WASHINGTON – In the 1981 annual photo book class graduating at Westmount High School near Montreal, Kamala Harris's left hand was beaming on Hugh Kwok's right shoulder.
Kwok went on to run the Montreal car business with his father. Unbeknownst to him, Harris later became U.S. senator. He is now considering an offer for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020.
When Kwok was asked in December for his thoughts about the possibility of running away his old friend, he answered the reporter's questions with questions.
"What did he run for president for?" He asked in a tone that suggested he thought the answer was the local Rotary Club.
Told that it was the president of the United States, his voice rose. "It's impossible. God. I don't believe it," he said. Then he decided that he supported this idea.
"We can use a good president," he said. "He is a sweet and kind person. Very happy, very social. I'm just very happy for him, if that's what he wants to do with his life. "
Harris said he would decide whether the holiday would run for president. If he does, he will be considered one of the main candidates in what is expected to be a crowded competition for Democratic nominations. It is now possible that Westmount, a 145-year-old public school in which singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen and hockey legend Art Ross are also studying, will produce the U.S. president. before producing a Canadian prime minister.
Harris returned to his home country to university, and he had long lost contact with most or all of his Westmount acquaintances. But some of them have traded text and fun Facebook posts about the climb. And they are generally not too surprised.
They remember the California senator, who is now 54 years old, as a cheerful and cheerful teenager who thrives in school and on the dance floor. They say he maintains easy popularity in the subtle part of student organizations that are racially and economically diverse which come from rich and low-income environments.
Harris "issued an aura that showed he was ready for success," said Paul Olioff, now an academic adviser at McGill University, who remembers it as "a great presence, confident" with sophisticated fashion sense.
"Westmount High is a very racial school when we are present, not in a hostile way, but rather because of socio-economic divisions. Ms. Harris overcame this, because there are some students who don't fit him, "Olioff said in an e-mail.
At least this is the fourth consecutive presidential election in which a large candidate has family ties with Canada. Texas Senator Ted Cruz, who lost his Republican introduction from Donald Trump in 2016, was born in Calgary. Former president Barack Obama has a brother-in-law from Burlington.
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As Obama and Cruz know, Trump's "First America" has the talent to portray opposing relations with foreign countries as a basis for voters' suspicions. Asked via email how the Westmount year affected him, Harris stated that there was no special preference for Montreal, Quebec or Canada.
"While my sister Maya and I were good friends and even learned some French, we were happy to be able to go back to California," he said through a spokesman.
He added: "One of the women's auxiliary groups at the hospital where my mother worked finally inspired me to help create a supplementary group at the Highland Hospital in Oakland later on."
Harris, a former San Francisco district attorney and California attorney general, is a California-born daughter of two immigrants to the US, both of whom have PhDs: Indian-born scientists and breast cancer researcher Shyamala Gopalan Harris and Jamaican-born economics professor Donald Harris.
They divorced when Kamala was a child. When he was 12 years old, he said, his mother moved to Montreal to find work at the Jewish General Hospital and teach at McGill. His mother spent 16 years in the work, according to the family obituary in 2009.
Harris's parents were involved in the U.S. civil rights movement. Sister and fellow Westmount student Maya Harris, who is a lawyer, adviser to Hillary Clinton and television commentator, told the San Francisco Chronicle that Kamala became a kind of activist in Quebec at the age of 13 – organizing successful children's protests against the ban. Policy-page in their apartment building.
In the 1981 Westmount yearbook, Harris thanked his mother and listed "California" as a precious memory. He said his favorite hobby was "dancing with super six; Midnight Magic." Old friend Wanda Kagan told the Canadian Press last year that Midnight Magic was their amateur dance group, which he said appeared at fundraising events and for seniors in community centers.
Eyal Dattel, a director of human resources in Vancouver, said he remembered drama classmates as "always a really good person" and now sees him as "the ideal candidate for a progressive future." Dean Smith, a Montreal basketball coach, said he remembered Harris as a hard and fun learning student who helped classmates with school work and preferred to spend time with ordinary children rather than with the money elite.
"In my opinion, he will be a great president, because he is fair," he said.
John Dila, Harris's classmate who is now Harris's constituency as an entrepreneur on the California startup stage, said Westmount students were then regularly discussing politics.
Harris lived in Quebec at a tense moment in local affairs: the provincial government issued French-language legislation in 1977, held an independence referendum in 1980, and, in 1981, opposed the patriarchy of the Constitution. Dila, who praised Harris at length, said she thought she understood the policy problem better than American colleagues who had narrower life experiences.
"After living in Canada – it was important years, and I do not believe he was so formed by several years he was there," he said.
At least one Westmount classmate is suitable for Harris's candidacy. Gail Clarke described Harris's teen as "pretending to be sweet," complaining that the senator decided in 11th grade that he was too eager to keep on hanging out. Clarke added: "I wish you the best for Kamala."
Before Harris, Westmount's most successful graduate politician was Stockwell Day, a former Conservative federal minister and former leader of the Canadian Alliance party.
Even Day, Class of 67 67, has positive words about Harris's offer. He said his experiences at school as well as being diverse and harmonious would "give him some great insight into how multinational populations really can work and live together."
"His policy as attorney general in California on matters such as gun control and criminal justice reform will be suitable in Canada," Day said in an e-mail. "If he runs and wins the presidency, I will definitely contact him to see if Westmount High graduates can get tickets for his inauguration!"
Daniel Dale is the head of the Star Washington bureau. He covered U.S. politics. and current affairs. Follow him on Twitter: @ddale8