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Kamala Harris's inauguration is historic milestone

Kamala Harris's inauguration is historic milestone
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Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisBrown vows Democrats will 'find a way' to raise minimum wage Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson vs. Donald Trump: A serious comparison Exclusive: How Obama went to bat for Warren MORE will make history Wednesday when she becomes the first female vice president in the nation's history. 

Harris will also be the first Black vice president and first female vice president of South Asian descent. And when she takes the oath of office, the former senator and California attorney general will be one step closer to shattering the highest glass ceiling: the presidency. 

“As important as a Vice President Harris will be politically, she will be just as important culturally,” said Democratic strategist Joel Payne. “There is an entire generation of young women who will grow up watching a woman of Black and South Asian descent help lead our country. 

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“The impact is incalculable,” Payne added. 

Harris, 56, will take office just two weeks after a mob of rioters, some carrying Confederate flags, overwhelmed Capitol Police and stormed the building in an attempt to prevent lawmakers from certifying the election results. 

The inauguration of President-elect Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden offers support to union organizing efforts Senate Democrats nix 'Plan B' on minimum wage hike Kavanaugh dismays conservatives by dodging pro-Trump election lawsuits MORE and Harris also comes months after cases of police brutality resulted in protests around the country in support of Black lives. Racial inequalities — including in the coronavirus pandemic and in record high unemployment — have also become a huge part of the national dialogue and a challenge to address for the incoming administration.

That’s what makes Harris’s moment particularly significant. 

“At a moment of growing racial and political tensions, she’s going to inspire the next generation of Kamala Harrises in the same way Shirley Chisholm inspired her,” said Democratic consultant Mike Nellis, who served as a senior adviser during Harris’s presidential campaign. “She’s changing what we think a vice president looks like. That’s something people will remember for a really long time.”

On Tuesday, before leaving his home state of Delaware, an emotional Biden reflected on the symmetry between 2021 and 2009, when he joined President-elect Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaCPAC, all-in for Trump, is not what it used to be Americans have decided to give professionals a chance Artist behind golden Trump statue at CPAC says he made it in Mexico MORE on the way to the White House. 

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Biden recounted Obama greeting him on a train platform in Delaware as they made the journey to Washington — and the White House — together. Now, he was departing his home to “meet a Black woman of South Asian descent” who would become his vice president. 

“There’s something profoundly poetic about it,” said one former Obama White House aide. 

When Harris became the vice president-elect in November, clad in suffragette white, she nodded at the history-making occasion. 

“While I may be the first woman in office, I won’t be the last,” Harris said at the time. 

Sources close to Harris say the magnitude of the moment is not lost on her. 

While she’s proud to be the one to push aside the barriers for women and girls after her, “she definitely feels the weight,” said one source familiar with her thinking. 

“As a Black woman, she knows she would not be given the same benefit of the doubt and she feels like she can’t mess this up,” the source said. “She knows the consequences of her mistakes would be paid by others. It’s something I know is on her mind.” 

As she makes history, she is also putting together a diverse staff to reflect the moment — and many of them are women. 

Her advisers include three Black women, Tina FlournoyHartina (Tina) FlournoyKamala Harris's inauguration is historic milestone Harris taps women of color for key senior staff positions Harris selects Tina Flournoy as chief of staff: report MORE, Symone SandersSymone SandersSunday shows preview: CDC school reopening guidance stirs debate; Texas battles winter freeze White House says teacher vaccinations not required for schools to reopen CNN's John Berman chides White House aide on reopening schools: 'Not a trick question' MORE and Ashley EtienneAshley EtienneKamala Harris's inauguration is historic milestone Biden taps senior Hoyer staffer to join administration's communication team Biden announces all-female White House communications team MORE, as well as Rohini Kosoglu, her Senate chief of staff who is of Sri Lankan descent. Kosoglu will be Harris’s domestic policy adviser in the White House. Flournoy most recently served as former President Clinton’s chief of staff, Sanders served as a senior adviser on Biden’s campaign, and Etienne is an Obama administration veteran who will head up her communications team. 

The hiring of her staff is “definitely intentional,” said one source close to Harris. 

When Nellis met Harris in 2006 when she was running for the Senate, he said he knew she was going to break barriers. 

“Within five minutes of meeting Kamala, I could see she was going to go very far,” he said. “She had the confidence and compassion I’d never seen from a politician before. You know it when you see it, and she had it. 

“Kamala is the real deal,” he said.