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15 Inspiring Kamala Harris Quotes

Kamala Harris shattered the glass ceiling in becoming our country's first female vice president. But she knows she won't be the last.

Collage of various images from Kamala Harris' careerEmma Kumer/rd.com, Getty Images (5)

Kamala Harris’s many firsts

Vice President Kamala Harris is no stranger to breaking barriers. Born in Oakland, California, to immigrant parents—her father from Jamaica, her mother from India—Harris graduated from Howard University and then the University of California, Hastings College of the Law. As she advanced in her law career, she started amassing a series of remarkable firsts: First female district attorney of San Francisco, and the first Black female district attorney of any city in California. Next, she was elected as California’s Attorney General, the first woman and the first Black person to hold the position.

Her glass ceiling-shattering didn’t stop there. In 2016 Harris became just the second Black woman and first South Asian-American elected to the U.S. Senate. And finally, in 2021, she became the first woman, Black person, and South Asian-American to hold the office of Vice President of the United States. In addition to these accomplishments, she remains a voice for girls and young women, particularly those of color, who for the first time have someone who looks like them in the highest offices of the United States government. She doesn’t take her position as a role model lightly, as these inspirational Kamala Harris quotes prove. They will go down as some of the best confidence-boosting quotes from seriously awesome women in history.

"Mr. Vice President, I'm speaking."Emma Kumer/rd.com, Getty Images

On refusing to be interrupted

“Mr. Vice President, I’m speaking.”

This was perhaps the defining moment of the 2020 Vice Presidential debate, in which then-candidate Kamala Harris faced off with current Vice President Mike Pence. And when she did not allow him to interrupt her, she was speaking up for every woman who’s ever been cut off while voicing their opinion at an office meeting, or dismissed in a conference room full of men, or been interrupted and “mansplained.” Unfortunately, this still happens far too often—but Harris wasn’t having it. Judging by the response from women on social media, they both identified with the moment and applauded her reaction. It was definitely one of the best empowering quotes from women in politics.

"There is no vaccine for racism."rd.com

On the COVID-19 crisis

“There is no vaccine for racism.”

This is one of the most piercing Kamala Harris quotes. Throughout her career, she has addressed the topic of racism, summed up in this remark from her speech at the 2020 Democratic National Convention (DNC). In this instance, she talked about how the COVID-19 virus disproportionately affects Black, Latino, and Indigenous people. “This is not a coincidence. It is the effect of structural racism,” she said. “This virus has no eyes, and yet it knows exactly how we see each other—and how we treat each other. We’ve gotta do the work to fulfill that promise of equal justice under law. Because none of us are free, until all of us are free.” Here are more powerful quotes that speak volumes in the fight against racism.

"My mother would tell us, 'Don't just sit around and complain about things. Do something.'"rd.com

On activism

“My mother would tell us, ‘Don’t just sit around and complain about things. Do something.'”

Growing up with activist parents inspired a lifelong passion for making a change in the world, as she explained when she was announced as the Democratic vice-presidential candidate in August 2020. “My parents would bring me to protests strapped tightly in my stroller, and 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,” Harris said. “She’d tell us, ‘Don’t sit around and complain about things; do something.’ So I did something. I devoted my life to making real the words carved in the United States Supreme Court: Equal justice under law.” These quotes from female Supreme Court justices will give you a major confidence boost.

"My mother would say, 'Kamala, you may be the first to do many things, but make sure you are not the last.'"Emma Kumer/rd.com, Getty Images

On paving the way

“My mother would say, ‘Kamala, you may be the first to do many things, but make sure you are not the last.'”

Harris frequently mentions her mother, a breast cancer researcher, who was one of the guiding influences in her life. This is one of the Kamala Harris quotes you’ll hear most often, as she likes to repeat the motto her mother gave her. Even as far back as 2009 when she was San Francisco DA, she told a local paper about her mantra. During a 2018 speech at Spelman College, a member of the Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU), she also recalled these words and expressed how important being a role model is for future generations. “That’s why breaking those barriers is worth it,” she continued. “As much as anything else, it is also to create that path for those who will come after us.” These quotes on success will make you even more successful.

"What I want young women and girls to know is: You are powerful and your voice matters."Emma Kumer/rd.com, Getty Images

On speaking your truth

“What I want young women and girls to know is: You are powerful and your voice matters.”

