By Chris Cooney
Bay City News Service
California's first female attorney general, Kamala Harris, was in East Palo Alto on Thursday morning to talk to more than 150 seventh- and eighth-grade girls.
Harris joined NBC 11 anchor Jessica Aguirre and dozens of Bay Area women executives, judges and doctors at a "Current and Future Leaders of Silicon Valley" summit hosted by the Silicon Valley Leadership Group.
The leadership summit, held in the school gym at Cesar Chavez Academy, was organized to expose middle school girls to a variety of professional women role models.
Harris, a two-term San Francisco district attorney who was named one of the 20 most powerful women in America by Newsweek magazine, told the room of mostly black and Latino students that she had considered working in design, cooking, and music before deciding to pursue a career as a prosecutor.
"I tried the French horn but that involved too much spit," said Harris, who is also the first African American and first South Asian American to hold her current office.
"I decided I wanted to be a prosecutor to punish adults who hurt children," she said.
Harris, a native of Oakland, recalled moments of discouragement during her first campaign for district attorney in 2003.
"They said, 'No one that looks like you has ever done that job before,'" Harris said.
"I didn't listen," she said. "What I will tell you is don't you listen when someone suggests that no one like you has done something before."
The audience erupted in applause.
Harris, who launched anti-truancy programs as district attorney, encouraged the girls in the audience to stay in school and empower themselves through education.
"Never give up," she said. "I can't wait to see what barriers you're going to break."