WASHINGTON — Senator Kamala Harris announced on Monday that she is seeking to become the first African American woman to hold the office of US president, joining an already-crowded field of Democrats lining up to take on Donald Trump.
Harris, whose mother is from India and father from Jamaica, chose Martin Luther King Jr. Day to confirm her plans during an appearance on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”
“My parents were very active in the civil-rights movement, and that’s the language that I grew up hearing,” she said.
“(King) was aspirational like our country is aspirational. We know that we’ve not yet reached those ideals. But our strength is that we fight to reach those ideals … We are a country that, yes, we are flawed, we are not perfect, but we are a great country when we think about the principles upon which we are founded.”
Harris joins Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Hawaii congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and former housing secretary Julian Castro, among others, either in the race or exploring a run for the 2020 Democratic nomination.
A graduate of Westmount high school in suburban Montreal, Harris describes in her recently released memoir, the heartache of moving from Oakland, California so that her mother Shyamala Gopalan, a breast-cancer researcher, could take a job at McGill University.
“The thought of moving away from sunny California in February, in the middle of the school year, to a French-speaking foreign city covered in 12 feet of snow was distressing, to say the least,” she writes in “The Truth We Hold: an American Journey,”.
Her initial foray into Notre-Dame-des-Neiges, a school for native French-speakers, was a challenge: “I used to joke that I felt like a duck, because all day long at our new school I’d be saying, ‘Quoi? Quoi? Quoi?’ ”
By the time she was enrolled at Westmount, Harris had mostly adjusted to her life in Quebec, recalling fondly how her by-then divorced parents both attended her graduation, her mother resplendent in a bright red dress and heels.
“My mother was the strongest person I have ever known,” she has written on Twitter.
She said her mother was only 19 when she came to the United States in 1960 to pursue her studies in California, eventually becoming a renowned cancer researcher.
She describes her father, Donald, as “a respected economist” who is an emeritus professor at Stanford University.
After her parents separated when she was about five years old, it was her mother who raised her and her younger sister, Maya, who went on to become a lawyer and an advisor to Hillary Clinton during the 2016 presidential campaign.
“I have too many memories of my brilliant mother being treated as though she were dumb because of her accent,” Senator Harris wrote in her autobiography. Asked about that, she shared some tough words about Republican President Trump.
“There are powerful forces — including this president — that are attempting to vilify immigrants because they were born in another country,” she said recently on CNN.
After two terms as district attorney of San Francisco (2004-2011), Harris was twice elected as attorney general of California (2011-2017), becoming the first woman and the first black person to serve as chief law enforcement officer of that state.
Then in January 2017, she took the oath of office as California’s junior US senator.
Her focused and often tough-sounding lines of questioning during closely watched Senate hearings reflect her past as a prosecutor.
Harris often proudly recalls that as a prosecutor she fought big banks during the 2008 financial crisis. She casts herself as a champion of middle class families “living paycheck to paycheck” and denounces police brutality and the killing of unarmed black men