Harris will always encourage young women, especially young women of color, to stand up for themselves. Before she was selected as the VP candidate, she told Marie Claire in 2019, “You’re going to walk into many rooms in your life and career where you may be the only one who looks like you or who has had the experiences you’ve had. But you remember that when you are in those rooms, you are not alone. We are all in that room with you applauding you on. Cheering your voice. And just so proud of you. So you use that voice and be strong.” These uplifting quotes will stay with you.

 

"Single women in politics are viewed differently than single men."rd.com

On dating

“Single women in politics are viewed differently than single men.”

Sometimes the most inspiring Kamala Harris quotes are the most honest and relatable, like this one from her 2019 memoir The Truths We Hold. Single women are often viewed differently by society than men: spinsters vs. bachelors. “As a single, professional woman in my 40s, and very much in the public eye, dating wasn’t easy,” Harris wrote. “I knew that if I brought a man with me to an event, people would immediately start to speculate about our relationship. I also knew that single women in politics are viewed differently than single men. We don’t get the same latitude when it comes to our social lives.” Harris married lawyer Doug Emhoff in 2014. Here are more being single quotes that will make you feel powerful.

"I've had a lot of titles over my career, and certainly 'vice president' will be great. But 'Momala' will always be the one that means the most."Emma Kumer/rd.com, Getty Images

On family

“I’ve had a lot of titles over my career, and certainly ‘vice president’ will be great. But ‘Momala’ will always be the one that means the most.”

Like many families in America, Harris’s is blended: She is stepmom to her husband’s two children, Cole and Ella, who call her Momala, as she said in her acceptance speech for the Democratic VP nomination. Also close with her sister, niece, and great-nieces, Harris recognizes that family comes in many shapes and sizes. At the DNC, she reiterated how she always strives to “put family first—the family you’re born with and the family you choose.” This is another way that Harris is relatable for many people: “Family” can mean many things. Perhaps even more so today, it doesn’t always appear as a traditional nuclear unit—and that’s okay. These family quotes hit close to home.

"Do not let anyone ever tell you who you are."Emma Kumer/rd.com, Getty Images

On self-worth

“Do not let anyone ever tell you who you are.”

Speaking to young women at Spelman College, Harris also talked about other people’s limited expectations of women, particularly Black women, and how not to be gaslighted by society into thinking you’re less than you are, or that you don’t deserve to achieve your goals. Too often women are put down, have their identity dictated to them, or are belittled for their hopes and dreams—but that shouldn’t be the case. “Do not be burdened by someone else’s assumptions of who you are,” she said. “Do not be burdened by their perspectives or judgment.” The most inspiring Kamala Harris quotes remind us of our own worth, and encourage us to let go of self-doubt. These hope quotes will instantly lift you up.

"I eat 'no' for breakfast"rd.com

On persistence

“I eat ‘no’ for breakfast.”

Along those same lines, when asked what advice she would give women young and old in a video posted to social media, Harris said not to back down in the face of naysayers. “You never have to ask anyone’s permission to lead,” she said. “In my career, I’ve been told many times, ‘It’s not your time. It’s not your turn.’ And let me just tell you, I eat ‘no’ for breakfast, so I would recommend the same. It’s a hearty breakfast.” She’s determined, persistent, and she’s not going to apologize for it—and neither should anyone else. A big bowl of “no” can actually fuel your fire. You won’t forget these life-changing quotes.

"There will be a resistance to your ambition, there will be people who say to you, 'You are out of your lane.' They are burdened by only having the capacity to see what has always been instead of what can be."rd.com

On ambition

“There will be a resistance to your ambition, there will be people who say to you, ‘You are out of your lane.’ They are burdened by only having the capacity to see what has always been instead of what can be.”

Harris has been criticized for being “too ambitious”—a completely sexist comment, because when has a man ever been criticized for too much ambition? Unfortunately, strong women, particularly in politics, are often looked at negatively. In a CNBC report, anonymous sources called her “opportunistic” and that they flat out “don’t like her.” At the 2020 Black Girls Lead conference, she addressed this issue of ambition in women, and how too often women are told they’re not capable of something or shouldn’t act a certain way, simply because it hasn’t been done before. Harris is saying that even though being strong might rub some the wrong way, keep going. These “dream big” quotes will motivate you right now.

"Every little girl watching tonight sees that this is a country of possibilities."Emma Kumer/rd.com, Getty Images

On the past and the future

“Every little girl watching tonight sees that this is a country of possibilities.”

