In her memoir, ‘The Truths We Hold: An American Journey,’ Harris vividly portrays her late mother Dr. Shyamala Gopalan, who was a cancer researcher, and describes what she inherited from her mother.
‘My mother understood very well that she was raising two black daughters. She knew that her adopted homeland would see Maya and me as black girls. She was determined to make sure we would grow into confident, proud black women.
In a country where she had no family, they (the black
community) were her family – and she was theirs. From almost the moment she
My mother, grandparents, aunts and uncle instilled us with pride in our South Asian roots … We were raised with a strong awareness of and appreciation for Indian culture. All of my mother’s words of affection or frustration came out in her mother tongue (Tamil) – which seems fitting to me, since the purity of those emotions is what I associate with my mother most of all.
‘There is no title or honor on earth I’ll treasure more than to say I am Shyamala Gopalan Harris’s daughter. That is the truth I hold dearest of all.
‘It was really my mother who took charge of our upbringing. She was the one most responsible for shaping us into the women we would become.’
Harris credits her maternal grandmother for the crusading civic spirit that both her mother and she inherited.
Her mother also taught her that being a good person meant standing for something larger than yourself; that success is measured in part by what you help others achieve and accomplish.
Dr Shyamala Gopalan died in 2009
LOOKING BACK TO 2004
Harris took charge as the District Attorney of San Francisco in 2004 winning a run off against the incumbent DA with a promise to be smart on crime. In her inaugural speech she thanked her mother. ‘One individual here deserves a special tribute. She is a woman who has given of herself unconditionally throughout my life. She is the most inspiring and courageous person I have ever known. Please help me honor Dr. Shyamala Harris, my mother,’ she told the crowd.
She also thanked her sister Maya Lakshmi Harris West and brother-in-law Tony West for their support.
Underscoring her commitment to always defend the rights of
the people of
As the District Attorney she did not seek death penalty.
‘As far as I'm concerned, the death penalty is morally wrong, and I'm not going to make an exception to that principle,’ she said.
When police officers questioned her stand, she replied, ‘I made a decision.’
Harris worked as a deputy district attorney in
In 1998, the Daily Journal named her one of the top 20 young
Dr. Shyamala Gopalan came to the