The Hillary Moment:
A Reflection on How We Got Here
Tonight, Hillary Rodham Clinton will accept the nomination of the Democratic Party as the first woman to ever win the nomination from a major political party. It truly will be a historic and evocative moment, one in which many will reflect on the enormity of this day and what it means to them personally.
I will think of those who went before her, especially Senator Margaret Chase Smith(R-ME), who in 1964 became the first woman to be placed in nomination for president by a major party and was voice of conscience during the McCarthy era; and Congresswoman Shirley Chisolm (D-NY), who in 1972 boldly ran as the first African-American and first woman candidate to seek the Democratic nomination.
I will think of Jerry Emmett, the 102-year old Arizona Clinton delegate who was born before woman even had the right to vote; and Dusi Mura (1918-2009), a renowned pianist who survived the Holocaust and Stalin and was gleeful as we watched the 2008 election results together.
I will think of Frances Hughes Glendening, Maryland’s former First Lady, whose office I sat in the morning after Geraldine Ferraro accepted the nomination for vice president in 1984. She was almost tearful as she impressed upon me how big a moment that was. It was true then and is true now.
I will think back to 1992, when Hillary Clinton often subbed for her husband at Washington fundraisers as he fought off primary challenges elsewhere. I recall one in particular, in which future Ambassador Cynthia Schneider, asked her if she would ever run for President. Hillary demurred and repeated the campaign line that you got two for the price of one in electing Bill Clinton. Ambassador Schneider’s question was hardly a fanciful thought, but certainly not something that appeared visible in the present horizon.
I will remember being in New Hampshire in 1992, standing in a circle of young college women who listened in awe as this trailblazing woman talked with them. I will also remember the reporters who walked behind Hillary and said she was ugly within earshot of the entire group and think about all the hatred that has been directed at her – not because of her views or actions but because she dared to be a strong political woman. Like a soldier at The Somme, for two generations Hillary has endured all sorts of attacks and moved steadily forward to this moment.
I will think of my political mentor, Senator Claiborne Pell (D-RI), the man who gave us Pell Grants. Pell’s motto was “half a loaf could feed an army,” since you build on your initial progress step-by-step. The Pell Grant program began small with only 185,249 recipients and now reaches approximately 10 million recipients each year.
Tonight is certainly a big step forward, but we are not done. For example, we still have not ratified the Equal Rights Amendment or provided representation to the men and women of the District of Columbia.
I will think of my late mother, who raised seven kids and stood in the shadows of her husband because that is what women did back then – but not today. I also will think of my older sister Maureen, who taught me at a very early age that a women’s place was wherever she wanted it to be.
And as always, I will think of my late father, a World War II veteran who proudly flew the flag at every holiday. He taught me what a great country this is and that we had to fight for it every day in upholding its ideals.
This day is a testament to hope and perseverance and a day to proudly say “I am a Democrat” and “I am American”. It is a day we tell the world that, beginning with our bold declaration in Philadelphia two centuries ago, the American story has been one of moving forward and tonight America is moving forward with Her.