions to this nation and to the world. Senator, and soon to be Vice President Kamala Harris joins the likes of Toni Morrison, Andrew Young, Vernon Jordan, Roberta Flack, Dr. H. Patrick Swygert, Phylicia Allen Rashad, Dr. Charles Epps, and scores of other Howard alum who have sowed seeds of excellence throughout our nation. I am a proud graduate of not only Howard University, where I earned a Ph.D. in Physiology and Molecular Biology, but also Tuskegee University. These two institutions not only offered me a rich collegiate experience but also the desire to serve humanity and to give the best of myself in everything I do. Kamala Harris was shaped by the same experience. She's just one of many brilliant young people walking the yard in the eighties at Howard.
Jim Muncy (Pensacola)
Full disclosure: Kamala Harris is my favorite politician, so much so that I feel like starting a fan club in her honor. Maybe appoint myself president. I could list what I like about her, but you know all that; you're woke. But I do have a question for my new heroine: Why would you become a prosecutor, particularly when so many Black men are under siege from the Establishment, with cops being the front line of murderous attacks? That option shouldn't even be on her menu. Nonetheless, she achieved her goal, and from what I've read, she was pretty darned hard on offenders. Yes, criminals should be punished, but if they grew up in a ghetto in a racist society with insufficient life-sustaining jobs, what would anyone wanting to survive and maybe even thrive do? Answer: do whatever it takes. Do I want the fast-food job, which doesn't pay enough to live on with no hope for significant advancement, or do I sell drugs and make $1000/day? In the nitty-gritty of life on the mean streets, that's hard to resist; we're not all saints nor necessarily sinners: The average person wants to do well, not be homeless and worries about health care, his family, and even surviving. As Malcolm Forbes supposedly said, "Money won't solve all your problems. But it will solve about 98 per cent of them." Sad, but true? Therefore, I am stymied by Ms. Harris' puzzling career decision. Maybe I'll find the answer at one of her scheduled fan club meetings: Tuesdays and Thursdays at 7 p.m. at my house.
Flâneuse (Portland, OR)
It appears that at Howard Ms. Harris took full advantage of what must have been an incredibly stimulating, probably unique intellectual incubator for future American leaders.
wbj (ncal)
HBCUs build leaders. Senator Harris was smart enough as a high school student to figure that out and point her life in that direction.
Rex (Detroit)
Corruption is a process. I am sure that Mike Pence (or even Mitch McConnell) at the age of 22 had something of that look of innocence (maybe not McConnell, come to think of it). Donald Trump? Never. Trump became a bully by Second Grade according to his own testament. But for someone like Harris I think it took longer. Too bad. I don't think that people (outside of true psychopaths) are born evil. Opportunism is something that is cultivated by cultural influences. People can start out with good intentions but this system has a way of molding them to its mission. That mission? Obedience to the ways in which most of the population creates wealth for those at the top under the fiction of "free enterprise". People like Harris and Biden strut their well-worn "street creds" to play their role and get ahead. They become corrupt tools in the process. People like Trump? I take Mary Trump at her word. Trump was toxic mostly from the beginning. Pence? OMG! If he wasn't selling Donald Trump he'd be selling toothpaste, vacation timeshares, or used cars. I don't believe a word he says. It's pathetic that these are the choices the American people have. Me? I voted the Biden/Harris ticket not out of serious respect but serious loathing for the maniacal alternative. Planet Earth has a definite expiration date related to climate change and four more years under Trump may just seal the deal... permanently. Am I enthused about Biden/Harris? Not on your life. Am I terrified of Trump/Pence? Yes.
waldo (Canada)
The anointing of Kamala has begun in earnest. Presented as the black Hillary Clinton. Blessed with the same intellect, attributes, skill and style she is on her way to eclipse Biden. Which may be have been the goal all along.
HistoryRhymes (NJ)
What the heck is "highly competitive" sorority? More paddling? Stop praising sororities and fraternities as if they mean anything. This is a total nonsensical thing at American universities. A total distraction and diversion from the real mission of universities. Utter waste.
jachcamo (Irving, TX)
@HistoryRhymes you know nothing of historically black sororities and fraternities. Membership is a lifetime commitment of service to our community. Grade point requirements tend to be higher as well.
Tracy (Sacramento, CA)
@HistoryRhymes So i don't know a lot about this, but you may have noted that the story said that she became a member during her senior year -- I think that is because these sororities at HBCUs are really much more about the network of service you are joining for the rest of your life and career than they are about socializing in college. It's not like typical college sororities where people join when they first get to school. And it has worked out well for Kamala, because her sisters (as well as all members of the other African American greek organizations in the Divine Nine) have been fundraising and working on her behalf in a manner that at least approximates the kind of privilege that rich white folks can access without being in any particular organization.
lin (mdi)
There is a reason the early Civil Rights movement prioritized voting rights. Any progress made through social protest must be written into law. Elected officials write the laws and judicial appointees uphold/overturn laws. While the Left followed the siren song of purity tests to shipwreck and the pied piper of third parties over the cliff, the Right took over the Republican party by volunteering, voting, and running as Republicans. It took decades. Had we elected Hillary Clinton, then we'd have the 6-3 Supreme Court majority and the Federal Courts. Now we must dig out of the wreckage. Electing the Biden Harris ticket and a Democratic majority is a first step.
