To local women, Kamala Harris election shows ‘possibilities truly are endless’

Vice President-elect Kamala Harris speaks in Wilmington, Del., on Saturday night, Nov. 7, 2020. (Erin Schaff/The New York Times)
Vice President-elect Kamala Harris speaks in Wilmington, Del., on Saturday night, Nov. 7, 2020. (Erin Schaff/The New York Times)

Kate Rivers’ three young daughters were excited to see U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris elected as the first woman — and the first Black and South Asian American — vice president, but their mom didn’t have to explain the significance of it to them.

That’s because they’ve already witnessed elected female leadership up close — their grandmother, Rivers’ mother, is Trotwood Mayor Mary McDonald.

“My girls are probably a little different than most in that they see my mom and they go to her events, they go to her meetings, they’re sitting in the room with very, very important people and for them it’s just, ‘I’m just with GiGi,’” said Rivers, who owns Twist Cupcakery in Downtown Dayton. “But this is the path that we intentionally want them to walk in because they don’t need to ever feel intimidated or feel like they don’t belong in any room ever, because they belong wherever they are.”

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Harris’ win is a success for women of all backgrounds, McDonald said, as it proves that woman can hold high positions.

“When I look at her, you know the possibilities truly are endless. I truly can see us getting a lot closer to having a female president,” McDonald said.

Trotwood Mayor Mary McDonald (right) with her daughter Kate Rivers (left) and young daughters.
Trotwood Mayor Mary McDonald (right) with her daughter Kate Rivers (left) and young daughters.

Credit: Jamie Cox

Credit: Jamie Cox

McDonald always thought she would see a woman in the White House but not one of color.

“It’s just made me extremely proud because the Black woman has been the backbone of our communities for years and their leadership has been there for years,” said McDonald, who is Black. “I just applaud the broad vision that Joe Biden had because he had some very powerful women to choose from when he decided to choose his running mate.”

Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley said as a female elected official, she was excited about Harris’ election.

“Anytime we have these glass ceilings broken, it gives younger women, and little girls the visual they can succeed at the highest levels of whatever they choose to do,” Whaley said.

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Harris also is the first South Asian American to hold the high office. Her late-mother, Shymala Goplan, was a biomedical scientist who immigrated to America from India in 1958. Her father, Donald J. Harris, is an economist and professor who came to America from Jamaica in 1961.

“Both came with high aspirations for better education and hoping to be in a society with high standards,” Dr. Jhansi Koduri, a Dayton-based doctor and president of the Miami Valley Association of Physicians of Indian Origin. “Both of them were active in the civil rights movement.”

Koduri, also a member of the Dayton Daily News Community Advisory Board, said Harris’ unique background and upbringing is one of her strengths.

Dr. Jhansi Koduri, president,  Miami Valley Area Physicians of Indian Origin
Dr. Jhansi Koduri, president, Miami Valley Area Physicians of Indian Origin

“As a female physician of Indian origin, it’s needless to say I am thrilled and very excited to see Kamala Harris be elected as VP,” Koduri said.

Koduri hopes Harris uses her diverse background to bring people together.

“If one does not have an open mind to see and feel anyone who looks different than them, there cannot be progress ... Greatness is togetherness,” Koduri said.

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Rhine McLin, former Dayton mayor and current vice chair of the Ohio Democratic Party, said Harris’ election is made more special by the fact that Harris graduated from Howard University, a historically Black university, where she was a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc., the first historically Black sorority.

Rhine McLin, the former mayor of Dayton.
Rhine McLin, the former mayor of Dayton.

Credit: Barbara J. Perenic

Credit: Barbara J. Perenic

Debbie Carter, president of the Tau Lambda Omega chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha in Trotwood, said it’s a proud moment for the women of AKA.

Harris will be sworn in as the 49th vice president on Jan. 20 at the nation’s capitol. On inauguration day, AKA sisters across the country will wear their pearls (the sorority’s signature jewel) and Converse sneakers (part of Harris’ signature look) to show love and support for Harris, Carter said.

“It’s a proud moment for women all over this country and all over the nation, but particularly, I think for African American women,” Carter said. “Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris will bring certainly a different perspective to national problems and concerns. So I do hope, especially in this time when there is so much injustice and racial strife and things that she can offer a different perspective from the point of a woman, as well as a woman of color.”

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