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To many in Newton, Vice President Kamala Harris offers ‘inspiration’

Zoe Zhang, a third-grader at Cabot Elementary School, said she is happy to witness the first female vice president.
Zoe Zhang, a third-grader at Cabot Elementary School, said she is happy to witness the first female vice president.Lin Sh

As people across the globe watched Kamala Harris become the first woman, the first woman of color, and the first person of South Asian descent sworn in as vice president of the United States, many people in Newton viewed her oath as more than a historic moment — but a personal one, too.

In interviews this week, people around the city talked about the historic moment and what Harris’s vice presidency means to them. During a time of racial unrest and a raging pandemic, they said, Harris offers a “glimmer of hope” and is a “universal inspiration.”

The responses have been edited for length and clarity.

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“Kamala Harris is definitely a great pick by Biden. Not just in terms of merit but also in racial identity and background. She’s not only the face of South Asians around the world and Black people in America, but she’s also the face of perseverance, the face of struggle, and the face of potential for a whole new generation. I think Kamala, growing up, didn’t think of becoming vice president of the United States. It’s a pretty bizarre dream — but she did it. And I think it serves as just a universal inspiration for everyone to reach for the stars because no dream is too bizarre. No dream is too wild.” — Keshav Desibhatla, a senior at Newton North High School.

“Something that’s really important to me as an Asian American educator and as a parent of a multiracial child — the idea and importance of representation. It was a hugely amazing thing in terms of representation for my daughter, who is of Asian descent, to see a vice president who is Black and of Asian descent who is multiracial. I think it’s important for her to see embodied in a person all of the ideals and aspirations that we talk about in our household in terms of representation being important. And it’s important for my students, too — to see somebody who represents people that we haven’t normally seen in these positions of power. I think it’s especially important for Black students and Asian American students and multiracial students to see Kamala as an example of the possibilities that this country promises us. It’s important for students who are not in those groups to see that representation — to see how complete our nation can be.” — Michele Leong, an English teacher at Newton North High School and co-facilitator of Newton North’s Office of Human Rights.

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“As a Black woman in America, seeing other people that look like you do the jobs that have been for white men for all of eternity is just so important and just so beneficial for what we can achieve. I was thinking about my family members, the younger girls in my life being able to grow up and have a vice president who is Black and who is a woman. To see someone like her in a position of power like that is just so important, especially right now in 2021.” — Arsema Kifle, a senior at Newton North High School.

“Everybody wants to be heard, and I think the only way that you can fully be heard is to be able to have people that look and act like you around the table. Madame Vice President Harris coming to that table is amazing. For me, to be quite honest, diversity is everything. As we think about different people that feel disadvantaged at different times, it’s refreshing to have a voice from someone that will be able to represent them and make sure that everyone considers their viewpoints.” — Jay Spencer, owner of French Press Bakery and Cafe in Needham.

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“Our new vice president is going to change the look of power in the US. The ceiling is there, but it is breakable. I want to stress that on the big picture, she did change the entire outlook as well as the perspective of what an Asian girl from a second-generation immigrant family might be able to achieve. Our daughters should all have the confidence in being able to determine what they want in life, dream high, and be certain regarding the possibility of achieving goals.” — Lin Shi, a research program manager at Northeastern University.

“I feel happy that she’s the first female vice president. I think she’s very brave, and I think she can be a great vice president.” — Zoe Zhang, a third-grader at Cabot Elementary School.

“In this incredible year of so many challenges on different fronts, Kamala Harris being vice president feels like a glimmer of hope for change. She represents so many firsts. As a mother of two teenage girls, who I know will one day become amazing leaders, I can now encourage them to dream big. This could be them if they want someday. That wasn’t something I could have thought of 10 years ago — even five years ago. It feels like we’re opening a new chapter.” — Regina Wu, M.D., a physician and president of the Newton Food Pantry.

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Kami Rieck can be reached at newtonreport@globe.com.