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'Raise your daughters like Wonder Woman': 3 life lessons I learned from my aunt, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris

Meena Harris says she was raised by "a hardworking single mom, a grandmother who taught me I should always make an impact, and an auntie who showed me I could do and be whatever I wanted to be.”
Meena Harris, left, with her aunt, Sen. Kamala Harris.
Meena Harris, left, with her aunt, Sen. Kamala Harris.Courtesy of Meena Harris.

Meena Harris grew up being raised by a family of strong women, including her aunt, Sen. Kamala Harris.

And throughout her childhood, Sen. Harris, who on Saturday became the first female, first Black and first South Asian vice president elect, always taught her that if she sees injustice, she must take action.

It’s a message Meena Harris, a children’s book author and founder of Phenomenal, has carried with her into adulthood and passed on to her two young daughters. Meena Harris recently shared three Know Your Value lessons her aunt taught her:

1. Just do something.

“In times like these, it’s not always obvious what you can do—as an ordinary person—to make a difference. Especially in activism and politics, the barriers to entry can seem awfully high. But not everybody has to make that big leap. When Aunt Kamala and mom were young and would come home from school complaining about something they felt was unfair, my grandma would reply, ‘Well, what are you going to do about it? Don’t sit around and complain about things, do something,’” Meena Harris recounted.

Meena as a child, with (from left to right) Mom Maya Harris, Grandmother Shyamala Gopalan Harris and Aunt Kamala Harris.Courtesy of Meena Harris.

“Aunt Kamala always emphasized this lesson to me by urging me to make my own unique contributions to issues I care about. Sure, she’s always encouraged me to run for office, but she never pressured me, and she also let me know that I could make an impact in other ways. And, of course none of us can do everything, but we all have the responsibility to do something. For me, what started as a pantsuit drive after the 2016 election has evolved into a digital startup, organizing social justice campaigns, and writing children’s books. And I’m just getting started,” she added.

2. You didn’t fall from a coconut tree. Don’t forget where you came from.

“Beyond the cultural heritage I inherited from my family, I also know that I am the descendant of immigrants, civil rights activists and strong women who broke glass ceilings,” said Meena Harris.

“My grandma always taught us, ‘Don't let anyone tell you who you are, you tell them who you are,’ and I love how my aunt made that a part of her introduction to voters when she was nominated for vice president. Personally, my Aunt Kamala has always made it a priority throughout my life to teach and celebrate our family’s history and culture, often through food, and with an emphasis on the long line of powerful women we come from,” she added.

Meena Harris with her daughter and Aunt Kamala Harris.Courtesy of Meena Harris.

Meena Harris continued, “We are nothing without our ancestors, and we honor the rich history of those who came before us by proudly carrying their legacy forward. She often reminds me that nothing matters more than family, and no matter how busy she is on the campaign trail or otherwise, she will always make time for us, even if it’s getting in a quick FaceTime.”

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3. Raise your daughters like Wonder Woman.

“I sometimes joke that this is how I was raised—by strong, brilliant women who ran around saving the world and helping one another succeed: a hardworking single mom, a grandmother who taught me I should always make an impact, an auntie who showed me I could do and be whatever I wanted to be,” recounted Meena Harris.

Sen. Kamala Harris reading to Meena Harris' daughter.Courtesy of Meena Harris.

“In every sense, this community of women made me who I am today. Now that my partner and I are raising a social justice family of our own, we’re doing everything we can to provide the same experience, instill the same lessons, and lift up the same kinds of role models. Likewise, my Aunt Kamala takes *very seriously* her role as a great aunt in helping to shape my daughters. If she had her way, the girls (only 2 and 4 years old) would be on the campaign trail with her every day,” she added.