For Kamala Harris, questions about legacy start now

Good morning, Broadsheet readers! Google’s A.I. ethics scandal continues, the Atlanta Dream may get a new owner, and for Kamala Harris, a historic inauguration was the easy part. Have a terrific Thursday.

– What’s next? Yesterday was a time for Americans and political observers around the world to obsess over the history, the pageantry, and “radical normalcy” of the Biden-Harris inauguration: the symbolic fashion, the stirring verse, the wholesome, meme-ified mittens. But as the fireworks fizzled over D.C., what remained was the four-headed monster of a crisis facing the new administration.

Of course, the Biden-Harris administration is fully aware of the unprecedented situation it finds itself in; taking power in the midst of an out-of-control pandemic, a recession, a climate catastrophe, and a fierce battle for racial justice and racial equity. “Few periods in our nation’s history have been more challenging or difficult than the one we’re in now,” President Joe Biden said in his inaugural address.

In swearing her oath to office, Vice President Kamala Harris, in purple and pearls, vowed to take on those challenges. And as arguably the most influential VP in history and the Senate tie-breaker, she may be seen as more responsible than her predecessors for the outcome of the administration’s agenda.

But those four coinciding crises, as gigantic as they are, are not the only headwinds facing Harris. The question of personal legacy usually comes up near the end of an administration, but the history-making nature of Harris’s tenure means she will have to contend with that matter immediately. Harris has already vowed to not be the last female vice president, but ensuring the trail she’s blazed doesn’t go cold depends as much on what Harris can control—her policy portfolio, her championing and hiring of other women, her public profile—as it does on what she can’t: how still-skeptical Americans perceive her.

Like other women who are ‘firsts’ or ‘onlys’ in their field, she will be unfairly seen as a litmus test for whether any woman, anywhere can do the job. Being a woman of color, which subjects her to racist double standards, only raises the bar she must clear.

Harris has been tasked with threading this seemingly impossible needle before in her career, albeit on stages significantly smaller than the one she descended onto yesterday. The stakes are enormous this time around, and Harris’s approach is different. As Politico reports, Harris used to refer to being a ‘first’ as “the donkey in the room”—because she’s a Democrat, get it?—and tried to deflect from the subject. But now, she’s embracing the descriptor.

In that sense, she’s heeding the advice Valerie Jarrett, a senior Obama aide, has for the new vice president who’s in uncharted territory with few guideposts, facing multiple national crises, and bearing the weight of history—all while contemplating her own career advancement.

“[Be] true to what drove you into public service in the first place,” Jarrett told Politico. “Then that should encourage you to not hold back, but to push.”

Claire Zillman

Today’s Broadsheet was curated by Emma Hinchliffe


- Day 1. President Biden's flurry of executive actions on his first day in office included an order prevented workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity and the cancelation of President Trump's 1776 Commission, an initiative that targeted the New York Times' 1619 Project led by Nikole Hannah-Jones. CNN

- Locked out. Weeks after Google pushed out Timnit Gebru, a prominent Black A.I. scientist, the tech giant has taken action against another A.I. ethicist. Gebru tweeted Wednesday that Margaret Mitchell, who co-led Google Research's A.I. ethics unit with Gebru and has defended her former colleague, had been locked out of Google's corporate network. Google says the action occurred because Mitchell had shared thousands of files with external accounts and that it's "investigating" the matter. Fortune's Jeremy Kahn has more details here.

- Network effects. In the latest edition of Fortune's "Smarter Working," columnist S. Mitra Kalita covers how men and women are networking differently throughout the pandemic. In a rare bright spot for women during the pandemic—they're more likely to have hung onto networks throughout this time, compared to men whose networking is often more transactional. Fortune

MOVERS AND SHAKERS: Family benefits platform Cleo hired former Cloudflare exec Amy Kux as CFO and Red Bull's Andrea Lessard as VP of people. Pitney Bowes hired GE Capital's Ana Maria Chadwick as EVP and CFO. 


- Passing the ball. The Atlanta Dream are reportedly close to finalizing a sale that would sever former Sen. Kelly Loeffler's ties to the WNBA team after a period that saw the team's players campaign against her and Loeffler object to the league's support of the Black Lives Matter movement. The team is reported to have five bidders for Loeffler's 49% stake. ESPN

- Directorial debut. Regina King's debut as a film director arrives with One Night in Miami, the story of the meeting of Muhammad Ali, Jim Brown, Sam Cooke, and Malcolm X. The actor-turned-director says she wanted to show the "vulnerability that Black men possess and their humanity." New York Times

- 'Sexist smears.' Rep. Elise Stefanik criticized Albany newspaper the Times Union for a story that described her as "childless." The piece was meant to be satirical and seemed to criticize Stefanik's opposition to government-funded health care by writing that the GOP congresswoman was able to remain "childless" because of "family planning ... by way of the contraception paid for by my excellent taxpayer-provided healthcare plan." The story has since been taken down from the paper's website. The Hill


Doug Emhoff: I might be the first Second Gentleman, but I don't want to be the last GQ

Meet critic Lauren Oyler: The literary world’s provocateur releases a debut novel Wall Street Journal

How Promising Young Woman weaponizes Hollywood’s nice guys The Ringer


"A nation that isn’t broken, but simply unfinished."

-Amanda Gorman, in her inaugural poem "The Hill We Climb." 

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