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In 2019, a few hours after she announced she was running for president on ABC’s Good Morning America, Sen. Kamala Harris held her first campaign event at her alma mater, Howard University, in Washington, D.C. She began by explaining why she was holding the event at the school. “It is because Howard University is one of the most important aspects of my life,” Harris said.
Harris was many things at Howard — an elected representative on a student council, an activist against apartheid, a member of the debate team and the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority. But for us econ nerds at Planet Money, what is especially notable is that she majored in economics. Harris, who double-majored in political science, was apparently passionate enough about economics that she even became president of a student club called the Abram Harris Economics Society.
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Jahvon Coney, a junior at Howard who is majoring in economics, is now president of the society. While the cameras focused on Harris at her first campaign event, he says, excitement spread through the university that she was there, right next to the campus Starbucks. “We weren’t given any heads-up about it or else the entire school would have been there,” Coney says. When he got the news of her candidacy that day, and later her appointment as a vice presidential candidate, it filled him with pride, he says. “It broke a glass ceiling for women, for Black people and for people who have attended historically Black colleges and universities.”
Gerald Daniels is the associate director of undergraduate studies for Howard’s economics department. He says that since its founding after the Civil War, Howard has had a social mission to