WASHINGTON (March 9, 2012) – Today, California Attorney General and Howard alumna Kamala Harris delivered an inspiring keynote address at the Howard University 145th Charter Day Convocation in Cramton Auditorium. Harris charged students to remain steadfast as they build their careers. Using her career as an example, she highlighted how many doubted her ability to fight for justice as a prosecutor.
“Let us understand that we must reject false choices. We can fight for public safety and be equally as vigorous in our fight for civil rights and civil liberties,” Harris said.
In January 2011, Harris (B.A. ‘86) was sworn in as the first woman, as well as the first African-American and Indian-American, to be elected as California Attorney General. Harris led her first political campaign as a freshman liberal arts student at Howard. See an excerpt:
No matter the twist and turns, you’ll see an order. How one step led to another and another and another... I see that order when I walk into my current office… My office is at the end of a very long hallway. A hallway that is lined with the photographs of the 31 Attorneys General who came before me... And sometimes when people come to my office, they remark on those photographs. They observe, ‘Hmm…none of those past 31 Attorneys General look like you.’ But now photograph number 32 is there. And I’m sure some of those folks who walk by that last photograph think to themselves ‘Hmm…she seems smart like she went to Yale, but she probably went to Howard.’
Harris was born in Oakland, Calif., to a Jamaican father and Indian mother and reared in Berkeley. Her parents, both professors, were involved in the Civil Rights Movement and they imparted in her a strong commitment to social justice and public service.
Howard University awarded Harris the Outstanding Alumni Award for extraordinary work in the fields of law and public service in 2006. Harris earned a law degree from University of California, Hastings College of the Law in 1989. She graduated with a bachelor’s of arts degree from Howard in 1986.
Harris’ accolades include designations as “America’s 20 Most Powerful Women” by Newsweek and “100 Most Influential African Americans” by Ebony Magazine. The New York Times listed her as one of 17 women most likely to become the first female president of the United States.
Harris is the recipient of numerous awards. California’s largest legal newspaper, The Daily Journal, designated Harris as one of the top 75 women litigators in California – the only elected official to receive that honor – as well as one of the top 100 lawyers in the state.
She was recognized as a “Woman of Power” by the National Urban League and received the Thurgood Marshall Award from the National Black Prosecutors Association. She has been featured on The Oprah Winfrey Show and was selected as one of 24 elected leaders from throughout the country to serve as a Rodel Fellow with the Aspen Institute. Additionally, Harris was elected to the Board of Directors of the California District Attorneys Association and is a vice president of the National District Attorney's Association.
“Let’s be clear about one thing. You, my dear students, are on the Howard path right now,” Harris added. “It started on the first day you walked onto this campus… Take advantage of all this campus and our nation’s capital have to offer. Start now and I promise you, tomorrow your impact will be greater.”
This year’s Charter Day celebration marks the 145th anniversary of the charter enacted by Congress, and subsequently approved by President Andrew Johnson on March 2, 1867, which established Howard University.
WHUT-TV will broadcast the edited Charter Day Convocation on Sunday, March 25 at 3 p.m. and 5 p.m.