Harris is the daughter of Shyamala Gopalan, who immigrated to the United States to attend the University of California at Berkeley in 1958. There she met and eventually married Donald Harris, an immigrant from Jamaica studying economics. The future senator writes that she was born the same year her mother earned her PhD in nutrition and endocrinology.
The impression that Harris is going to run for president is set on Page 5 of her 281-page book.
Those early days were happy and carefree. I loved the outdoors, and I remember that when I was a little girl, my father wanted me to run free. He would turn to my mother and say, “Just let her run, Shyamala.” And then he’d turn to me and say, “Run, Kamala. As fast as you can. Run!” I would take off, the wind in my face with the feeling that I could do anything.
The latest episode of “Cape Up” is my hour-long conversation with Harris at the kick-off event for her book tour hosted by the Politics and Prose bookstore and held at Lisner Auditorium at George Washington University on Jan. 9. I asked her about the impact of her Indian heritage on her personal and political philosophy. We talked about how a child whose parents took her to civil rights marches in Oakland, Calif., and who grew up steeped in the social justice struggle of African Americans, became a prosecutor.
The event took place the same day President Trump stormed out of a meeting with congressional leaders, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), after Pelosi refused (again) to agree to fund his border wall on the nation’s southern border. The issues now are similar to those Harris recounts about the February 2018 immigration fight (Page 165). After I ran through the latest events, I asked her if Democrats should hold firm in not giving in to Trump’s demands for funding for an actual border wall to reopen the government.
“If anyone listened to how you just described what’s going on and inserted that we were talking about my godson and his train,” the senator said, pausing for effect and looking at the audience amid laughter and applause. “Any good parent will tell you you don’t listen to those kinds of tantrums and you don’t reward bad behavior.”
Harris talked about criminal justice, why she took her earrings off before a phone call with JP Morgan Chase Chairman Jamie Dimon during the foreclosure crisis and her view of the state of American politics. Yes, I asked her if she was going to run for president. But I saved it for the end. By then, we’d already discussed passages that made her intentions known. The one where she questioned whether it was “really the time for me to run” about that first run for San Francisco district attorney in 2003. And the one about her successful run for California attorney general in 2010 where Harris said she told her mother, who was battling colon cancer, “Mommy, these guys are saying they’re gonna kick my ass.”
So I asked Harris to read the very last paragraph of her book.
Years from now, our children and our 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.
Listen to the podcast to hear the response when I asked the only question one could possibly ask after reading those words. When your time comes, when your godchildren and grandchildren ask what did you do, will your answer be “I ran for president”?
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