@lin "First step"? To what? High unemployment, low growth, terrorism, a police state?
mb (Michigan)
I think her attending Howard is something to be proud of; given the history and tradition. But still curious, given the lack of diversity, which she so vociferously espouses. No wonder she is so quiet about her experience there. She can dish out the rhetoric, that’s for sure.
Mary (Wisconsin)
When you’re part of a racial, ethnic or gender minority, maybe, just maybe, it’s nice to have ONE oasis in your life when you’re not constantly having to explain yourself or fighting to be heard. This is especially important during one’s formative years, and is a reason why all-female colleges are still a good choice for some young women. There will be plenty of time for college students to experience and bring about diversity after they graduate.
Another decision rooted in identity politics. Sad we just can't hire the best person for the job these days. When will Democrats learn?
Chris (New York, NY)
@D I think Biden did pick the best person. Examine why you think only identity politics explains her selection and what your opinion is rooted in.
Ecruet (New York City)
@D It seems Trump has learned from the Dems when it comes to identity politics. He constantly signals to white voters that they should follow him because he will keep them at the top of the social power structure.
Mary (Wisconsin)
What makes you so certain she *wasn’t* the best person? If she were a white man with the same qualifications, would you even be asking that question?
Karen (MD/SD)
Early in my work career l reported to an Executive VP as my next level. Many thoughtful discussions and a few critical lessons. The most applicable lesson: There is the world that ‘is’ and the world that ‘should be’. Always strive for ‘should be’ objectives as you navigate within the world as it ‘is’. Quietly or proactively, that approach worked in my experience to improve opportunities around you, your peers and your team. Kamala Harris’ path has proven how far you can grow from within the system that needs change. Never a more critical time for our country to follow that premise, engage and VOTE!
History (USA)
She gave us false information about Lincoln's appointment of a Justice. I wonder how much false information she used to convict minorities when she was a prosecutor with extreme power in CA. Does she still think Joe Biden was wrong in helping prevent bussing to better schools?
Mrs. Danvers (Manderley, Cornwall, UK)
@History “...a prosecutor with extreme power...” Hmm, sounds like a Law & Order candidate that Republicans love.
History (USA)
@Mrs. Danvers I tied to post this 10 hours ago, must have got passed over kinds like twitter does. Trumps leaked taxes OK or unknown reports of things said about military OK, NY Post story on Biden not allowed. I was addressing earlier that prosecutors in Seattle and Portland have refused to pursue charges against rioters, arsonist and looters!
Midwest (South Bend, IN)
Harris strikes me a telegenic but insubstantial. No discussion here of her intellectual achievements in college. What made Howard an intellectually stimulating place, apparently superior in her eyes to Harvard, Stanford, and Berkeley? College is not about "involvement"; it is about forming one's mind.
East Roast (Here)
@Midwest All of which are present at Howard. You might want to read up on the long and prestigious history of its graduates. The fault seems not to be the author, but you.
Jim Muncy (Pensacola)
@Midwest You clearly do not know of the woman's past or present. She's Barack Obama on steroids.
Anne (Phoenix)
@Midwest College IS about involvement...which is a component of creating critical and independent thought. They are not exclusive..
All Shades Of Opinions (Atlanta)
While she might be attractive, engaging and competent I fear that she does not have enough appeal to catapult Biden to the White House. The polls only indicate that people do not like Trump. When it comes time to vote enough of those who polled as favoring Biden will think twice and pull the “lever” for Trump. He may not be perfect but the country has no other choice.
Jim Muncy (Pensacola)
@All Shades Of Opinions Hereby Nominating This Sentence for Understatement of the Century: "Trump may not be perfect." (You could use that approach for just about any criminal: Al Capone may not be perfect, etc.)
Ecruet (New York City)
@All Shades Of Opinions Trump has four year record to run on. Anyone who pulls the level for Trump already approves. The choice is night and day. If you are still equivocating at this point, you haven't been paying attention at all.
wallys smith (ohio)
@All Shades Of Opinions those who "polled for biden" have already made up their minds- 4 years of lies and chaos is more than enough! they will vote biden because THERE IS NO OTHER CHOICE!!
Phil Hocker (Alexandria, VA)
Howard University has blessed our country in many ways. It's a sign of Kamala Harris's character that she chose to become part of Howard's legacy. -- When I was a white kid in the Mississippi Freedom Project in 1964, the height of style was a grey sweatshirt stencilled: "Stolen from Howard University Athletic Department." (Not for me to wear!) -- Howard is a proud part of the real good intentions of Reconstruction... a goal to rebuild and make justice after a horrid past, a goal we still must achieve.
Io (Georgia)
Harris is undoubtedly an accomplished professional and politician but the attempt to cast her prosecutorial career as borne of some sort of progressive moral act comes off as calculating and fake. It's weak tea and part of the reason she's not the candidate.
DC (Florida)
Very true lo just like the claim about Hillary raising a family while working for a law firm. Hilary had one kid her husband was a 2 term governor and 2 term president she had plenty of drivers and helpers all covering for her unlike the regular Janes out there.
Ecruet (New York City)
@DC Or the constant parading of Judge Barrett's kid in front of the media to show she is an involved mother. Her husband has a high-paying job and they undoubtedly have lots of helpers.
See also