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Sen. Kamala Harris of California stood out for her no-nonsense questioning and dogged perseverance during then-Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings earlier this year.
Sen. Harris, who sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee, commended Dr. Christine Blasey Ford for coming forward to accuse Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct more than three decades ago. In fact, the Democrat categorized her role in the hearings as a pivotal “know your value” moment in her life.
"You are not on trial,” said Sen. Harris. “You are sitting here before members of the United States Senate Judiciary Committee because you had the courage to come forward because as you have said, you believe it was your civic duty."
That statement was intended as a nod to victims of sexual assault who have felt afraid to come forward with their own stories.
“I realized, in retrospect, that it was really important that those words were spoken in that hearing, because she represents a voice of so many people who have never spoken, or who people don’t want to hear from” she told me at the Know Your Value conference earlier this month in San Francisco.
Giving a voice to the voiceless has been a narrative that has guided the senator throughout her career. As a young Howard University student living in Washington D.C., she recalled walking by and being in awe of the Supreme Court building, which is engraved with the words “equal justice under law.”
“I understood that the work that happens in the courtrooms of America will be the work, if done right, of representing the voices of the most voiceless,” the former attorney general said.
In addition to discussing her know your value moment, we spoke about her experience campaigning during the midterm elections, where a record number of women were elected to the House. She also offered advice to women thinking about getting involved in politics and doubled down on her message to Dreamers.
Looking back on the 2018 campaign trail
Women made history during the midterm elections, winning more seats in Congress than ever before.
“Women want to be heard,” said Sen. Harris, who met many women during the campaign cycle eager to get involved in politics. “I left that whole process feeling very encouraged,” she said, adding that more people realize if “they don’t act or don’t participate they can’t be sure that what they want will actually happen.”
Her message to women thinking about getting involved in politics? “Run,” she said without hesitation.
And just because you don’t want to be an elected official doesn’t mean your voice can’t be heard. “Go work on a campaign, go to the school district meetings, participate, let your voice be heard, be present and speak up,” said Harris.
Sen. Harris has been a strong supporter of Dreamers, undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children, but have been protected from deportation under an Obama-era program called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.
“I’ve met DACA students on a path to cure cancer, who are working in technology- discovering innovations who are going to change the way we all live,” said Sen. Harris, adding “I’ve met DACA recipients who are serving in the military, DACA recipients who represent the best of who we are as a country.”
The future for the almost 1 million Dreamers in limbo (including myself) remains uncertain, however.
While federal courts in November upheld a California judge’s injunction to prohibit the Trump administration’s call to rescind the program, the reality is that Dreamers still fear DACA might be rescinded at any moment.
To these young people, the senator shared this message: “Keep living your life and be active.”
She added, “I feel very strongly that the United States government needs to keep their word to these young people, which is if they live a productive and lawful life, we will not deport them.”