Joe Biden and Kamala Harris Won the White House, But the Work Doesn’t Stop Here

2020 has been a year of intense pain, sorrow, and uprising, most notably during the summer after the killing of George Floyd at the hands of police officers in Minneapolis. This saw the intense resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement, bringing the cases of Breonna Taylor and Elijah McClain to the attention of Americans and racial justice advocates across the world. Protests, sit-ins, and pushes for legislation to prevent racially charged violence were held across the country, begging for change. 

On top of this, the entire world has been fighting for relief from COVID-19, the pandemic that has changed all of our lives forever. From lockdowns and shuttering of businesses to mask mandates, the world as we know it is completely different. The United States has continued to suffer under the pressures that COVID-19 has brought upon us, with a president and army of supporters who refused to acknowledge its existence and severity for months until it was too late. The pandemic, coupled with one of the most polarized elections in recent years, has added immense stress to the lives of millions across the country and has kept the world’s eyes on the United States. 

    In a surprise to many Americans, myself included, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris won the presidential election with a projected 290 electoral votes, as called by the Associated Press on November 7, 2020. For the first time in four years, many of us can breathe a sigh of relief. We have broken barriers and shattered glass ceilings that have existed for generations- Kamala Harris is the first woman to hold the office of Vice President, as well as the first Black or Asian American person to do so. After 244 years, we are one step closer to a nation that looks like ALL of us. 

Joe Biden may not look like someone who will make a change for a country so divided- he is an older, white, straight man who has had a long, fruitful career in politics. In reality, he is a man whose life has been filled with emotional highs and lows. He lost his first wife, Neilia Hunter, and their daughter, Amy, in a severe car accident in 1972, just three weeks before he would be sworn in as one of the youngest senators at the age of 30. He nearly resigned from the position to care for sons Beau and Hunter but was urged to continue by the Majority Leader at the time, Mike Mansfield. Three years later, he was set up on a blind date with his current wife, Jill, whom he credits for renewing his interest in politics, and most importantly his life. 

Biden’s 2020 run and eventual projection of victory have not come without highs and lows. Between accusations of his son Hunter’s involvement in shady business dealings in Ukraine, an impeachment of the incumbent candidate, and accusations of inappropriate conduct with women, Joe Biden has not had an easy run for office. During the first presidential debate, Donald Trump heartlessly attacked Biden’s son Hunter, who suffers from drug and alcohol addiction that ejected him from military service. Joe Biden has also faced attacks for his stutter, a speech impediment that he has worked on for years. 

Kamala Harris began her career as a prosecutor in California in 1990, working her way up to the role of District Attorney and eventually Attorney General of California. She was elected to the United States Senate in 2017, vocally opposing the infamous Muslim ban signed into order by recently elected President Donald Trump, as well as his pick for Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos. She became a household name during the hearings of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who was accused of sexual assault by Dr. Christine Blasey-Ford. 

    Her own bid for President of the United States in the 2020 election was cut short in December of 2019, citing a lack of funds as her reason for suspending her campaign. Many were surprised this summer to hear that Joe Biden had selected her as his running mate. During the debates, we all remember how she grilled him about his previous opposition to the busing of students in segregated schools. She didn’t even endorse Biden for president until March of this year, shortly before the COVID-19 pandemic gripped our nation. Despite the circumstances, she and Joe Biden worked hard to garner a record-breaking 75 million votes in the popular vote, shattering Barack Obama’s record of over 69 million votes in 2008. 

    Women, men, and children across the country are cheering for a new era in American politics. However, these barriers being broken do not negate all of the work that we still have to do. As Joe Biden said in his speech this evening to the nation, we have so much to work on. We have to recommit ourselves to working across the aisle, respecting one another, and “turning down the temperature” of our interactions with those with whom we disagree. 

We have to continue to dismantle systemic racism in this country and have uncomfortable conversations with ourselves and those around us to recognize the privileges we may have. Most importantly, we have to get ourselves through one of the largest challenges for our generation: the COVID-19 pandemic that has taken 230,000 lives. Joe Biden and Kamala Harris’s win is not a band-aid that will immediately heal the wounds of the last four years. Rather, they are a step into what we can only hope is a safer, healthier, and kinder country.