The question was posed to us fifth grade girls. A handful of us. Maybe it was a grade later. Regardless, we were in a gifted class run by a feminist who taught us we mattered. What we thought and what we said was real and true. She asked us one day to write down what we wanted to be when we grew up. My best friend, Bethe, wrote, “First woman president of the United States. Because I dread public speaking, and had taken the writer’s oath in first grade, I jotted down, “Speech writer for the first woman president.” As young as we were, we felt it wasn’t really a far reach. We were political hounds, championing Carter, twice, and strong advocates of the Equal Rights Amendment. We protested Honeywell and questioned random people if they believed that women should be drafted. They didn’t. We wanted change and we wanted to make change in our grown-up lives. Surely being a woman president wasn’t going to be a difficult thing.
This was the time of the MS. moniker and a deep and hollow recess of women in politics. Women anything really. There was Anita Bryant, of course and her “Christian” fight against homosexuality. But she did not count. In fact, my mother would turn off the television every time Ms. Bryant’s sing-song orange bird, orange juice from Florida commercials came on. In the 1970’s that meant actually walking to the set, so it was a pretty big statement. This was the time when the ERA was so close and then so damn far out of reach. By simply three states. A simple thing equating a man’s life to a woman’s and we got none of it. By now – at 50 – I would have lost a healthy bet that we would have seen its passing. That and having a president who is female.
Bethe never ran for any political role. She never became the first woman president, obviously, so I never wrote her speeches. Over the past forty years, women in politics has been a slow but steady growth. In 1984, running with Walter Mondale, Geraldine Ferraro was nominated as the first female vice president of the United States. No small feat. One year in college and it was Incredible to me. Yet, it seems to be overlooked now, during this historic time of Hillary’s nomination. I admit it myself. In 2008 Sarah Palin was the second woman nominated for vice president. But I don’t count her – with her pro-life, pro-guns, anti-welfare, anti-gay rights, and avid hunting advocate – I find her more of a man. At least entirely out of touch with the needs and perspectives of women in our world.
Back in the 70’s I learned to take the office of the president very seriously. While most kids were watching the Electric Company, or tooling around on bikes, I was inside, hunkered down in front of the Watergate Hearings. The summer Nixon resigned I watched that iconic peace sign flailing arms as he slipped into the helicopter and away, with my mother as she ironed, (yes, she was ironing). That summer I chose a bright green, yellow and orange circular patterned wallpaper for my bedroom – quintessential 70’s décor. Before it went up, the neighbor kids came over and we wrote IMPEACH NIXON all over the walls. We weren’t dumb, us kids. We got it. We learned from the time in politics the difference between right and wrong. Lies and the truth. Republican and Democrat. We all chose the latter. Still do as adults. Politic was my religion. The constitution more interesting and far more tangible and diverse than the Bible.
I have had a vested interest in politics since. I am not a person who regards politics as a disease, or a disruption. I do not view it as many do – as a thing that really doesn’t matter at all. What will be will be. Ignorant and lazy, dragging themselves to their polling places, if they do bother at all. Nor am the person who makes up their mind that day. I do not live in the shadows. The choice of party and politics means the difference for so many as truly life or death. Legal abortions means women stop dying. Children aren’t left without mothers. A liberal agenda means children can eat, can visit doctors when sick, keeps roofs over their heads. They are provided an education, are not sickened by our air and water, as they have been under a Republican administration in Michigan. You choose the leaders who will take care of your neighbors. Because when your neighborhood and community is healthy, you are, too.
I have questioned myself if I would vote for a Republican presidential nominee if she were a woman. Would I cross my hard set and deeply rooted party line simply to see a woman in office? The answer is “no.” However, when people ask me if I am voting for Hillary because she is a woman, I say “yes.” The answer is multi-fold. Because Hillary is a woman and I support her, I am voting for her. Because I am a woman, I am voting for her. Because I am a Democrat, I am voting for her. Bottom line is that you cannot separate the gender of Hillary and her political goals. She is a woman. Her perspective is different. Her experience is different. Experiences that have made her stronger and tougher than any man. Imagine all the sexism and ridicule being hurled at you while you are working to make a better country, a better world? She has never broken. She has stood steady and focused. That is why I support Hillary Clinton for President.
Forty years after Bethe and I chose to break barriers, it finally happened. A woman was nominated by a major party to become our next president. Tuesday, July 26, 2016, there was a great clap of shattering glass. We did not crouch or throw up protective arms. We turned our faces high and proudly, eager for those pieces to come at us, even if it would hurt. But when they did come down, there were no cuts or scratches, just sweet crystals falling all around us like a soft summer rain. For some reason I felt the need to document it personally. I taped the television broadcast of the delegate roll call on my phone. Certainly I would always have the internet to find the exact CNN coverage, but I wanted my testimony – my tears, my screams, and my place in the most historical moment in my lifetime.
