Kamala Harris has shattered the glass ceiling, becoming the first woman, and first Black person of South Asian descent to be elected US vice president.
Her husband Doug Emhoff also joins her in breaking stereotypes as the first “Second Gentleman” in US history as well as becoming the first Jewish spouse of a vice president.
Until now, the US has only seen women as spouses, or first and second ladies to the president and vice president.
Following Joe Biden’s win in the presidential election in November, the media had grappled for some time as to what they should call Emhoff.
This week the administration created the Twitter handle @SecondGentleman, making the title official.
“I understand I am the first gentleman to hold this role and I certainly do not want to be the last,” Emhoff said in a recent video.
“I do want to set an example for those in the future who can look back at the way I approached it and hopefully that will help them as well.”
I’m so incredibly honored and humbled to be the first @SecondGentleman of the United States. As we countdown to Inauguration Day, I’ve been doing my homework—and looking to the past for inspiration. pic.twitter.com/bhE7SvCls2— Doug Emhoff (@DouglasEmhoff) January 16, 2021
Joel Goldstein, a retired constitutional law professor who has written extensively about the presidency and vice presidency, told Al Jazeera these firsts in the new administration all “reflect that America’s basic ideals include a commitment to pluralism and inclusiveness”.
“[Emhoff’s] status [as first Jewish spouse] further reflects a step towards bringing America a little closer to its ideal as a place where minorities can achieve such positions,” Goldstein said.
After Biden and Harris had won the election, Emhoff, a successful lawyer, announced he would be leaving his job at the Los Angeles law firm DLA Piper.
He will be teaching law this semester at Georgetown University in Washington, DC, bringing 30 years of experience in intellectual property, entertainment and media law.
As second gentleman, Emhoff has said he plans to advocate on behalf of legal justice reform, helping people to gain fair access to the legal system.
Lonce Bailey, a professor at Pennsylvania’s Shippensburg University, told Al Jazeera that Emhoff has a certain set of skills that he imagines the White House would use strategically.
“He has a very large network in the attorney, entertainment and business world. He’s described as this great liaison, this person you could send to almost any group or constituency, and he’ll connect,” Bailey said. “His skill set is more advanced than many.”
While the role of spouse to vice-president has been relatively insignificant, Bailey said Emhoff “will be the most significant spouse to a vice president since Abigail Adams”.
In 1789 Abigail was the first “second lady” while John Adams was vice-president to George Washington, and was known to be a founding mother for the country, Bailey said.
A “dynamic” second lady, the volumes of letters, advice and political conversation held between her and her husband, John Adams – who eventually became president – was significant.
Also making history is first lady Jill Biden, who will continue her professional career working as a professor when she moves into the White House, becoming the first first lady to have a day job.
Bailey said that Emhoff’s new position has also brought to the surface issues surrounding sexism.
In December, many had slammed an op-ed published in the Wall Street Journal when author Joseph Epstein wrote that Jill should think about dropping the “Dr” title from her name as she was not a medical doctor.
Read More: aljazeera