Vice President-elect Kamala Harris has acknowledged the challenges that lie ahead for Joe Biden when he will be sworn in as the 46th President of the United States on Wednesday, saying “it is not going to be easy.”
Mr Biden enters the White House on January 20 with the top challenge to lift the country from the devastation of a raging pandemic that has killed more than 398,000 Americans and thrown millions into economic distress.
“We’re going into Wednesday knowing that we’re ready to do the work, and we’ve got a lot of work to do. It’s not going to be easy,” Ms Harris told reporters at Martha’s Table in Anacostia here on Monday, observing the National Day of Service.
Every year on the third Monday in January, Americans honour the civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., who in the 1950s and 1960s organised non-violent protests for Black equality and voting rights.
The holiday traditionally features people commemorating Mr King’s work by participating in community service projects. However, both the pandemic and warnings of violence in cities across the country following the January 6 insurrection by pro-Trump supporters in the US Capitol affected the events this year.
“As we have discussed, Joe has outlined our plan for vaccinations, our plan for recovery, and in particular relief for working people, for families. And there is a lot to do,” Ms Harris said.
“Some of them say that ours are ambitious goals, but we do believe with hard work and with the cooperation and collaboration of the members of the United States Congress that we can get it done,” Ms Harris said in response to a question.
Asked if she felt safe going to the inauguration, amidst intelligence reports of more violent protests by supporters of the outgoing President Donald Trump, she said, “I am very much looking forward to be sworn in as the next vice president of the United States and I will walk there to that moment proudly with my head up and my shoulders back,” she said.
Ms Harris, 56, will make history on Wednesday as the first female, first Black and first South Asian American vice president.
Ms Harris and the future Second Gentleman of the US Doug Emhoff participated in a service event on Monday, packing food into plastic bags which will be distributed.
“I think it’s so important to remember that Dr. King was killed in large part, I believe, because he was on the verge of bringing together the civil rights movement around racial justice with the fight for economic justice,” she said.
“When we look at where we are as a country today, when we look at recent events, we know that the fight Dr. King was engaged in is still a fight in America, which is to recognise the connection and to recognise our collective responsibility to address these injustices,” Ms Harris said.
She further said today in America, one in six families describe their household as being hungry, one in five describe an inability to pay rent, while one in three describe an inability to pay their bills.
“So, we are here today as part of what we collectively, all of us who are volunteering, see as our responsibility as part of Dr. King’s legacy. And we’re here to renew the commitment that we have to service, and to serve others especially those in need,” Ms Harris said.
Thousands of volunteers across the country participated in the National Day of Service — an opportunity for all Americans to unite and serve at a time when the global pandemic calls on us to work together and support the communities, the Biden transition said.
The Presidential Inaugural Committee (PIC), working closely with AmeriCorps and local, state, and national service partners, organised more than 2,500 events in all 56 states and territories.
The day culminated in an hour-long virtual live-stream celebration that featured a diverse array of entertainers, speakers, and stories of service celebrating the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr and the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to service.
In 1994, Congress passed legislation designating the Martin Luther King Holiday as a national day of volunteer service — “a day on, not a day off.” Since then, AmeriCorps — the federal agency for service and volunteerism — has led this national effort to engage Americans in honouring Dr King’s legacy through service on MLK Day.
In 2009, then President-elect Obama called on all Americans to join the National Day of Service as part of PIC’s activities. In 2013, the PIC participated in the National Day of Service again by hosting a service fair in Washington, DC, and organising events across the country.