Closing The Gap

Kamala Harris on being told 'it's not your time' in her career: 'I eat 'no' for breakfast'

Democratic vice presidential nominee Sen. Kamala Harris responds to cheering supporters as she takes the stage for an early-voting event at the Central Florida Fairgrounds, Monday, October 19, 2020.
Joe Burbank | Tribune News Service | Getty Images

Sen. Kamala Harris has broken a lot of barriers in her career, including becoming the first Black woman and first South Asian American woman to be nominated vice president by a major political party. If she and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden win the 2020 presidential election, Harris will become the first woman vice president in United States history.

In a video posted on social media Sunday night, Harris took time to answer questions from voters, including one question about her advice to women both young and old. Reflecting on her own career journey as a woman in politics, Harris replied saying, "You never have to ask anyone permission to lead."

"You know, I have in my career been told many times, 'It's not your time. It's not your turn,'" the 56-year-old added. "And let me just tell you, I eat 'no' for breakfast, so I would recommend the same. It's a hearty breakfast."

Democratic U.S. vice presidential nominee and Senator Kamala Harris speaks at a drive-in campaign event in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., October 2, 2020.
David Becker | Reuters

Coming from a long career in law and politics, Harris, a graduate of Howard University and the University of California, Hastings College of the Law, has been very open about the naysayers she's faced in her professional journey. In 2003, when Harris, a then 38-year-old San Francisco lawyer, decided to run against incumbent Terence Hallinan for the city's District Attorney seat, she was told by many people that the race would not be in her favor as she was a little known prosecutor in the city.

"A lot of people told her not to run," Democratic strategist and longtime friend Debbie Mesloh told Politico last year.

Pushing past the doubt, Harris ran anyway and went on to become the state's first Black district attorney. Then, seven years later, she decided to run for state Attorney General against Steve Cooley, a popular Republican who served as the Los Angeles County District Attorney. At an event at the University of California, Irvine, Harris faced criticism from Democratic strategist Garry South who predicted that she had a very little shot at winning the seat as "a woman who is a minority, who is anti-death penalty, who is district attorney of wacky San Francisco."

Though the race was close, with Cooley claiming victory on election night, Harris was eventually announced as the winner three weeks later when all of the ballots were counted. Her win made her the first woman, first Black and first Asian American attorney general for the state of California.

As Harris continues to make history throughout her career, currently as the first South Asian American woman and second Black woman in U.S. Senate history, she says she's become used to the doubters and naysayers.

During her short 2019 campaign for the presidential nomination, Harris told the Associated Press, "There are always going to be doubters. That's not new to me." But the way you overcome these doubters, she said, is "you win."

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