WASHINGTON. The picture from the 1981 graduate yearbook at Westmount High School, near Montreal, in the radiant Kamala Harris’s left hand rests on Hugh Kwok’s right shoulder.
Kwok continued to conduct business in Montreal with his father. Without his knowledge, Harris became a US senator. She is now considering an application for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020.
When, in December, Quoc was asked about his possible friend’s possible run, he answered the reporter’s question with a question.
“Is she running for president?” He asked in a tone that suggested that he could respond to the local Rotary Club.
Informing that this is the US presidency, his voice has gone up. “No way. My God. I can't believe it,” he said. He then decided that he supported this idea.
“We could use a good president,” he said. “She was a sweet, kind person. Very happy, very sociable. I’m just very happy for her if this is what she wants to do with her life. ”
Harris said that on holidays she would decide whether to run for president. If she does, she will be considered one of the main candidates in that it is expected to be a crowded contest for nomination from the Democrats. It is now possible that Westmount, a 145-year-old public school, in which singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen and hockey legend Art Ross also studied, would produce the US president before he produced the Canadian prime minister.
Harris returned to her native USA for university, and she had long lost touch with most or all of her friends from Westmount. But some of them exchanged enthusiastic texts and Facebook posts about her ascension. And they, as a rule, are not all that surprised.
They remember the senator from California, now 54, as a confident, cheerful teenager who flourished both at school and on the dance floor. They say that it retained light popularity among thin layers of the racist and economically diverse student community, which came from both rich and low-income areas.
Harris "emitted an aura, suggesting that she is ready for success," said Paul Olioff, now academic advisor at McGill University, who remembered her as an "amazing, confident presence" with a developed fashion sense.
“Westmount High was a very racist school when we were studying, not hostile, but rather because of socio-economic differences. Miss Harris stepped over it because there were few students she didn't get along with, ”she said via e-mail.
This is at least the fourth presidential election in a row, in which one of the main candidates had kinship with Canada. Texas Senator Ted Cruz, who lost the 2016 primary elections to Republicans Donald Trump, was born in Calgary. Former President Barack Obama has a son-in-law from Burlington.
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As Obama and Cruz know, “America first” Trump has the ability to portray his opponent’s connections with foreign countries as a basis for voters to suspect. Asked by e-mail how her years at Westmount influenced her, Harris did not express much love for Montreal, Quebec or Canada.
“While my sister Maya and I became friends and even learned French, we were glad to be back home in California,” she said through her representative.
She added: “One of the women's support groups at the hospital where my mother worked was that she inspired me to help create a support group at Highland Hospital in Auckland in the future.”
Harris, a former San Francisco District Attorney and Attorney General of California, is the daughter of two California-born US immigrants, both of whom received a doctorate: a scientist from India and a breast cancer researcher Shyamala Gopalan Harris and a Jamaican economics professor Donald Harris.
They divorced when Kamala was a small child. According to her, when she was 12 years old, her mother moved to Montreal to find work at the Jewish General Hospital and to teach at McGill. Her mother spent 16 years at work, according to a 2009 family obituary.
Both Harris parents were involved in the civil rights movement in the United States. Sister and Westmount colleague Maya Harris, who became a lawyer, an adviser to Hillary Clinton and a television commentator, told the San Francisco Chronicle that Kamala became something of an activist in Quebec at age 13 – by organizing a successful protest of children against the forbidden game of politics in their apartment building.
In the 1981 Westmount magazine, Harris thanked her mother and called "California" a cherished memory. She said that her favorite thing was to “dance with the super six; Midnight Magic. Last year, an old friend, Wanda Kagan, told the Canadian Press that Midnight Magic is their amateur dance troupe, which, she said, performed at older people's gatherings and in community centers.
Eyal Dattel, director of human resources in Vancouver, said that he remembers his drama classmate as “always a really good person” and now sees in her “the ideal candidate for a progressive future.” Dean Smith, a basketball coach in Montreal, says that he remembers Harris as a diligent and handsome student, helped classmates in school and preferred to spend time with average children rather than with the elites with money.
“In my opinion, she would be a great president because she is honest,” he said.
John Deela, Harris’s classmate, who is now Harris’s voter as a businessman in the California start-up scene, said that Westmount students of the day regularly discussed politics.
Harris lived in Quebec during busy times in local affairs: the provincial government passed the French language law in 1977, held a referendum on independence in 1980, and in 1981 opposed the adoption of the Constitution. Dyla, who had praised Harris for a long time, said that in his opinion, she understands political issues better than her American colleagues, who have a narrower experience.
“Having lived in Canada, these are fruitful years, and I cannot believe that it was not deeply shaped by the few years that it was there,” he said.
At least one Westmount classmate is cool to Harris's candidacy. Gale Clark described Harris as a teenager as “feignedly sweet,” complaining that the senator in grade 11 decided that she was too uninteresting to continue hanging out with her. Clark added: "I wish Kamala all the best."
Before Harris, Stockmount Day’s most successful alumnus in politics was a former conservative federal minister and former Canadian Alliance party leader.
Even Day, class 67, spoke positively about Harris's proposal. He said that her experience at school, diverse and harmonious, "would give her a great understanding of how the multinational population can really work and live together."
“Her policy as the Attorney General in California on issues such as gun control and criminal justice reform would fit well into Canada,” Day said in an e-mail. “If she runs and wins the presidency, I’ll definitely contact her to see if Westmount High graduates can get tickets for her inauguration!”
Daniel Dale – Head of the Washington Star Office. He covers US policy and current affairs. Follow him on Twitter: @ ddale8