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LSA’s program in Asian/Pacific Islander American Studies within the Department of American Culture at the University of Michigan commemorates Vice President Kamala Harris’s historic and groundbreaking election. Though Kamala Harris is the first Asian American elected to this office, we also celebrate the Asian/Pacific Islander Americans in politics, activism, and military service who came before her. The tide of Michigan and American politics is changing, as Asian/Pacific Islander Americans continue to fill spaces of power and fight for equal representation. With Kamala Harris assuming the vice presidency, she holds the door open for many more to follow.

“My mother had a saying: ‘Kamala, you may be the first to do many things, but make sure you’re not the last.”

– Kamala Harris, Vice President of the United States

Biographies of Interest

Kamala Harris

Vice President of the United States

January 20, 2021 – Present

First African American & Asian American Vice President

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Grace Lee Boggs

Michigan Social and Political Activist

Major figure in the Civil Rights and Black Power Movements in Detroit, Michigan.

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Stephanie Chang

Member of Michigan Senate

First Asian American woman elected to the Michigan legislature.

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Jacqueline Nguyen

Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

May 14, 2012 – Present

First Asian American woman to serve as a federal appellate judge.

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Daniel Inouye

President pro tempore of the United States Senate

June 28, 2010 – December 17, 2012

Until Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris’s victory, Sen. Inouye was the highest-ranking Asian American politician in U.S. History.

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Katherine Tai

Nominee for United States Trade Representative Under the Biden Administration

Posed to be the first Asian American and woman of color to lead the Office of the United States Trade Representative.

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Eric Shinseki

7th United States Secretary of Veterans Affairs

January 21, 2009 – May 30, 2014

First Asian American Secretary of Veteran Affairs and first Asian American four-star general.

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