Kamala Harris will become the first Black woman and first person of South Asian descent to become vice president

By Sean Neumann
January 19, 2021 10:16 AM
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Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris
| Credit: Lorenzo Bevilaqua/Walt Disney Television via Getty; Alexander Tamargo/Getty

When Kamala Harris is sworn in and officially becomes the first woman to become the vice president on Wednesday, another groundbreaker will be reciting the oath of office.

Harris, who will also become the first Black woman and first person of South Asian descent to hold the office, will take the oath from Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the first Latina woman on the Supreme Court.

ABC News reported that Harris, 56, personally requested Sotomayor, 66, to be the justice presiding over the historic ceremony, which is scheduled to take place on the west front of the U.S. Capitol building shortly before noon ET.

After Harris is sworn in, President-elect Joe Biden, 78, will take the oath of office from the court's Chief Justice John Roberts.

Vice President-elect Kamala Harris
| Credit: NOAH BERGER/AFP via Getty

Harris will reportedly be sworn in on two bibles, including one owned by the late civil rights icon Justice Thurgood Marshall — the first Black justice on the Supreme Court.

The vice president-elect has named Marshall as one of her most prominent heroes on a number of occasions, including in her 2019 memoir, The Truths We Hold.

Last July, Harris called Marshall "my childhood hero and inspiration" and said: "Our nation is stronger because of his powerful voice for civil rights and social justice."

Joe Biden takes oath of office from Justice Sonia Sotomayor in 2013
| Credit: Saul Loeb-Pool/Getty

Sotomayor had previously presided over the swearing-in ceremony for Biden in 2013 when he took the vice president's oath.

She and Harris also share a background as former prosecutors.

Harris' legal career led her to serve as the Attorney General of California from 2011-16, before she was elected to the Senate (and later the White House last November).

The vice president-elect formally resigned her Senate seat on Monday, writing a farewell letter to her California constituents in the San Francisco Chronicle. "This is not goodbye," Harris wrote, pointing out that as vice president she'll now preside over the Senate.

"Change is possible," Harris added, setting up her incoming, history-making term. "For that, I am grateful and ready to get to work."

Sotomayor was nominated to the high court by President Barack Obama and was sworn in as the Supreme Court's first Hispanic justice in August 2009. The New York City native had also become the third woman on the Supreme Court at the time.

Like Marshall, Harris previously called Sotomayor an inspiration.

"Judge Sonia Sotomayor has fought for the voices of the people ever since her first case voting against corporations in Citizens United," Harris tweeted in 2019, during Hispanic Heritage Month. "As a critical voice on the bench, she's showing all our children what's possible."