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‘We can do anything’: Cedar Rapids mother and daughter take in history as Harris ascends to VP

Published: Jan. 20, 2021 at 11:15 PM CST
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - Like so many days in the last year, LaNisha Cassell and her daughter, Lydia, spent Wednesday morning looking at a screen.

But what they watched that day was unprecedented and historic: the country’s first Black, Asian-American, and female vice president, Kamala Harris, being sworn-in during the 2021 inauguration in Washington, D.C., serving in the administration of President Joe Biden.

“I’m picturing all the little girls glued to their TVs right now, watching,” LaNisha, the executive director of the African American Museum of Iowa, said after Associate Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor administered the oath to Harris. “And adult women too.”

As much as Wednesday marked a day of firsts, LaNisha said she was also thinking about the women who brought the country here, as she and Lydia watched the ceremony in front of a poster of Rosa Parks hanging in the elder Cassell’s office.

“I think about even some of our local Iowa trailblazers, like Gertrude Rush, like Willie Stevenson Glanton, like Helen Miller, who have been serving in politics and have led the way,” LaNisha said.

Meanwhile, Lydia, a sophomore at Jefferson High School in Cedar Rapids, grew up with former President Barack Obama in office for more than half of her 15 years.

So she said breaking this barrier Wednesday wasn’t a surprise.

“But it’s still a really good thing, a really happy thing to see,” she said.

Wednesday’s inauguration marked another first: the first one Lydia has watched.

“It gave me a lot of hope as a young woman to see that these people, they’re leading the way for me and people like me,” Lydia said.

LaNisha says another woman on the platform inspired her too — 22-year-old National Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman, who recited her poem, “The Hill We Climb,” near the end of the inaugural ceremony outside the U.S. Capitol.

“It made me think of a youthful Maya Angelou, and also, I could see my daughter doing something like that too,” she said.

Together, mother and daughter, they watched history — focused and at attention — the magnitude of which wasn’t lost through a screen.

“It was like a moment that was cemented, ‘We can do anything,’” LaNisha said.

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