January 18, 2021

On MLK Day, My Heroine Wears Converse

Kamala Harris models unconventional love and winning after "failing"

This article about Kamala Harris’ family brought me to tears.

I loved reading that Kamala and Kerstin Emhoff (the ex-wife of our future Second Gentlemen Doug Emhoff) are friends. I appreciate the love Doug’s kids seem to hold for their stepmother and the delight Kamala seems to take in these kids and her nieces.

I’ve never had the traditional full-life marriage with kids, and my “family of choice” is large. I’ve favored dating men who are kind to their exes, and I’ve walked away from men who get jealous about my relationships with their kids.  

I’m still close with some ex-stepchildren and many of my ex-partners. Twenty years later, I still call one very special family my ex- sister-, brother-, niece-, and nephew-in-law. Of course, at this point, they’re all just “friends,” but I like the special status conferred by family connection, even if the formal tie has been severed.

For me, it’s more family and more love. My partner’s son Dyson seems to have understood this from the jump. More “parents” means more people looking out for him (and giving him holiday gifts!). I’m a big fan of “more.”

But here’s where the tears arose. Doug Emhoff is giving up his job as a lawyer to serve his wife in her (and his) new role. Maybe that’s wise due to conflicts of interest, but we’ve witnessed four years of no one giving a damn about that.

This photo from the NYT story punched me in the heart (in a good

way). This 56-year-old man looks like a purely elated 15-year-old taking a selfie with his wife. He has a sticker with her face on it on his phone. If you’re a man, you may not get this, but this is all kinds of extraordinary to this woman. He likes her. He admires her. He reveres her. Wow.

What I see in all of this is a familial and national acceptance of a woman on fire. Witnessing it brings me to my knees.

Once I mopped the emotions off my face, it struck me. Kamala Harris is enjoying this moment after getting absolutely crushed in the presidential election. She lost. She “failed.” She couldn’t move the needle.

And now, here she is. Rising.

That touched me most of all. The crafting of a brilliant career, the embrace of a later-in-life marriage and new stepkids, the willingness to put herself out there for the public to decide on her merit for office. A likely painful loss. And this history-making recovery.

That’s one hell of a first 56 years. And pure inspiration to me.

Sue Heilbronner

Sue Heilbronner is an executive coach, Conscious Leadership facilitator, and catalyst for change.

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