AURORA | History books have marked the importance of a U.S. president’s first hundred days in office ever since Franklin D. Roosevelt assumed office in 1933, during the Great Depression. He set a standard against which all future U.S. presidents would be measured when he began rolling out programs that made up his New Deal, signifying a new relationship between the American people and their government.
When Joe Biden was inaugurated as the president of the United States, he moved into a long line of presidents challenged with making a major impact for the better within the first 100 days of their administration. Because Vice President Kamala Harris will forever stand in history as the first woman and first woman of color to hold the office, she may also arguably feel immense pressure to make a difference quickly. And that begins with helping the country recover from the devastating impact of what seems like a never-ending pandemic.
On Inauguration Day, President Joe Biden announced the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan to change the course of the pandemic, build a bridge towards economic recovery, and invest in racial justice. Vice President Harris, in her role as president of the Senate, made a bold statement when she cast her first tie-breaking vote to advance the plan.
According to a White House statement, the plan is to mount a national vaccination program, contain COVID-19, and safely reopen schools, including by setting up community vaccination sites nationwide, scaling up testing and tracing, eliminating supply shortage problems, investing in high-quality treatments, providing paid sick leave to contain spread of the virus, addressing health disparities, and making the necessary investments to meet the president’s goal of safely reopening a majority of K-8 schools in the first 100 days.
Colorado leaders have weighed in on her first month in office and the legacy they envision her leaving.
Janet Buckner, a Democratic member of the Colorado Senate, who represents District 28, says Harris’ election and swearing in on Inauguration Day “in itself is remarkable and historic. She broke the glass ceiling and she is a role model for women who want to aspire to run for higher office and we have a sense of hope because of her success and her many capabilities.”
Buckner, who is an Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority sister to Harris, met her at a fundraiser in Denver in 2019. She recalls it being an “exhilarating experience. She was warm and engaging and after my short conversation with her, I felt like she was a woman who could communicate and relate to anyone.”
John Hickenlooper, United States Senator from Colorado, remembers campaigning alongside her a couple of years back. The former mayor of Denver and former governor of Colorado says, “I know her as an excellent leader and an admirable person. She’s also a barrier breaker – blazing a trail for women and people of color across the globe.”
Colorado Senator Rhonda Fields, who represents District 29, adds, “Vice President Harris has demonstrated leadership and excellence in so many ways. Not only as a gifted district attorney of San Francisco but also as attorney general of California in 2010 and re-elected in 2014. Not only did she serve as an excellent attorney general upholding law and order, but the vice president has so deeply inspired and opened doors for so many more young women leaders to come.”
Jason Crow, who represents Colorado’s 6th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives, says that from the beginning of her career “she has been a true public servant and a fighter for the people. As California’s attorney general, she took on the big banks and won a $20 billion settlement for California homeowners that were unfairly foreclosed on. In the Senate, she fought for working families and helped hold the Trump administration accountable.”
Some have said Harris has more of a partnership role with the president in comparison to other administrations where the vice president may have been in the background.
As Harris works under the scrutiny of being a “first” and within the 100-day standards placed on presidential administrations, she receives the top-secret national security update in the Oval Office each morning along with the president. She has joined him in Oval Office meetings with members of congress, governors, mayors and labor leaders, as well as with cabinet officials including the secretaries of defense and treasury. She frequently appears by his side at policy announcements and when he signs executive actions.
She held a listening session with the African American Mayors Association regarding the fight against the pandemic. She has spoken with the President of France Emmanuel Macron about strengthening bilateral ties between the United States and France and revitalizing the transatlantic alliance. She has also spoken with Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the Director-General of the World Health Organization. She has been busy.
Fields says, “Today we need representation. We need a vice president who is active with the president and in this administration’s role in supporting and uplifting communities with a disenfranchised history. I believe Vice President Kamala Harris is the perfect person to be an advocate and voice; she understands the women’s experience. She understands the experience of being a person of color in America.”
“I believe collaboration and partnership are crucial for the president and vice president especially during current times,” says Buckner. “The COVID-19 pandemic, social and racial unrest and injustices, health inequities and a myriad of other social issues call for varying viewpoints and experiences.”