In her post-election speech, Harris talked about the women who came before her and those who will come after. “I’m thinking about…the generations of women—Black women, Asian, White, Latina, and Native American women throughout our nation’s history who have paved the way for this moment tonight. Women who fought and sacrificed so much for equality, liberty, and justice for all, including the Black women, who are too often overlooked, but so often prove that they are the backbone of our democracy,” she said.

“Tonight, I reflect on their struggle, their determination, and the strength of their vision to see what can be unburdened by what has been. And I stand on their shoulders.” Echoing her mantra, she continued, “but while I may be the first woman in this office, I won’t be the last. Because every little girl watching tonight sees that this is a country of possibilities. And to the children of our country, regardless of your gender, our country has sent you have a clear message: Dream with ambition, lead with conviction, and see yourselves in a way that others may not simply because they’ve never seen it before.” Powerful words! Here are some early feminist quotes that still resonate today.

"In times like this, silence is complicity."rd.com

On social justice

“In times like this, silence is complicity.”

Kamala Harris inspires, but she also doesn’t shy away from the hard truth. As a Black woman, Harris was uniquely positioned in politics to discuss the protests against racism in the summer of 2020, and inspire everyone to take action. “Let’s speak the truth: People are protesting because Black people have been treated as less than human in America. Because our country has never fully addressed the systemic racism that has plagued our country since its earliest days,” she wrote in an essay for Cosmopolitan. “It is the duty of every American to fix. No longer can some wait on the sidelines, hoping for incremental change.” Check out these inspirational quotes from Martin Luther King, Jr.

"Every issue is a Black woman's issue. And Black women's issues are everyone's issues."rd.com

On how we’re all connected

“Every issue is a Black woman’s issue. And Black women’s issues are everyone’s issues.”

During her Spelman College lecture, she pushed back against the idea that she could only speak to “Black women’s issues,” because although there are things that affect the Black community more than others, those issues don’t exist in a vacuum. “I am often in a room where a reporter or someone else will come up to me and they’ll say, ‘So talk to us about Black women’s issues.’ And I’ll look at them and think, ‘You know what, I am so glad you want to talk about the economy,'” she said. “Or sometimes say, ‘I am so glad you want to talk about national security.'” These are some profoundly inspiring quotes from everyday Americans making the best of a tough year.

"When you lift up women, you lift up families, you lift up communities, you lift up economies—and you lift up America."Emma Kumer/rd.com, Getty Images

On women’s rights

“When you lift up women, you lift up families, you lift up communities, you lift up economies—and you lift up America.”

Harris has been a champion for women in the workplace and at home for years. In a 2017 speech at the National Partnership for Women and Families, she stressed how women’s equality and policies that help families benefit everyone. “To tackle the challenges of the 21st century, we must empower women and families,” she said. “If we do not lift up women and families, everyone will fall short. And that means rejecting the false choice presented by our politics that you have to choose between caring about economic issues or caring about ‘women’s issues.’ You cannot separate them. They’re inextricably linked.” You also might want to read the most inspiring Michelle Obama quotes.

 

"A patriot is not someone who condones the conduct of our country whatever it does. It is someone who fights every day for the ideals of the country, whatever it takes."rd.com

On patriotism

“A patriot is not someone who condones the conduct of our country whatever it does. It is someone who fights every day for the ideals of the country, whatever it takes.”

In her memoir The Truths We Hold, Harris spoke about trying to live up to the ideals set forth in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. Although we’re not there yet, she will continue to strive toward a more perfect union—as should we all. “We have so much more in common than what separates us,” she wrote. “We need to paint a picture of the future in which everyone can see themselves, and everyone is seen. A vibrant portrait of a vibrant United States, where everyone is treated with equal dignity and each of us has the opportunities to make the most of our own lives. That is the vision worth fighting for, born out of love of country.” Next, check out more quotes from books every woman should read at least once.

Sources:

  • Marie Claire: “One of These Women Could Be Our Next President”
  • Cosmopolitan: “Kamala Harris: “To Be Silent Is to Be Complicit”

Tina Donvito
Tina Donvito is a regular contributor to RD.com’s Culture and Travel sections. She also writes about health and wellness, parenting, and pregnancy. Previously editor-in-chief of Twist magazine, Donvito has also written for Parade Magazine, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and Parents Magazine online, among others. Here work was selected by author Elizabeth Gilbert to be included in the anthology Eat Pray Love Made Me Do It: Life Journeys Inspired by the Bestselling Memoir. She earned a BA in English and History from Rutgers University.