HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — Vice President Kamala Harris is making history as the first woman, first black person, and first person of Asian descent to hold the vice presidency. She’s also the first graduate of a Historically Black University to hold the office.
Harris graduated from Howard University, an HBCU, in 1986 with a degree in political science and economics.
Dr. Leslie Pollard, President of Oakwood University, one of Huntsville’s HBCUs, says this shows the significance of HBCUs.
“The surprise is not that she’s first,” said Dr. Pollard. “The surprise is that there hasn’t been anybody previously because all of the persons, all of the great leaders have been produced by HBCUs, including people like Chaplain Barry Black who’s a graduate of Oakwood University and the chaplain of the U.S. Senate.”
Dr. Marcya Burden graduated from Oakwood University and now serves as the Pre-Law Program Director and Assistant Professor. She says she’s proud to be able to witness history.
“Being an African American female myself, as well as an HBCU alum, to see her rise to this level, to think about what I teach my students on a day-to-day basis, that you can literally be anything that you dream of,” said Dr. Burden.
She added that the historic day represents the dream of the country’s founding fathers. “It shows how the dream, the vision that our forefathers had founded in the Constitution where it started at ‘We The People.’ That was inclusive.”
With a graduate of an HBCU now in the vice presidency, Dr. Burden says her students are feeling inspired to pursue their dreams.
“I have seniors who were debating, you know, ‘I don’t know if I want to go to law school just yet, I don’t know if I’m ready,'” she explained. “But now, this day, they are coming to me and saying ‘Hey, Dr. Burden, I am ready to go to law school. I am ready to get this process started.’ So I think it’s giving them hope that the dreams that they have can come to reality.”
Dr. Pollard says is teamwork is part of making a dream, reality. He says that the lesson people should take from the Biden-Harris inauguration is that two people who may not agree on every subject, can come together for the common good. He adds that people of all backgrounds and affiliations should work to do the same.
“My favorite African proverb is this: If you want to go fast, go alone,” said Dr. Pollard. “If you want to go far, go together. This is a moment for us to be able to go together.”
While at Howard University, Kamala Harris joined Alpha Kappa Alpha, a historically black sorority. To honor her, the group declared January 20 “Kamala D. Harris Day.”