Kamala
From courtroom to the campaign trail to….a governor’s mansion?
This week’s MORE Magazine profile of Kamala Harris, the 44-year-old San Francisco district attorney who counts among her law-school buddies a certain Illinois senator:

“I got things to do too,” she teases, effortlessly dialing up the street in her cadence as she slips into scolding-auntie mode. “You think I don’t have enough things to do as district attorney of San
Francisco?” The young man, grinning sheepishly, is by now getting into his car, escaping from this petite, down-coated stranger. But Harris manages to get in a last word. “It’s one night in a lifetime,” shecalls through his window. “People fought and died for the right to vote, you know?”

All that chutzpah, charm, and relentlessness have propelled Harris, 43,through an impressive legal career and into the rising-star ranks of the national Democratic party. Like Barack Obama, a close friend from law school circles, Kamala Harris has an irresistible,superlative-laced narrative that’s all about defying conventions.

The daughter of Berkeley civil rights activists, Harris was raised by a forceful single mother and bucked her family’s liberal sensibilities tobecome a prosecutor. In her first run at elective office, the 2003 race for DA, she thumped her former boss, a man almost 30 years her senior, to become the first female, the first African-American, and the first Indian-American chief law enforcement officer in the most liberal city of the most populous state.

As a leader of a growing group of law-and-order liberals, Harris wants to redefine criminal justice and keep her party’s nominee from falling into the usual traps. “Democrats often give the impression that we just want to open the jailhouse door and let everybody out,” says Harris, who learned this the hard way from a death penalty controversy in her first term. “The public wants to know that we can keep them safe. If it’s always the Republicans or conservatives who come up with the plan, we will lose the debate. The old paradigm isn’t working: ‘Are you soft on crime or hard on crime?’ We should be asking, ‘Are you smart on crime?'”

Steinem
Not for a millisecond:
This week’s Financial Times features not one but two items featuring feminist icon Gloria Steinem: a full reprint of her classic 1972 undercover expose “I Was a Playboy Bunny,” and a real-time interview of Steinem by the FT’s young managing editor, Chrystia Freeland. Discussing the significance of Hillary Clinton’s candidacy, Freeland asked Steinem whether Clinton’s rise might be less significant as a victory for women than as a sign of the power of dynasties:

I press the dynastic point a few more times and Steinem offers more rebuttals. I think we are both relieved when the waitress interrupts to take our order. Steinem, a vegetarian, chooses the specials – chilled corn chowder and a salad of avocado with black rice and shiitake mushrooms. I pick the market plate with tofu, spinach, cauliflower and mushrooms. Born in Toledo, Ohio, she has made her home in New York for many years and tells me the restaurant is one of her favourite local hang-outs…

Everyone nourished, we are back to the 2008 election. Steinem is supporting Obama in the general race. “Women are more than smart enough to see that McCain’s policies are a disaster … He is anti every reproductive issue we’ve ever fought for.”

She believes women will vote for Obama even if Clinton doesn’t get the much-mooted consolation prize of the vice-president’s spot on the Democratic ticket – a job Steinem doesn’t think is good enough for her anyway. Why? “It’s not an independent position, to put it mildly. I would rather see her as the president of the Senate.”

For a sense of Steinem’s completely undiminished vigor, here she is campaigning for Hillary in Texas:

Jumping back in the pool: 41-year-old swimmer Dara Torres,has hypnotized the media (including us) even before she competes in Beijing. And she has also, according to the Boston Globe, spurred many boomer women to some serious swimming:

But even before she swims in Beijing, Torres, who is ancient by
Olympic standards, has turned this expectation on its tail: She’s
inspired older female swimmers to push harder at their sport. New
England has a sizeable population of competitive women swimmers in
their 40s, 50s, and into their 80s, many of them members of United
States Masters Swimming (USMS), a national organization that sponsors
regional, national, and international competitions.

They include 51-year-old Gayle Wettach of Wakefield, who won a Masters world record last year in her age group for
the 100-meter individual medley with a time of 1:15.24. There’s Jacki
Hirsty, 55, of Providence who owns SwimSmart, which offers personal
aquatic training: She holds the Masters national record for the
50-meter freestyle (28.54). Beth Estel, 52, a consultant at the Lahey
Clinic in Burlington, took first place in May in the Masters national
competition for 50-yard breaststroke (34.21). Billie
Ann Burrill, 87, of Providence ranked fourth in the world in 2006 in
the 100-meter freestyle (2:01.85)

Many of these older swimmers say that despite the prevailing
attitude that competitive sports are a young person’s game, Torres has
showcased something they’ve known a long time: With swimming, a
low-impact sport, it’s possible for women who keep pushing themselves
to reach an advanced age, clock extraordinary swim times, and remain as
cutthroat and competitive as ever.

“The impact on weight-bearing joints such as the ankle, knee, and
hip are much less with swimming as compared to a weight-bearing sport
such as running,” said Michael E. Rogers, research director of the
Center for Physical Activity and Aging at Wichita State University in
Kansas.

Torres, the mother of a 2-year-old, has won nine Olympic medals; she
retired from swimming and returned three times. At the Olympic trials
earlier this summer, she broke the American record twice in the
50-meter freestyle. In Beijing she’ll swim that event plus the 400
freestyle and 400 medley races.

By Chris Lombardi

 

Start the conversation