On November 8th, 2016 at around 11pm, my father came to the balcony above our living room and looked down at me with the most painful combination of despair and conviction. “It’s over, Puja. She lost, and you have school tomorrow. Go to sleep.” I sunk into the couch and closed my eyes to release the tears that were welling up, reopening them only to stare at my television screen incredulously — Hillary Clinton lost the presidency to Donald Trump.
Ever since I put up my own “Hillary for President” sign on my 4th grade cubby in 2008, the idea of a woman in our highest offices has been embedded in my heart. The 2016 loss hurt more than words can describe, and probably more than anyone can ever really understand. Let alone the fact that Hillary Clinton lost— she lost to one of the nastiest and most gut-wrenching candidates we have ever seen in our lifetimes. A candidate who, for all intents and purposes, is absolutely unfit for presidency. Each time I describe that week to a friend I say the same thing — each day felt like I was waking up to the beginning of the seventh Harry Potter movie. I remember solidifying my belief that the weather holds so much symbolism to the vibrations of human emotions, as November 9th, 2016 was a rainy and cloudy day. Darkness fell upon the United States—we elected extremely damaging people to our highest offices, but I had no say since I was only seventeen years old.
Today, I once again close my eyes to release the tears that well up, but I reopen them to stare at my screen with hope. Today, I once again remember how the weather conveys so much. Because on this beautiful, sunny day in November, these four years of maliciousness, cruelty, and pain can finally come to an end. My eyes glisten as my mind begins to register that Joe Biden is the next President of the United States, and there will be a woman in the White House. A Black woman. A Tamil woman.
In our house is a woman whose name is Kamala. Kamala, which means lotus flower as a symbolization of the Hindu Goddess of wealth and prosperity, Lakshmi. In our house, is a woman who has never abandoned her name nor her roots, unlike Nikki Haley or Bobby Jindal. No matter how many are like David Purdue in world, no matter how many choose to use Kamala’s name against her, she never let her identity go. In our house, is someone who looks like me. And as much as we talk about the need for more representation, I promise you will never really understand what it is like until you have it. Kamala Harris is making history today as the first woman and the first woman of color to be elected to serve in one of our highest offices.
Kamala Devi Harris is the child of immigrants. She is the daughter of a Tamil woman from the heart of Tamil Nadu. So am I. Kamala Harris’s stronghold was her wonderful, intelligent Tamil mother. So is mine. Kamala Harris’s mother once told her that she may be the first to do many things, but she shouldn’t be the last. My Vice President-elect validates my belief that being the child of immigrants in this country does not make me any less of an American. In fact, it is the exact characterization that makes me American. She is continuing to pave the road for women who look like me, and I promise her and our mothers that I will never let such a road end. I will always remember that I belong here— no matter how many times the Trump rhetoric and environment made me want to feel like otherwise.
This is a moment that deserves to be celebrated. This is a moment for those eight and sixteen year old girls who are sitting in front of their screens just like I was in 2008 and 2016 — watching and hoping that America will show them that we really can live up to every aspect of the American Dream. As Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris has said,
America’s story has always been people seeing what can be without being burdened by what has been.
We have had four years of disrespect, division, and selfishness. But the people have spoken. We the people spoke for human decency and hope. We the people spoke for science-driven and culturally inclusive policy and for calm demeanor with compassionate rhetoric. We will not stop fighting for a more perfect union, and we will not stop fighting until every single boy and girl in this country has an equal opportunity to prosper. We prosper as a union when we work together— fighting division and encouraging unity. Once again, the sun is shining on America.
Thank you to the activists who have worked so hard to get us to this moment. Thank you to Stacy Abrams and all the black women and men who helped carry us to this enormous win. Thank you to the people of Detroit, Philadelphia, and Atlanta for turning out in numbers that carried us back to decency and hope. Thank you for fighting for and utilizing our most sacred right in this country — our right to vote. Thank you to the individuals who have not stopped talking and participating in our government. These past four years should have taught us that we cannot take our wonderful republic and democracy for granted. We live in a country that allows us to have a say. The fight is not over, and there is always more work to be done. Let freedom ring.