During these past historical four days in Philadelphia, we witnessed the testimony of so many people speaking of Hillary’s loyalty and dedication to their situation, their plight, her determination to fight with them and for them. What we learned about her this week is that she is both compassionate and tough. We learned of her history as a public servant. How she worked for the rights of disenfranchised and disabled children under Marian Wright Edelman and the Children’s Defense Fund, as well as investigations of racial inequality among children in schools. She’s held the injured, the bereaved, the destitute, the disabled, and the scared. And each time she has changed a life. Has changed so many lives.
She has been a public servant for most of her years. But she also is a politician, because she felt that change for those in need must be enforced through laws. So she ran for office and changed laws, made laws, and is determined to maintain the laws that protect us from harm. That keep us equal and provide us access to affordable healthcare. To maintain the treaties forged and kept for decades, like NATO. The need for Hillary this coming election is two part. 1. Keep Trump from destroying all of Obama’s hard and fair work. To keep him from ruining our great nation, demeaning our constitution to rubbish. To drive us back to a Jim Crow, McCarthy, isolationist society. 2. Make sure the progressive Democratic platform – is followed through. Agendas like affordable childcare, hike in minimum wage to 15 dollars an hour, free college education and debt free college tuition.
Voting for Hillary because she is a woman, or not voting for her because she is a woman, is degrading to us all. She is a leader. Qualified. Steady. Intelligent. Caring. Understanding. Respectful. The idea that Sander’s followers refuse to vote for her is the most troubling to me. I do understand their fight. I admire their fierce determination to bring progressive solutions to our country. However, more so than Trumps’ easily angered and easily conned supporters, they must understand that under Trump everything they have battled for will be stomped out. I listen to the Sander’s folks saying it’s a choice between two evils, and that breaks my heart. Hillary Clinton is not evil. I suppose if that is the way they can talk themselves into voting for her, so be it. But it really isn’t fair. Or true. Comparing Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump in terms of malevolence simply does not compute.
Donald Trump opens his mouth and only immoral and malicious insults furl out. He hates our country. Hates the people. Hates the policies. Hates the constitution. He wants to build a wall, to round-up of illegal families, ban Muslims from our country, support torture, murder families connected to terrorists and ISIS. These are crazy ideas. Crazy. Damaging to everyone. This man actually believes he can do this alone because he has no sense of how our government works. That it was constructed to be balanced. Just for this reason.
If he is elected we won’t have a wall. We won’t break into homes in the early mornings, taking parents from children. But there will be more gridlock than there is now. And we will have as representative of our country, on the world’s stage, a man who laughs at the notion of climate change, who is preoccupied by women’s cycles, who uses belittling words for others – Pocahontas Warren – Little Marco – Crooked Hillary. We will have a very dark and troubling country if Trump is allowed to lead. So while he continues to build up his ego to the point, we can only hope, of inflating it so vastly he explodes in little Trump pieces, falling into crevices and pools, and sewer grates, lost forever. Banned from humanity. Gone.
Is there a chance that Trump will become president? I believe not. I believe in the goodness of our people. I believe they are afraid. But I don’t want those championing Hillary to allow the choice for those undecided to be the better of two evils. A phrase which seems to attract those who hate Hillary for reasons they really can’t pin point, who hem and haw over her many “criminal” activities, or her lack of backbone concerning her husband’s dalliances. Frankly, I believe these are people who see a strong and powerful woman, yet look away, choosing to negate her with falsehoods and exaggerations instead of accepting her qualifications.
I stand with millions of Americans who will hold you accountable if this great, diverse nation is squandered because of narrow-minded, idealistic, determination to stand against Hillary Rodham Clinton as the best choice we have. A sound choice. The safest choice for all of us. All eyes will be on you: strong stares from the ghosts of those who fought and died for equality for all and the tragic gaze of the babies not yet born into the world made toxic by the lack of your stance and your indecision. This is the time to be brave and do the right thing.
Because the mark of bravery is following one’s faith and beliefs, yet only until it threatens the lives of all the good people around you. Then bravery becomes a necessary compromise for the greater good. Those who don’t understand the significance of Hillary Clinton, who believe all the circling falsehoods as truth, please understand that the fate of our country breathing or dying is in your hands. Understand that your agenda – and all that you want and believe in, that you have fought long and hard for, will never come to fruition under a Trump leadership.