While scrolling through the slew of photos of the inauguration of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris on Thursday morning, one jumped out to me as emblematic of the truly historic nature of what happened Wednesday in Washington.
Here’s the photo:
Taken by photojournalist Joshua Roberts, the picture shows Harris and her husband, Doug Emhoff, presumably watching the fireworks display that followed the televised inaugural celebration on Wednesday night. The couple are framed by the Lincoln Memorial.
It’s a striking image. Harris, the first female vice president and the first Black and South Asian vice president, framed by the man known as the “Great Emancipator.”
It was, for me, a moment of affirmation and possibility that America has — and always must — represent.
At a moment even Biden acknowledged is historically tough — “Few people in our nation’s history have been more challenged or found a time more challenging or difficult than the time we’re in now,” he said in his inauguration speech Wednesday — the photo of Harris celebrating at a monument to the man who fought and won the Civil War functions as a reminder that progress toward a more ideal union continues apace.
No, it’s not always as fast as we want or expect. And not always in a perfectly straight line. The election of Barack Obama, the country’s first Black president, was followed by the election of Donald Trump, for example. Two weeks before Harris wrote her name into the history books on the West Front of the US Capitol building, violent rioters were swarming that same space to protest false claims that Biden and Harris hadn’t actually won.
History — and progress — proceeds in fits and starts. But it proceeds.
And so, 158 years after the Emancipation Proclamation and 101 years after women were granted the right to vote, Kamala Devi Harris stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial as the vice president of the United States. Finally.