Vice President Kamala Harris: A Historic Moment for Women and Children

This election is a historic one in many respects, but we should all pause and reflect upon how Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, the daughter of two immigrants, will be the first female vice president, the first Black and first Indian American vice president, and her husband with be the first Second Man in the history of this country.

It is ridiculous and unacceptable that it took our nation 244 years to put a woman in one of the top two positions of leadership in this country, but it will be an incredible moment when think about how both Vice President Kamala Harris and Speaker Nancy Pelosi will be sitting behind President Joe Biden at the State of the Union. Until 2007, when Nancy Pelosi was first elected speaker, there had never been a woman in the top three leadership slots in our country and now women will serve in two of the three positions.

On a personal level, I cried this morning thinking about my mother, who dedicated her life to the improvement of the lives of women, children, and people in need. Bonnie Lesley, who dedicated her life work of over five decades to children in public education and was a founder of the El Paso Women’s Political Caucus in 1973 and chaired the Texas Women’s Political Caucus in 1976–77 with a goal of achieving equal rights and electing women into positions of power in our government, passed away in July and so she missed this historic moment. But I know she is smiling down on us today.

When Hillary Clinton gave her concession speech four years ago, she spoke to girls all across this country when she said:

. . .to all of the little girls who are watching this, never doubt that you are valuable and powerful and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world to pursue and achieve your own dreams.

Today, girls all across this country can look to Vice President-elect Harris and to the increasing number of women being elected to office all across this country for inspiration and the promise that that they can achieve anything they aspire to.

This election comes at a critical moment when we are facing significant backtracking on improvements to the lives of women and children. With respect to children’s issues, we are witnessing:

  • Rising children’s uninsured rates every single year since 2016;
  • Rising child suicide rates;
  • Shocking levels of infant and maternal mortality that are far higher than any industrialized nation in the world;
  • Increasing child poverty rates that begin more than 50 percent higher than adult poverty in the U.S. and are much higher than every industrialized nation in the world;
  • Increasing child hunger;
  • Rising child and youth homelessness;
  • Separation of families in our immigration policy;
  • Placement of children in cages and disregard for their well-being, safety, and best interests;
  • Privatization and defunding on our nation’s public schools; and,
  • Declining investments in our nation’s children and our future.

If, as likely President-elect Joe Biden likes to say:

Don’t tell me what you value, show me your budget, and I’ll tell you what you value.

The federal government now allocates more funding on interest on the national debt than on ALL federal investments on children. Clearly and sadly, children have been a declining value in our country over the last four years.

Fortunately, with Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who says that children are her top three priorities, overseeing the U.S. House of Representatives and every Champion for Children (both Democrats AND Republicans) from our 2019 Legislative Scorecard winning, protected to win, or leading in their reelection races, there are opportunities to improve the lives of children. As Speaker Pelosi often says:

When people ask me, “What are the three most important issues facing the Congress?” I always say the same thing: “Our children, our children, our children.”

We have a unique opportunity for changing the trajectory of all of these issues and concerns for children. We have hope that a Biden-Harris Administration will begin the work to establish a new vision for the future of children and families. The fact is that Harris has been one of the nation’s top Champions for Children in the U.S. Senate and made children a top priority in her campaigns.

Although there have been some impressive candidates for president in the past and even in this election, the fact is that no presidential candidate in my lifetime has ever put children at the center of a policy agenda in the way Harris did this year.

Harris’s words and action on behalf of children speak volumes and there is no doubt, even though she is not president, that she will be a relentless and powerful advocate for children in this administration and well into the future.

The following are a number of tweets by Harris that highlight: (1) her interest in the comprehensive array of issues of importance to children; (2) her recognition that investments in children are critical to their present and their future; (3) her understanding of how children need us to protect them, hear their voices, and treat both them as individuals and their dreams and hopes as a priority; and, (4) her recognition of how every single issue has a unique impact on children; and, (5) her relentless energy and commitment to addressing the needs and best interests of all of our children.

My Mom’s lifelong push to improve the lives of women and children takes a huge step forward today. We congratulate President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris and look forward to working with them in the coming days, months, and years on achieving a more perfect union for generations to come.

@BruceLesley — President of @First_Focus & @Campaign4Kids. Child advocate, husband & father of 4. Basketball fanatic. Follow on Twitter: @BruceLesley.

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