Senator Kamala Harris has talked about many things on the 2020 campaign trail with former Vice President Joe Biden, but one thing she always comes back to is family, especially her relationship with her mother. Her mom, Shyamala Gopalan, was born in India in 1938 and moved to California when she was 19 years old to attend the University of California, Berkeley, to get a masters in nutrition and endocrinology, eventually also getting a PhD in the same fields. It was at Berkeley that she met Kamala’s father, Don Harris, a Jamaican-American, per The New York Times. The two married and had two daughters: Kamala in 1964 and Maya in 1967. Per Marie Claire, the couple divorced when Kamala was five years old, and the two girls were raised primarily by their mother, though Don remained in their lives. However, his relationship with his ex was reportedly strained.
But the two sisters remember their mother fondly. When Kamala accepted the 2020 vice presidential nomination, her sister wrote on Twitter that it is impossible to understand who the senator is without fully understanding the woman who raised them. “Missing her terribly, but know she and the ancestors are smiling today,” Maya wrote of their mother. It seems Kamala feels the same way.
Kamala Harris says her mom is her role model
Kamala Harris often brings up her mother when speaking to voters. She said in her speech accepting the 2020 vice presidential nomination that her mother’s lessons stuck with her and led her to public service, via Harper’s Bazaar. Harris said, “…my mother, Shyamala, raised my sister Maya and me to believe that it was up to us and every generation of Americans to keep on marching. She’d tell us, ‘Don’t sit around and complain about things. Do something.’ So I did something.”
Kamala never misses a chance to shout out her mother’s influence on her. She honored her mom on International Women’s Day in March 2020 on Instagram, writing that her mother was “a force of nature and the greatest source of inspiration” in her life. The candidate added, “She taught my sister Maya and me the importance of hard work and to believe in our power to right what is wrong.” Kamala also championed her mom on Instagram for Mothers’ Day 2020, writing, “I’m the daughter of a mother who broke down all kinds of barriers.” She added that she was “thankful every day to have been raised by her.”
Her mom died in 2009 of colon cancer, but her influence is felt by Kamala all the time, and judging by the senator’s tributes, Shyamala would be really proud to watch her daughter run for one of the highest offices in the country.
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