January 22, 2021
At first, November 25 seemed like an ordinary Wednesday for Tyler Gordon. But that changed when the 14-year-old artist received an unexpected phone call. Who was it? Kamala Harris, who was then vice president-elect of the United States.
Days before the call, Tyler shared a video on Twitter that showed him painting a portrait of Harris. The video went viral. It eventually caught Harris’s attention, and she called Tyler to praise his work. “It’s a very special thing to be an artist like you are,” Harris told him. “It’s a gift you give so many people.”
Tyler, who’s from San Jose, in California’s Bay Area, has been painting since he was 10 years old. He was born deaf, and at age 5, he had surgery to gain some hearing. But he has been bullied at school because of a speech impediment . He has learned how to use art as a tool to move past these hardships. “My art gives me power to be myself,” Tyler says, and he shares that power with his many online followers.
Tyler’s talent has caught other people’s attention, too. He was chosen as one of the five finalists for TIME’s 2020 Kid of the Year. Later, TIME commissioned him to paint basketball star LeBron James. The resulting portrait was featured on a recent cover of the magazine.
Tyler’s known for painting portraits of people who inspire him. That’s why he painted one of Harris. He says he admires her ability to break barriers. She’s the first woman, the first Black person, and the first person of South Asian descent to become a U.S. vice president.
Soon after his call with Harris, Tyler decided to paint another portrait. This time, his subject was Joe Biden, who was then president-elect. Tyler looks up to Biden since Biden, too, has struggled with a stutter.
Now a TFK Kid Reporter, Tyler shared a few words about Harris, Biden, and that very exciting day in November. Read what he had to say below. —By Rebecca Mordechai
In His Own Words
Getting a call from Kamala Harris was the most exciting thing that has ever happened to me. It was a typical day, and my mom and I were just sitting down, talking about painting, when all of a sudden, her phone started ringing. The call was from a private number. She answered it, and we heard, “Hi, it’s Kamala Harris!”
My legs went weak and my hands started to sweat. I didn’t know what to do. My smile went from ear to ear, and I felt all warm inside. I couldn’t believe I was actually talking to Kamala Harris and that she had called me. During our call, she told me how proud she was of me and how much she loved the painting of her. She even said that when she comes to town, she wants to meet me!
I’m so inspired by Kamala Harris, because she has overcome so many obstacles in her life. She’s the first Black U.S. vice president and also the first female U.S. vice president. She’s from the Bay Area, and I know if she can come from here and do amazing things, then so can I. Joe Biden is inspirational to me too, because he has a stutter, just like me. He’s not embarrassed or afraid of what people think about the way he talks. He gives me the confidence to speak and not worry about what people think. —By Tyler Gordon
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