EBONY Exclusive: Vice President Kamala Harris Talks Passing the Torch with the Naval Academy’s First Black Female Brigade Commander

Vice President Kamala Harris is no stranger to breaking barriers. And when she wants to excite, encourage and empower women—particularly those of color—to do the same, she, lovingly, quotes her mom: “‘My mother would say, ‘Kamala, you may be the first to do many things, but make sure you are not the last.’ ”

She recently shared this sage advice with Sydney Barber, the first Black woman to serve as brigade commander at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md, on her graduation day. Barber’s Midshipman 1st Class is the top leadership post for a naval cadet; she was one of 30 candidates considered for the role. “I took a leap of faith when I put my hat in the ring,” says Barber. “Someone once told me, ‘if your ambitions don’t scare you a little, you are probably not thinking big enough.’ ”

VP Harris, the first woman to deliver the keynote commencement address at the Naval Academy, gave a shout out to Barber, the great granddaughter of Mississippi sharecroppers, from the podium on Friday and later interviewed her as part of the White House interview series A Weekly Conversation. In this exclusive clip, VP Harris and Midshipman 1st Class Barber discuss the historic significance of being the first, while ensuring they aren’t the last.

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