LAST NIGHT’S HISTORIC DEBATE CONFIRMED THAT HILLARY CLINTON IS ONE OF THE MOST QUALIFIED PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES IN THE HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES. Lawyer, Mother, First Lady of Arkansas, First Lady of the United States, First Female U.S. Senator from New York, Secretary of State: her qualifications for the job are formidable and unprecedented. She has seen the Oval Office from a vantage point that gives her primary executive experience. Her service in the legislative branch was hailed as exemplary because she reached across the aisle for bi-partisan solutions for the good of the country. Her depth of knowledge about policy, international and domestic affairs is second to none. As Secretary of State, she established contact with rulers in 112 countries, setting an example for diplomacy. Regardless of one’s views about her, what she has achieved during this election season has been utterly historic. She has become the first woman to be nominated for President by a major political party in the United States and set the bar for future presidential aspirations. (And she did it even though her own mother was born before women had the right to vote.) Don’t take your eye off the ball with all the noisy distractions, she is the only candidate who has served the people in various capacities her entire life. And she has done it capably and of her own volition.
Running for president is not a mere hobby for her. As she said last night, not only was she preparing for the debate, but she was preparing to be president. It seems as if her whole life was leading to this historic juncture. As a young girl raised in a politically conservative household in Park Ridge, Illinois, her mother’s interest in social justice issues left an indelible mark on her. Those who knew her in the early years said she was the one who volunteered at Sunday School, who exhibited compassion for others, and whose leadership skills, even at that young age, were put toward the good of the community and not just for herself. When she wrote to NASA at age 14, asking what she had to do to become an astronaut, she was informed that women were not allowed to be in the program. But that didn’t deter her. She had confidence in her abilities and put those efforts to work in other ways. In fact, she has a history of working for the betterment of society rather than for her own self-aggrandizement.
That is the hope Hillary Rodham Clinton’s legacy has embodied ever since she was enrolled as a political science major at Wellesley College where she organized programs to help children and families. And she is no Johnny-come-lately to issues of race and fairness. Though she served as president of the Wellesley Young Republicans during her freshman year, her political views were altered by the Vietnam War and civil rights movements that characterized the 60’s. By the time she was a junior, she was serving as president of the Wellesley College Government Association, and organized a two-day student strike following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. It was around this time that some of her fellow students began to voice their beliefs that she could one day be elected President of the United States. And amazingly, in 1969, she was selected as the college’s first-ever student to give a commencement speech. The president of the college described her as “cheerful, good humored, and good company.” A portion of the speech is embedded below. Hillary spoke of communal trust and respect and said that she wanted to undertake the “art of making what appeared to be impossible, possible.” “Fear is always with us,” she continued, “but we don’t have time for it.”
Every role Hillary took on, from being a colleague of Marian Edelman at the Children’s Defense Fund to the present, has prepared her for a life of leadership in Washington, D.C. When she became the First Lady of our nation, no one mistook her for someone occupying an ornamental role. In fact, they were often impressed by her intelligence and the ease with which she could understand the issues and articulate solutions. Whether it was her role of attempting to reform the health care system or discussing the economy, her performance was so virtuoso that it caused legislators and journalists to wonder if they were watching the emergence of a president-in-training.
And Secretary Clinton is not only smart, she is tough. She has the temperament, the stamina, and the emotional intelligence to withstand years of personal and political attacks on her, and still comes back ready to focus on the issues at hand. She has not crumbled, and God knows we would have understood if she had. But she has her goals firmly in place. And yet, there are still many Americans who balk at the notion of having a woman elected to our highest office. One only has to look at last night’s presidential debate for sufficient proof of who would be the better candidate to be in control of the proverbial red button. Secretary Clinton calmly but firmly debated issues with real knowledge and facts, remaining cool and collected. She laughed off nonsensical attacks with the confidence and civility of a true leader. Even as she was interrupted a staggering number of times, she came out the clear winner by embodying a stark contrast to her opponent. And she did it with a hint of a shimmy thrown in for good effect.
And I think I know why some people seek to demean her image. That is because she has the countenance of the adult-in-the-room. She is the one who knows the answers, who probably raised her hands in class before anyone else. Not because she wanted to show off, but because she was prepared. All I can say is I met with her on many occasions some time ago when I was working with the Women’s Leadership Forum, and I found her to be warm and caring with a great sense of humor. On television she may not have the charisma of President Obama or her husband Bill, or the showmanship of Donald Trump, but there is no one who could accuse her of not being prepared or not caring for people. And the example she would set for girls and women AND boys and men all across the globe, should not be minimized, just as the election of our first African-American president represented a sea change. It is not insignificant that she will be the first President to wear heels and red lipstick, and who has given birth to another human being.
I make no secret of the fact that I am voting for Hillary in the upcoming election. Based on her lifelong adherence to her concern for others, her rootedness in her faith, and her intelligence and political savvy to reach across the aisle to get things done, her understanding of climate change and the fact that we have seen her tax returns and know there is transparency, I trust her. She understands the meticulousness of our governmental systems better than many of her male colleagues. I have no doubt that once she attends to her tasks as President of the United States, she will actually be able to get things done. Not as a schoolyard bully, but as a seasoned politician who won’t let any obstacle get in the way of her fighting for the American people.
In a moving letter written to Secretary Clinton earlier this year, an Illinois mother, Heather Henderson said, “My hope is that my daughter will not have to dream of being the first anything, because that road will have already been paved by strong women like you.”