Mary Jo White, the chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission, has a personal page on the New York Road Runners Club Web site, which records a battery of figures (Pace per Mile, Age-Graded Performance Percentage, and so on) for each of the official events she has completed. There are two hundred and seven entries since the first one, which was recorded a week before her fifty-sixth birthday, in 2003, seven of them since she began working in Washington, late last year, just as she was turning sixty-five. Friends and colleagues characterize White as the most competitive and driven person they have ever encountered.
In the nineties, when White was the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, she would arrive in her office, a few blocks from Wall Street, early in the morning, with a stack of newspaper clippings. They were marked with yellow Post-Its bearing a recipient’s name and a nudge: Where are we on this? Are we on top of this? She had a famously expansive sense of what her office should be worrying about. She once sent Patrick Fitzgerald, who was in charge of terrorism cases, a note about some white powder that had been found at the site of a truck accident in another state, involving a driver with a Middle Eastern name. Today, she blizzards her staff and her friends with e-mails at all hours. Friends with insomnia who write to her at 2 or 3 A.M. may get an immediate reply.