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Vice President Kamala Harris reflects on this week's Supreme Court decisions


It has been a bruising year for the Biden administration at the Supreme Court. Last year at this time, the Dobbs decision overturned Roe v. Wade. Just this week, the court strikes down affirmative action in college admissions, turns back the administration on student debt relief, and restricts LGBTQ rights. Vice President Kamala Harris was in New Orleans this week, and she sat down with NPR's Michel Martin. Michel joins us now to talk about that conversation. Good morning, Michel.

MICHEL MARTIN, BYLINE: Hey, good morning, Miles.

PARKS: Great to have you here. So tell me a little bit about why the vice president was in New Orleans.

MARTIN: Well, she was a featured speaker at the Essence Festival. It's one of the largest - they would say the largest - music festival in the country. And people come from all over for concerts and fun, but also for panels and networking. I mean, and this was a crowd that was really excited to see her. A lot of people said that they identify with her and they want to support her. It's a logical place for her to be to sort of establish herself as a major player.

Well, her message was that people should celebrate and have fun and enjoy each other's company. But she also had a pretty sobering message that people's fundamental rights are at stake. She said that democracy is fragile, that what happens in the U.S. has implications all over the world, and that these recent Supreme Court decisions in particular made it clear that people need to vote up and down the ballot and, as she put it, fight for the future we deserve.

PARKS: Well, that was her message from the stage. But you sat down with her after. Tell us a little bit about that interview.

MARTIN: Well, you know, she clearly seemed to be reveling in the fact that this was a very supportive crowd, and she seemed to be enjoying herself. But her comments, as I said, were very sobering. Here's a little bit of my conversation with her.

On the way down here, the plane was filled with people coming here, who were so excited to be here, to be part of this. For many people, it's an annual event.


MARTIN: And yet the contrast of these consequential decisions that were so upsetting to so many - the people who participate in an event like this - and I'm just wondering how you're holding both of those thoughts in your head at the same time.

HARRIS: Well, you're absolutely right. They're almost conflicting emotions. But I would suggest that in any moment where there is great challenge, moments of great consequence, and moments of crisis, or crises in the case of even just these three decisions from the Supreme Court, I think it's important to have the natural and appropriate emotion about what those decisions might mean and to also be joyful about coming together with people who share your life experience and with whom there is some commonality of approach and perspective and experience. And all of those can be true at the same time.

But certainly, you know, today, just being here after these decisions and - you know, on the heels of the one-year anniversary of the Dobbs decision, there's a lot to talk about. There's so much at stake. And that's why on the stage - you know, last year when I was on the stage, it was more kind of a fun interaction, and we designed it that way. But today, it was quite serious because this is a serious moment, and fundamental issues are at stake. And I do believe that there is a national movement afoot to attack hard-won and hard-fought freedoms.

PARKS: So, Michel, you can hear there that she views this as a real fight, essentially. How does she fit into that as vice president?

MARTIN: Well, I have to tell you, Miles, that her answer surprised me a little bit and that she didn't so much frame this as part of her responsibility as vice president. She said that it was her responsibility as an American. Now, take a listen.

HARRIS: I have a role as an American, the role, I think, we all have as people who love our country and understand what is at stake and as people who believe in the promise of our country, but understand we have some work yet to do to fully achieve that promise. I think about my role as vice president of the United States and what that means both in terms of the bully pulpit that I have and the responsibility that comes with that to hopefully inform folks of things I might be aware of, but also to elevate public discourse and hopefully cut through the misinformation.

MARTIN: And as you might imagine, Miles, she also called on the people there to vote, but also to remember to vote up and down the ballot.

PARKS: That's NPR's Michel Martin. Thanks, Michel.

MARTIN: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Miles Parks is a reporter on NPR's Washington Desk. He covers voting and elections, and also reports on breaking news.
Michel Martin is the weekend host of All Things Considered, where she draws on her deep reporting and interviewing experience to dig in to the week's news. Outside the studio, she has also hosted "Michel Martin: Going There," an ambitious live event series in collaboration with Member Stations.