The moment came as Harris walked to her seat on the inaugural stage Wednesday morning shortly before being sworn in as vice president. After turning to greet the former president, she softly pounded her gloved fists into Obama’s, who had held up his own gloved hands moments earlier.
The gesture was heavy with symbolism as Obama and Harris made history as the first African Americans to serve as president and vice president, respectively. After greeting the 44th president, Harris similarly fist bumped Michelle Obama, who had made history as the country’s first African American first lady.
Harris on Wednesday became America’s first female, first Black and first South Asian vice president.
The shared gesture with the Obamas was also a clear sign of the times: the inauguration took place as the coronavirus pandemic ravages the country. The virus has caused people to refrain from physically interacting too much with others, for fear that the virus could be transmitted during close interactions.
The ceremony also contained a number of other coronavirus precautions, including face masks, socially distanced seating and a limited number of attendees.
Following the ceremony, Harris joined President Joe Biden for a few planned inaugural events before she returned to the US Capitol to swear in three new Democratic senators: Georgia’s Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, and California’s Alex Padilla, her successor in the chamber.
Harris will wield power as the Senate’s crucial tie-breaking vote, helping the Biden administration confirm its appointments and giving Democrats the gavels of committees in charge of holding oversight hearings and crafting far-reaching legislation.