Former California senator Kamala Harris was sworn in as vice president of the United States on Wednesday, the first woman ever to hold the post.
Harris, 56, took the oath of office from Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor in a ceremony at the US Capitol.
She is the first Black woman and the first woman of South Asian descent to become US vice president.
Harris, the daughter of an Indian mother and a Jamaican father, was sworn in by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, a trailblazer in her own right as the first Latina justice on the high court.
Dressed in a purple dress and overcoat, the vice president took the oath with her husband and Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff looking on. Emhoff’s two children from his first marriage were also in attendance. After taking the oath, Harris hugged Emhoff and gave a double fist bump to President Joe Biden.
Harris used two bibles, one that belonged to the late civil rights icon and Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, whom Harris has said inspired her career path, and one owned by family friend Regina Shelton, who was like a second mother to Harris and her sister. Harris used Shelton’s bible when she took the oath of office as California Attorney General and later as a U.S. senator.
The crowd of lawmakers, family and friends fell silent as Harris made history, only to erupt with applause after she was sworn in.
Harris is used to breaking barriers. Before she resigned from her Senate seat on Monday ahead of the inauguration, Harris was one of 10 Black lawmakers and only the second Black woman to serve in the upper chamber. Harris’ resignation means no Black women are serving in the U.S. Senate.
Prior to the Senate, Harris was the first woman and person of color to serve as the district attorney of San Francisco and later as California’s attorney general.
Harris, a former prosecutor, made headlines during the Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s contentious Senate confirmation hearing, in which she was criticized by some of her Republican colleagues for her pointed and direct cross-examination of the now-justice.
She also served on several Senate committees, including Budget, Judiciary, Intelligence and Homeland Security. Her time on the Intelligence and Homeland Security committees will benefit her in her new role, as she will likely deal with national security and foreign policy issues.
Biden and Harris take office while the country faces several pressing issues, including the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic ramifications, a nationwide reckoning over racial justice and the effects of climate change. The pair’s inauguration comes two weeks after a violent mob attacked the U.S. Capitol, leaving five people dead.
A Biden transition aide who spoke on background to discuss the Biden-Harris relationship said the administration will use a hand-in-hand approach to address the crises. As an example, the aide said, while Biden takes the lead on vaccine distribution planning, Harris might take the lead in trying to congressional approval for the funding needed for that plan.