The Truths We Hold: An American Journey

Image of The Truths We Hold: An American Journey
Release Date: 
January 8, 2019
Penguin Press
Reviewed by: 

“For Kamala Harris, the ‘truths we hold’ are more than mere words; they are a creed she lives by and an ideal she strives for. Regardless of your political affiliation, and whether you agree or disagree with her, you can’t say she’s afraid to speak her mind.” 

In an age when many politicians seem reluctant to express concrete opinions on issues for fear of alienating half the voting public or speak in vague ambiguities so they can later claim, “What I really meant was . . . ,” California senator Kamala Harris breaks that mold. In The Truths We Hold: An American Journey, she goes on the record, unequivocally, with the core principles that drive her.

Part autobiography, part statement of philosophy, Senator Harris takes the reader back to her roots as the daughter of immigrants, mother from India and father from Jamaica who, as college students, participated in the United States’ civil rights movement. She further explains how her upbringing shaped her adult life, starting at an early age, even being taken in her stroller by her parents to civil rights marches.

In particular, she credits her mother, writing, “She was conscious of history, conscious of struggle, conscious of inequities. She was born with a sense of justice imprinted on her soul.” Her mother apparently imprinted that same sense of justice on the author, a passion that led her to law school, then upward through the political ranks in California from the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office to the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office, where she ultimately served as District Attorney before later being elected California’s Attorney General.

Senator Harris writes of causes she undertook throughout her career, and often how the experiences from her past informed her actions. Starting with prosecuting sex crimes, where she spoke for the victims, she also handled family and child services and later created, and championed, a re-entry program for persons who had served prison time, called Back on Track.

At each stop in her political journey, she was driven by a desire for justice. She states that she wanted to be a prosecutor, which some might consider an odd choice for a social reformer, in order to “be on the front lines of criminal justice reform.” Suddenly it makes perfect sense. She writes that, as a prosecutor, “’For the people’ was my compass—and there was nothing I took more seriously than the power I now possessed.” And she proudly points out that, as one of her first acts as a United States senator, she introduced criminal justice reform.

As attorney general of California, Senator Harris worked to take the Back on Track program statewide, and as senator she co-sponsored a bill with Rand Paul, who some might say is her polar opposite, for bail reform at the state level. Each step of the way, she proved to be a woman of action. Perhaps hearkening back to lessons she learned as a child from her mother, she notes that, “Engaging in the fight for civil rights and social justice is not for the faint of heart.”

The bulk of the text addresses specific issues that the author champions, and although she cautions up front that the book is “not meant to be a policy platform,” it can certainly be read that way. What makes it different, though, is that her discussion of those issues is neither esoteric nor academic, but is instead rooted in real life experiences, not only hers but also of those with whom she has crossed paths in her career.

If there is a consistent theme for the book, it is the passion with which Senator Harris advocates for the “truths we hold,” and it serves not only as a statement of those truths, but also as a call to action. She summarizes it this way: “Years from now, our children and grandchildren will look up and lock eyes with us. They will ask us where we were when the stakes were so high. They will ask us what it was like. I don’t want us to just tell them how we felt. I want us to tell them what we did.”

For Kamala Harris, the "truths we hold" are more than mere words; they are a creed she lives by and an ideal she strives for. Regardless of your political affiliation, and whether you agree or disagree with her, you can’t say she’s afraid to speak her mind.