Buckner adds, “Vice President Harris will share life experiences the president has not had and this is the way democracy should look. Just as President Obama and President Biden were partners and friends, this new Democratic ticket will benefit from this type of partnership.”
Crow, who experienced the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol, believes Harris, is “the perfect partner to help President Biden tackle the challenges we are facing.” The decorated U.S. Army Ranger, who served three tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, was sworn into office three days earlier for his second term as a U.S. Representative. During the attack, he helped to make sure doors were locked, escorted senior members to safety and instructed them to take off pins that would identify them as members.
With the deadly insurrection and subsequent impeachment that ended in an acquittal still top of mind, many wonder if the vice president’s extensive legal background can help to impact policies to ensure an insurrection like the one on Jan. 6 never happens again and that impeachment hearings can be more effective.
Of note, two Coloradans, U.S. Reps. Joe Neguse and Diana DeGette were among the nine people named by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi to manage the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump.
Buckner says, “The insurrection was a travesty and the current laws in place must be strengthened. We cannot allow this to happen again. A full investigation of the insurrection is the first step in making sure this does not happen in the future.”
According to Hickenlooper, “She’s already playing a key role in helping heal the division in our country as Joe Biden’s partner in the White House. The January attack on the Capitol showed the urgency of repairing our democratic institutions and restoring the public’s faith in our government. The vice president understands the challenge and is committed to ensuring we emerge from this crisis a stronger and more equitable country.”
“The remedy to division is unity. I believe the solution is through policies that progress unity and not division,” says Fields, who entered politics after her work as a victims’ rights advocate in the wake of the murders of her son, Javad Fields, and his fiancée, Vivian Wolfe. “Policies that allow everyone equal access to ‘life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness’ as the framers of this nation intended. I see hope for Vice President Kamala Harris and for this nation.”
In the long term, Buckner believes “all aspects of women’s rights and civil rights will be elevated because of VP Harris and we will see a difference in the way women are treated in the workplace. As a Black woman I believe this amazing and historic moment will help us break down barriers for all women and especially woman of color. I am counting on seeing more women at the table in all levels of employment and more inclusivity in decision making.”
Crow underscores what the vice president brings to the White House. “As our nation’s first woman vice president, a Black woman, and a daughter of immigrants, Kamala Harris embodies the hopes and aspirations of so many in our community. And I know that Vice President Harris will leave the door open behind her, so that while she may be the first, she certainly won’t be the last,”he said, echoing a value that Harris’ mom instilled in her.
Fields, who was the first African American woman elected in State House District 42, as well as the first to be appointed Speaker pro Tempore, adds, “I have already witnessed the seeds that Vice President Harris has planted. I have seen little girls in my district excited and inspired.”
She sees Harris “being a voice for all women in spaces where women have not been adequately heard. I’m excited to see the future that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris build back.”
In a Washington Post op-ed piece entitled, “Kamala Harris: The exodus of women from the workforce is a national emergency,” Harris addressed the impact of COVID-19 on women. Indirectly, she may have been speaking of herself when it comes to the value of women in the workplace. In the piece, published on Feb 12, the vice president wrote, “When we lift up women, we lift up families, we lift up communities and all of society benefits. This is true in the United States and around the globe.”
President Biden Speaks to the Historic Diversity of his Administration
Excerpt from the White House Proclamation on National Black History Month
This February, during Black History Month, I call on the American people to honor the history and achievements of Black Americans and to reflect on the centuries of struggle that have brought us to this time of reckoning, redemption, and hope.
We have never fully lived up to the founding principles of this Nation – that all people are created equal and have the right to be treated equally throughout their lives. But in the Biden-Harris Administration, we are committed to fulfilling that promise for all Americans.
I am proud to celebrate Black History Month with an Administration that looks like America – one that reflects the full talents and diversity of the American people and that heralds many firsts, including the first Black vice president of the United States and the first Black secretary of defense, among other firsts in a cabinet that is comprised of more Americans of color than any other in our history.