With the beginning of Black History Month, the impact of Kamala Harris’ historic victory into the nation’s second-highest office could not be more apparent. Young women currently walking on the trail she has blazed are more excited and inspired than ever before.
On Jan. 20, Harris made history as she was sworn into the second-highest office in the land, becoming the 49th vice president of the United States. Harris now serves as the first female vice president and the first Black and Asian-American to serve in this office.
Harris’ historic victory will significantly change the way both young girls and women view politics.
“This puts a woman the closest to the presidency we’ve ever had," said Kelly Winfrey, associate professor of the Greenlee School of Journalism and Mass Communication. "It shows women in an executive leadership position, which is a little different from Congress.”
According to Winfrey, when viable women run for office, young girls are more likely to take interest in politics and women are more likely to be engaged in elections.
Winfrey said Harris being a woman of color is even more impactful because oftentimes, we see white women in positions of leadership but are less likely to see women of color hold similar leadership positions.
Harris’ powerful story of inspiration and trailblazing dates back to her days as a Howard University student.
Nearly 40 years before her historic inauguration in 2021, Harris joined the historically Black university’s Alpha chapter of the famed Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority in 1983.
Harris has attributed her sorority life at Howard University with shaping her political career.
The Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority was founded at Howard University in 1908 as the first African-American greek-lettered sorority. In 2021, the organization now has 1,026 chapters and more than 300,000 members across 55 nations and all 50 states.
Alpha Kappa Alpha has been largely committed to both education and voting rights in the more than 100 years since its founding.
The Eta Tau chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha can be found here in Central Iowa, being chartered at both Drake University and Iowa State.
“Seeing other women that have the same morals and values as me and as AKA who are out there doing great things is exactly what I want to see and exactly what I want to do,” said Mychyl Brown, Iowa State junior in biology and Eta Tau chapter vice president.
Inauguration Day was a powerful, inspirational day for many throughout the United States, including members of Eta Tau.
“There is so much pride to attend [a historically Black college and university (HBCU)], … but a lot of people look down on HBCUs and they take them for granted, and they don’t hold them in the same light, which is a mistake, as Kamala Harris just proved,” said Alexis Glasby, Iowa State senior in athletic training and Eta Tau chapter secretary.
Glasby said being able to look on screen and see someone that looks like you is incredibly powerful. This is further amplified for Glasby and the other members of Alpha Kappa Alpha as Harris is a member of the Alpha chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha.
“This is a big victory for people everywhere … Little Black girls did not have a lot of positive representation and positive role models to look up to, so I think this is a victory for everybody,” Glasby said.