What Did Kamala Harris Mean By 'What Can Be, Unburdened By What Has Been'? The Context Of Her Famous Quote, Explained | GotFunnyPictures
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What Did Kamala Harris Mean By 'What Can Be, Unburdened By What Has Been'? The Context Of Her Famous Quote, Explained

Kamala Harris giving a speech at a university, surrounded by the quotes of her famous phrase.
Kamala Harris giving a speech at a university, surrounded by the quotes of her famous phrase.
By Aidan Walker

23582 views
Published 18 days ago

Published 18 days ago

Kamala Harris contains multitudes. As chatter heats up around the possibility of the Vice President running in 2024, posters are wondering about what can be (Kamala 2024) unburdened by what has been (the already-held 2024 primary elections).

What can be, unburdened by what has been is a cryptic, oddly philosophical phrase which Harris is fond of trotting out. But where does it come from and, perhaps most importantly, what does it mean that a potential President of the United States is saying this?

Where Does 'What Can Be, Unburdened By What Has Been' Come From?

"What can be, unburdened by what has been" is a phrase that Harris has been using for years. She tweeted it out in 2020, and deployed it in many speeches.

Arguably, Harris may have used the phrase too much, although politicians frequently and understandably repeat lines and catchphrases in stump speeches. Harris' love for "what can be, unburdened by what has been" got noticed by Republican political operatives, who produced a four-minute supercut of her saying it and posted it to Twitter / X last year.

So the popularization of the phrase began as a viral campaign to make fun of Harris by her political opponents, but it morphed into something different during the last days of June 2024, as posters embraced the phrase as evidence of Kamala's quirky wisdom.

What Does 'What Can Be, Unburdened By What Has Been' Mean?

The phrase is undeniably unusual. The grammar is rather intricate, and it's unclear which is the subject: "what has been" or "what can be." Does "what has been" (the past) work to "unburden" "what can be" (the future), or is "what has been" a possible burden on "what can be" and Kamala is expressing a hope that the future won't be burdened by the worries and hang-ups of the past?

It sounds like the kind of thing politicians don't usually say, because most of the time politicians are seeking to be understood by the people listening to them. Kamala is perhaps special because she seems fine saying whatever her wacky truth is, regardless of if people get on board or not.

In contexts where she's used the phrase, she's generally talking about progress. She's used it to discuss overcoming adversity, civil rights, and reform. It seems to express hope that the future can be better than the past.

How Do People Use 'What Can Be, Unburdened By What Has Been' In Memes?

"What can be, unburdened by what has been" has become an ironic phrase which supporters of Kamala Harris use to signal their allegiance to her. Similar to "You think you just fell out of a coconut tree," the phrase is appealing because it feels a little out of left field.

As speculation mounted that Kamala might run on the 2024 Presidential ticket, posters began to use the phrase to describe the possibility of her candidacy and a fresh start for Democrats in 2024.

Does 'What Can Be, Unburdened By What Has Been' Contradict 'You Think You Just Fell Out Of A Coconut Tree? You Exist In The Context Of All In Which You Live And What Came Before You'?

Arguably, the message of 'what can, unburdened by what has been' contradicts the message of Kamala's other popular quote, which insists upon the continuing relevance of the past to the present. If people live in the context of what came before, then is it even possible for 'what can be' to be 'unburdened by what has been'?

Harris has made no comment about this incongruency between her two widely-memed statements. But it is possible to find middle ground here: a person may exist in the context of what has come before, but that doesn't mean that context must be a burden, it might just be useful information. We can learn from history without being dragged down by it.


To learn more about "What can be, unburdened by what has been" be sure to check out GotFunnyPictures's entry for even more information.

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