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On Inauguration Day, let no one steal the greatness of this moment away from you: Lauren Leader

The CEO of All In Together, a non-partisan women’s civic organization, says Kamala Harris being sworn in as vice president on Wednesday "brings us closer to representation of the people, by the people and for the people."
Kamala Harris at a drive-in rally in Philadelphia on Nov. 2, 2020.Michael Perez / AP

In the shadow of the Capitol attack on Jan. 6, it’s easy to dwell on the many ways our democracy has teetered right on the brink. However, to let that overshadow this deeply consequential inaugural is a disservice to our country.

The ascension of the first woman vice president, the first Indian and African-American woman to the second highest seat in the land, is a moment of triumph and victory for women, immigrants, for those who have fought and died for equality. We cannot let any group of extremists steal the glory and the greatness of this moment.

The hate-filled, Trump supporting, white supremacists who stormed the Capitol ― and the elected officials who gave their grievances a veneer of respectability ― have been intent from the beginning on subverting the ascension of anyone not like them.

But the fact is, despite the very real dangers posed by the millions who support this perverse ideology, our democratic system has soundly rejected it.

Millions of people worked over hundreds of years to bring us to this great national moment. From the abolitionists and Union soldiers who fought the moral outrage of slavery, to the suffragists who fought for women’s right to vote (winning it just 100 years ago), to the soldiers in our two world wars, to the civil rights leaders who sacrificed everything to fight Jim Crow, and even to the pink hatted ladies of the Women’s Marches and the millions who stood up to say Black Lives Matter, this moment belongs to everyone, throughout the generations who has labored to form a more perfect union.

On Inauguration Day and beyond, let us not ignore the momentousness of Kamala Harris' achievement. Millions of lives will be transformed by seeing her as our vice president. Just as the election of Barack Obama opened the doors of possibility for millions, this election too is vast with possibility, particularly for women and girls all over the world. It's equally important that millions of men and boys will for the first time see a woman of color occupy the second most powerful seat in the world.

The election of Joe Biden as the 46th President is of course consequential, as every presidential election is. But this year, the most historic award goes to his number two. Harris' leadership brings us closer to representation of the people, by the people and for the people. She stands for the 51 percent - the majority of Americans – women - who remain unequal by every measure. She stands for the millions who waited in long lines to participate in our peaceful, free and fair election. She stands for the Black women who have been stalwart fighters for our democracy for generations. And she stands for the immigrants who helped build this country with blood, sweat, tears and dreams for a better future.

Even in a dark time, it’s worth it to acknowledge what we are capable of as Americans. Nothing is more American than her.

To celebrate the historic firsts of this important national moment is not to somehow overlook or discount the reality of where we are. But rather to embrace the contradictions of a nation that can be so wretched and so great at the same time. No matter what happens, don’t let anyone steal the greatness of this collective achievement. It’s a moment for the ages. It’s a moment to be proud.

Lauren Leader is co-founder and CEO of All In Together, a non-partisan women’s civic organization. She tweets @laurenleaderAIT.