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January 10, 2003 - Image 71

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2003-01-10

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

LANA from page 62

But she still had no political ambitions
and started the dance program at
Washtenaw Community College. Dance
and music remain lifelong interests.
All her political work until then — the
public speaking, the mediating, the advo-
cacy — she did as a volunteer, she says.
Then came the spring of 1982.
"I was 39 and said to myself, 'I'm
turning 40 and I want a real job that
pays me money,"' Pollack says.
A Michigan State Senate seat opened
up, thanks to a 10-year redistricting
move. Pollack recalls a family friend
phoning her two weeks before the dead-
line to file a petition to run. He called
to tell her he was running for the seat
and wanted her to run his campaign.
"He told me, 'You have credibility -
with the women voters, you have credi-
bility with the teachers and with the
Democrats, and I need that credibility."'
She balked at first, telling him she
wanted a real job, not a volunteer
campaign manager. But he asked her
to consider his offer.
That weekend, Pollack was thinking
about the conversation with her
friend: "'I have credibility with
women, with teachers and with the
Democrats' — and a light bulb went
off," she says. "Why don't I run?"
Until that moment, Pollack had
never conceived of herself in that role.
"I had no role [women] models and
didn't have any [political] encourage-
ment," she says. That's why she feels
so strongly about working with young
women and letting them know "the
sky's the limit."
Her husband was
in East Germany,
behind the Iron
Curtain in those
days, and commu-
nication by phone
was still difficult.
When she finally
reached him and
told him of her
plan, he asked her,
"Can you win?" She
said she could and
found his response
very affirming.
"I thought it was a
good idea if she
could win," says her
husband, a self-styled
pragmatist. "And I
knew she's one hell
of a campaigner."
Pollack won over
three other men,
with 51 percent of
the vote and, in
1982, became the

only Democratic woman in the
Michigan State Senate.
Henry Pollack remembers those
early days when his wife was one of
the first women senators.
"When we were introduced to peo-
ple, the hand would come out to me as
Sen. Pollack and I would gently redirect
it to Lana," he says. "They didn't even
have a bathroom; they had to install a
women's restroom in the Senate."

Glass Half Full

But four years before her election,
tragedy hit the Pollack family, who trav-
eled often. They took three trips to Israel
and, as part of her geophysicist husband's
work, they traveled to South America,
Europe, Antarctica, Asia and Africa.
In 1978, while in Kashmir on the
way home from her husband's second
sabbatical in Zambia, the Pollacks' 14-
year-old. daughter, Sara, died in a
horseback riding accident.
This great loss touches the depth of
Pollack's belief in the importance of
life — and her ability to go on.
"Life is a treasure," says Pollack. "I
raised my children to think of the
glass as half full. Never half empty. It
was part of who I was and I wanted
them to be. Grief is also a part of who
I am, but not all of who I am."
Later, she says, "I feel I've had a blessed
life:I've had one long, steady, wonderful
marriage and I have a healthy, creative,
bright, kind son, John [age 37]."
LANA on page 64

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Above: President
Bill Clinton with
Lana Pollack and her son,
John Pollack, who was a
Clinton speech writer.

Left: In the 1980s,
Lana Pollack worked
with Wayne County
powerbrokers, including
then-SheriffRobert Ficano,
and Detroit Mayor
Coleman A. Young.

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63

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