What We Remember: Dianne Feinstein and Others

Karen Gross
3 min readSep 29


There are many things to remember with the passing of Senator Dianne Feinstein at age 90. There are good things and not so good things. That is true of everyone who passes away — there are good things and bad things to remember. (Don’t I know….) While we may create sainthood for those who died, all of us who have lived have good parts and not so good parts. It is what being human means actually. We have to hope that people’s memories are generous — encompassing all aspects of us when we pass away.

Sometimes, we remember the most recent things about a person who died — and those are not often the best memories. In Feinstein’s case, we remember her failing memory and her failing health and her unwillingness to concede her role despite the fact that she hardly seemed able to handle the burdens of being a Senator. We don’t focus on her younger years — her wit, her tenancy, her remarkable handling of the tragic deaths of Harvey Milk and George Moscone. Our memories operate in strange ways.

What was truly striking to me — and the reason for this piece — is a story that appeared in the Boston Globe today. It tells the story of the reporter Tal Kopan who observed and wrote about lots of recent negatives surrounding the Senator. But, those are not what the journalist remembered today. She remembered the Feinstein who was an artist. And, apparently a good one, although she called herself a doodler.

Here’s the article:

I had never known that Dianne Feinstein was an artist. I had never known that she made prints of her work that she gave away at charity events and as gifts. I did not know another Senator apparently had one of her drawings on a mug.

Sometimes, it is our hidden talents that enable us to do our jobs. It is creativity that gives us an outlet. It is how we deal with life’s stresses. And sometimes, few know about these talents. They can be drawing or music or languages or writing poetry or solving puzzles or woodworking or inventing patentable inventions. Some of these hidden talents are within the fine arts field. Some are scientific. Some are crafts — fabulous sewing and knitting. Some are singing and musical composition and dance. Some are collections we’ve created. Some are hidden areas of expertise: archeology or the origins of the human species or architecture.

Here’s the point. It is our hidden talents that contribute to who we are and how we navigate life. Feinstein lost two husbands. She lived in a time when few women rose to power. She was a single mother for a time. She saw violence. She saw discrimination. She appreciated the power of compromise.

And she was an artist.

To take a line from a debate long ago, I am no Dianne Feinstein. But, I have used artistic creations in my later years to enable me to navigate life. And I rarely sell my art. I give it away. Sure it has hung in galleries (both brick and mortar and online). Yes, I have and continue to use my images in what I write and they will appear in the new book I am co-authoring with the talented and creative Dr. Ed Wang.

But, few actually know I am an artist. One person seeing my art recently said several times in a row looking at my work: You created that? You created that? You created that?

Indeed. And for me, the fact that Dianne Feinstein was an artist adds to her legacy and my understanding of the life she lived. As the Globe journalist pointed out, the story of her art is well worth remembering now, with her passing. That’s a memory worth savoring.

Note: My piece is informed too by the special talents of JAS, NSD, LL and NR. These individuals share those talents with me and they help me understand who they are and how remarkably they combine these talents to create a life well-lived. And for that I thank them….now and always.



Karen Gross

Author, Educator & Commentator; Former President, Southern Vermont College; Former Senior Policy Advisor, US Dept. of Education; Former Law Professor