August 3, 2021

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Lesson of the Day: ‘Kamala Harris Will Make History. So Will Her ‘Big, Blended’ Family.’

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Students in U.S. high schools can get free digital access to The New York Times until Sept. 1, 2021.

Featured Article: “Kamala Harris Will Make History. So Will Her ‘Big, Blended’ Family” by Jessica Bennett

When Kamala Harris becomes vice president on Wednesday, she will be the first woman to hold this office. The daughter of an Indian mother and a Jamaican father, she’ll also be the first Black woman and first woman of Asian descent to be elected to the country’s second-highest office. But there are still more ways that she and her family will make history.

In this lesson, you will learn about Ms. Harris and her extended family. You’ll also assess the degree to which the vice president-elect and her family reflect “a more expansive version of the American family.”

Watch the above video “Kamala Harris’s History of Firsts,” and take notes about the biographical details it contains.

What are the other “firsts” Ms. Harris has achieved, even before being elected vice president? How important do you consider each of these milestones — for Ms. Harris, for her family and other loved ones, and for people in the future who want to follow in her footsteps or be trailblazers in other forums?

Read the article, then answer the following questions:

1. Read the first two paragraphs of the article closely. In your own words, what is the article’s main focus?

2. The author argues that spouses and family members play a significant role in how the public perceives politicians. What examples does the author provide to support this claim?

3. What is the “narrow definition of family” that female politicians are expected to meet, according to the author? How does Ms. Harris transcend that definition?

4. In what ways can Ms. Harris’s family be seen as being “reflective of where Americans already are”? What statistics in the article support that position?

5. How will Doug Emhoff, Ms. Harris’s husband, make history when she takes office? What decision has he made about his career? Why does the political scientist Laurel Elder say this decision “can simultaneously be read as either utterly conformist or absolutely radical.” What does she mean?

7. The article includes personal details about Ms. Harris, her mother and niece as well as Mr. Emhoff, his first wife and their children. Why do you think the author chose to include these details?

Read the transcript of Ms. Harris’s acceptance speech from November and if you like, watch the video as well.

Here is how she addressed young people:

And to the children of our country, regardless of your gender, our country has sent you a clear message: Dream with ambition, lead with conviction, and see yourself in a way that others might not see you, simply because they’ve never seen it before.

And we will applaud you every step of the way.

What do these words mean to you?

Near the end of her speech, Ms. Harris says:

But while I may be the first woman in this office, I won’t be the last.

Because every little girl watching tonight sees that this is a country of possibilities.

What are your thoughts on this idea? Do you think more women will be elected to the vice presidency now that Ms. Harris has set the precedent?

Finally, what else stood out to you in Ms. Harris’s speech? Why?


About Lesson of the Day

Find all of our Lessons of the Day in this column.
Teachers, watch our on-demand webinar to learn how to use this feature in your classroom.

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