Kamala Harris' Niece Pens Powerful Essay on the Vice President-Elect's Lesson on Ambition

As Kamala Harris' niece Meena Harris explained in a newly published essay, "when we encourage ambitious girls, they become ambitious women"—just like her aunt, the first female vice president.

By Samantha Schnurr Nov 10, 2020 5:44 PMTags
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To us, she's Vice President-elect Kamala Harris. To Meena Harris, she's aunt. 

It's been mere days since the senator from Calif. was declared a historic winner in the 2020 U.S. presidential election, making her the first woman and first Black and South Asian-American to become vice president. In an essay penned for Elle, Meena—a mother of two daughters and author of the children's book, Ambitious Girl—reflected on the woman her aunt is and the example she has set for girls today and generations to come. 

Speaking of Kamala's walk-out song—Mary J. Blige's "Work That"—Meena wrote, "This song is an ode to the type of woman my grandma raised my aunt, my mom, and me to be. There's a word for this type of woman: ambitious. And I want my daughters, and every other girl in the world, to understand that this word describes something powerful and good."

"As I've gotten older," Meena continued, "I've come to realize that not everyone sees ambition the same way my family does. In the Harris household, ambition means courage. It means living your purpose. But to a whole lot of other people, ambition—women's ambition, that is—is code for taking up space that wasn't intended to be yours."

Whether it's "ambition" or the word's "evil stepsisters"—"loud, assertive, bossy, persistent"—Meena called for such labels to be reclaimed. 

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"We need girls and women to learn to take up space and own their power," she urged. "Following the example of generations of strong women, they should say: 'I'll wear the words thrown at me, and I won't take no from anyone.'"

After all, her aunt Kamala is the result of such strength. "As my aunt showed us last week, when we encourage ambitious girls, they become ambitious women," Meena pointed out. "And ambitious women can break barriers, shatter ceilings, and win."

Recalling the soon-to-be vice president's recent victory speech, Meena movingly described the impact of her aunt's win—both that night and moving forward.  

"That evening, amid the dazzling lights and honking cars of a euphoric crowd in Delaware, I wasn't just celebrating a historic win. I was also celebrating the reality that, to my little girls up on stage—and little girls all across the country—the ambition that propelled my aunt to the White House will finally be seen as normal," she wrote. "Because like her, more and more ambitious women aren't running from what they could be. Instead, they're chasing the dreams they were born to achieve, and demanding a more equal world where they can succeed.