California Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris, the second African-American woman in American history to serve in the U.S. Senate and the first African-American and first woman to serve as California’s Attorney General, joined Sen. Tammy Baldwin for a meet-and-greet with local young professionals at Bos Meadery on Madison’s east side on June 9th.
Sen. Harris was in Madison to encourage young people to rally and support her friend, Sen. Baldwin, who will potentially face a tough bid to keep her U.S. Senate seat this fall. Judge Everett Mitchell gave the welcome at the event and introduced Baldwin and Harris to the crowd.
“Hi, Madison,” Harris told the crowd of about 100 people, mostly young professionals in Madison. “So … little-known fact: I lived in Madison. My parents taught at the University of Wisconsin-Madison for a brief moment in time and I was five years old and lived in Madison, Wisconsin. I was a native!
“So this is kinda personal for me,” she adds. “I’m here today to make sure that Tammy Baldwin is re-elected because it impacts the 40 million Californians I represent. What you all know is that she is without a doubt one of the strongest leaders that Wisconsin has ever seen … but she is also one of the strongest leaders our country has ever seen and we need her.”
Harris has spent this particular Saturday traveling throughout Wisconsin with Baldwin who will face either Republican state Senator Leah Vukmir or businessman Kevin Nicholson in November. Special interests and conservative political action groups already have spent nearly $10 million on ads attacking Baldwin so far and Wisconsin is seen as a battleground state.
“There are very powerful forces that are trying to take her out. Let’s be clear about this. Tammy is very modest though. It’s a Wisconsin thing,” Harris laughed. “But she is a force. There is a reason they are trying to take her out, guys. If she weren’t such a force speaking for working families. If she weren’t such a force fighting front and center against that awful tax bill that benefits corporations and not working families. If she wasn’t such a fighter against the Koch brothers and all that they are trying to do.”
Harris said that this is a moment in time where the country needs to collectively look in the mirror and ask the question: Who are we?
“Here’s the deal, guys. I believe that the answer to the question is a good one, imperfect though we may be. Flawed though we may be,” she said. “I believe we are a great country. And I know it to be true based upon all of the values and the ideals and the principles upon which we were founded. Just think about it.
“This is a moment in time to fight for those ideals,” she added, “and fight we will.”
Harris said that she believes, as Americans, we have so much more in common than what separates us. “I know it to be true. And we all know it to be true based upon our personal and professional experiences,” she said.
“There’s a funny thing about truth. Speaking truth can often make people feel uncomfortable,” Harris added. “And for us – and for many of us – there’s a goal that when we leave the room everybody should love us. But speaking truth doesn’t achieve that goal so much.
“We need to speak truths. You’re looking at me, “Kamala, what are some the truths?’” she continued. “Let’s speak truth – racism, sexism, homophobia, anti-Semitism, anti-immigrant sentiment is real in this country. Let’s speak that truth so we can deal with it.”
Harris said that the United States is a country of immigrants. “So, let me clarify the truth,” she told the crowd. “Unless you are Native American or your ancestors were kidnapped and brought over on slave ships, you are an immigrant.”
Harris said that there has been a lot of talk about patriotism in the news. “We need to be the kind of patriot that will fight each and every day for the ideals of our country,” she said. “And that’s what this fight is about. When we are fighting to re-elect Tammy Baldwin, this is a fight that is borne out of love of country. We’re going to take back our flag.”
The senators handed a couple of questions from the audience – one about the diversity (or lack thereof) in United States government.
“We need to have a representative government that represents all people. All voices must be present,” Harris said. “As everyone here knows, we need everybody’s voices with the life experiences they have had to be at the table so their voices can be heard.”
“We have to put the effort and the elbow grease into going into the communities and listening and involving and including,” Harris added. “We can do a better job with that. Let’s use 2018 as a challenge to ourselves to do better on that piece. Let’s look around and see who is not here. Let’s sit back and listen to who we are not hearing from.”
“We are better governed at all levels when the governing body looks like the people and brings all of those experiences in,” Baldwin says. “We have a long way to go. Senator Harris is only the second African-American woman in the United States Senate. I’m the first openly LGBTQ U.S. senator in American history. Since 1789, when the United States Senate first convened there have only been 53 women – 23 of them are serving right now.”
Baldwin closed by encouraging people at the event to consider running for political office themselves.