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“My mother was part of one of the first waves of Indians to come to US in the ‘50s,” says Kamala Harris

The Vice President inspired the audience at the AANHPI health forum with personal anecdotes, including punchy advice that resonated with the younger generation.

Kamala Harris with stand-up comic Jimmy O Yang at the Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies’ annual legislative leadership summit. / Instagram/@vp

US Vice President Kamala Harris opened up about how her mother first arrived in the United States in the 1950s, how she traveled to India every two years as a kid, and how her parents met at a civil rights protest in the US, in a health forum discussion held for the Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander organizations on May.13.

"My mother [Shyamala Gopalan Harris] was 19 years old when she arrived in the United States by herself.  She was the eldest of my grandparents’ four kids. She was one of the first waves of Indians to come in relative modern history to the United States in the ‘50s. So, anybody with a South Asian background, you’ll know that this was early, early, early.  There were not many Indian Americans or Indians who had come in at that point," Harris said at the conclave.

"And my mother said to her father when she was 19 years old, 'I want to cure cancer.' And I want — and so, what I learned later is that she secretly applied to UC Berkeley.  And she got accepted," said the Vice President.

Harris, who is the first US Vice President of Asian heritage, also spoke about how she visited India during Christmas holidays every two years as a kid.

"And we would go back to India every two years growing up. Basically, trying to avoid the monsoon season. So, it was sometime between October and December around the Christmas holidays, usually. And I, as the eldest grandchild, had the honor among anyone in our family of being invited by my grandfather to take his morning walk with his retired buddies," she said.

Harris' maternal grandfather PV Gopalan was an Indian civil servant whom she has previously described as "very progressive" and one of her favorite people in the world. “My mother took to the streets to march for civil rights in her sari. And that’s how she met my father [Donald J Harris]. And all of that has had a profound influence."

VP drops the F-bomb while advising young people to break barriers

Twelve minutes into the discussion, Harris offered a motivating bit of advice to younger members of the audience, laced with an F-bomb.

“We have to know that sometimes people will open the door for you and leave it open. Sometimes they won’t, and then you need to kick that f***ing door down,” she exclaimed at one point.

“Here’s the thing about breaking down barriers. It does not mean that you start on one side of the barrier and end up on another. There’s breaking involved. And when you break things, you get cut and you may bleed. And it is worth it every time," the US Vice President explained.

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