Tuesday, June 07, 2016

What Hillary Clinton's Victory Means to Me

I have followed politics for pretty much my entire life.  I don't know what it was about the subject-even earlier than movies or books or really any other passion I currently hold, politics was there.  I was four years old, earlier than I can even remember, and telling my parents' friends to vote in the upcoming election for Mike Dukakis.  I was eight when I surveyed my playground to figure out who would be winning that year's election (our playground was decidedly Perot, I think because he had funny ears or the funniest sounding name or maybe survey bias because I went to great lengths to point out that he was an independent candidate and how rare that was).  I drove people to the polls and campaigned when I was a teenager and college student.  The day I got to vote in my first general election, I spent a minute in that booth lovingly looking over my ballot, realizing a dream I'd had since before I could read.

I sometimes am not sure what caused this passion, but I like to think it started with my mom.  My mom, despite growing up on a farm in rural Minnesota, is a progressive on a number of issues.  She stands strong with teachers and farmers because that's who raised her, and firmly entrenched in me at a young age a sense of social justice, even if that's not a term I think my mother would ever use.  I grew up as a young man in a conservative farming community, and not to disparage here but the reality was that I went to school with a number of other young men who didn't view women as equals.  They thought of their mothers not as potential doctors or lawyers, but as someone who put their dinner on the table and the girls in their classes were not peers or friends, but simply potential romantic conquests.  I think one of the most uncomfortable moments for me growing up was in gym class, and not because I had no hand-eye coordination.  I remember hearing my male classmates, for the first time separated by gender, share disparaging remarks about women and our fellow classmates and women in positions of authority within our community and school just because of their gender, and being appalled, because this ran so contrary to the belief system my parents, but specifically my mother, had taught my brother and I.

I don't remember a time in my life where my mom didn't instill in me that you respect everyone, and that everyone should be treated equally, but especially that a woman can do anything that a man can do.  My mom came of age in the heart of the feminist revolution, and learned from her mother the idea that all of her children would be given the same opportunities, boys and girls.  She insisted that all of her daughters get to go to college, just like she had done late in her life, just like her son was expected to do, and I don't think my mom ever forgot about that.  She taught my brother and I to be inclusive, to learn and to never celebrate ignorance or bigotry.  And she taught us to celebrate the accomplishments of women, who had to fight harder to get to where they needed to go.

I cannot help but think of my mother when I look at Hillary Clinton today, becoming the first woman ever to hold a major party's nomination, and be intensely proud on her behalf.  Hillary Clinton is, like my mom, someone that doesn't back down when she stands firm in a belief.  She is someone that came from loving parents, but had to work hard to where she ended up-being a farm girl in rural Minnesota it wasn't easy to get to college and pursue a dream that was bigger than the ones that had been struck before her, but she did.  Hillary Clinton has broken barriers for women, but I think she'd admit that it was with the great help of women like my mother and grandmother, whom I'm so glad are both with me to be able to not only celebrate in this moment, but vote for Hillary this November, that she is able to strike more than just 18 million cracks in that glass ceiling today.

Hillary Clinton will be a president for all people, someone that will celebrate the American dream in all citizens, male or female, gay or straight, of every race, ethnicity, and background.  It has been the cornerstone of her political philosophy, one grounded in equality; for this we should all celebrate her winning a triumphant victory today.  But it's hard not to look at today as a truly momentous one for American women, just like eight years was an extraordinary moment for African-Americans in this country.  100 years ago women in our country were not allowed to vote.  Forty years ago no woman had ever served in the Supreme Court.  Twenty years ago no woman had led her party in Congress.  Women still make up a staggeringly low number of congressional, Senate, gubernatorial, and legislative seats, not to mention positions on corporate boards and as partners in law firms.  But today, Hillary Clinton has blazed another trail for every woman who dreamed of going somewhere that society had said they couldn't.  For that and for making life better and easier for every woman that comes after her, I am so thankful for Hillary Clinton.  And for making sure that I recognize this moving, positive moment in history, I am deeply thankful for my mom for teaching me to understand the power of making sure everyone should have opportunity.

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