In his new role as senior counselor to President Barack Obama and as a longtime confidant and adviser to Bill Clinton, including serving as Clinton's chief of staff, John Podesta has had a front-row seat to history. Though "sitting" is decidedly the wrong verb to apply to the spry, globe-trotting political operative. While accompanying Clinton on diplomatic missions aboard Air Force One, the avid runner was known to keep his gear "topside," ready to squeeze out a few miles in new terrain at a moment's notice.
Born in Chicago, the son of working-class Italian-and Greek-American parents, Podesta cut his teeth on Capitol Hill as counselor for Democratic minority leader Senator Tom Daschle. After working on Clinton's 1992 presidential campaign, Podesta climbed the White House ladder and ran the Oval Office as chief of staff from 1998 to 2001. It was the relentless pressure of that gig that transformed Podesta into a hard-core ground-pounder. And he's gathered little moss since, lacing up almost every day, all over the world, and banging out plenty of races along the way, from 5-Ks and 10-milers to marathons and Ragnar Relays.
In 2003, Podesta founded the Center for American Progress, a policy institute based in Washington, D.C., that researches and advocates progressive approaches to such issues as energy, national security, economic growth and opportunity, immigration, education, and health care. In 2008, he co-chaired the Obama-Biden presidential transition team and published The Power of Progress: How America's Progressives Can (Once Again) Save Our Economy, Our Climate, and Our Country. In January, he joined Obama's White House staff.