Tuesday night at 6:39 South Dakota put her over the top. Hillary Clinton became the first woman in the the United States to be nominated for the top spot. History was made. Tonight Hillary Clinton will take the stage and accept the Democratic nomination for president and history will be made, again.
Today, all across the country women went about their daily lives. They rushed to work, watched over children, managed their households, went to the doctor, planned their futures, thought about their pasts, and tried to remember the last item on the list they left on the counter because they were late getting out of the house and the diaper bag and coffee cup were more strategically place than the list. In many respects, it was just another day in the long string of days that make up women’s lives. And tomorrow, for most of us, will be as well.
For our daughters however, after tonight the world will be a different place. For the first time in the history of our nation, a woman will have the same opportunity as a man to become the President of the United States. The playing field has been leveled. Whether she wins or loses the significance of tonight has been set.
So why write about it before it happens? I didn’t even vote for Hillary in the primary election. I looked at who represented my views, who more closely shared my vision for the future, and I cast my vote. But when I watched the roll call on Tuesday I felt a shift begin to happen. I felt both sad and proud when Bernie Sanders, my candidate, asked that Hillary Rodham Clinton be nominated by acclamation. I certainly understood the politics of it, after all Stronger Together is the theme of the convention. And, alhough the media has tried to stir up the drama by pointing out every boo and protest, the Democrats, as a whole, have shown a unified front.
This week we heard from the candidate’s husband–former President Bill Clinton, the sitting President and his wife–Barack and Michelle Obama, Vice-President Joe Biden, and Senator Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton’s adversary in the primaries. That’s not all. We also heard from representatives of the Black community, law enforcement, the LGBTQ community, education unions, various faith communities, and more. And tonight, tonight we will hear from Hillary. She will be introduced, though there is really no need for an introduction, by her daughter. Thinking about that fact makes me catch my breath.
Hillary Clinton is 11 years older than I am. Meaning that women who I now consider “of my generation” had been marching and advocating and working for social justice for more than a decade by the time I got to college. And still,…
I walked into my advisor’s office on a beautiful spring day before going home to Montana for the summer. It was the end of my sophomore year. I was signing up for classes in the fall and mapping out the next two years to include a semester in Washington D.C. Ultimately, I planned to go into politics and, even though I was not a 4.0 student, I wanted to go to law school first. I figured understanding how the law worked would be a good idea if I wanted to be entrusted to write those laws.
I was gathering up my books to leave when my advisor made what I’m sure he must have thought was a word of encouragement. “Margaret,” he said, “some day you’re going to make a great politician’s wife.”
I was stunned. I left his office, finished my finals, and went home to Montana. When I returned in the fall, I didn’t know what to do. Instead of reporting him or simply ignoring him, I changed majors. I didn’t go to D. C. I never even took another political science class. I didn’t understand how the very person who had helped me pick the kind of classes to get into law school and who had helped me make connections with political leaders in the state saw only my potential as a help-mate. So, I let his comment change the trajectory of my life.
I don’t regret becoming a mother, a writer, an artist, or an educator. However, as I listened to the endorsement speeches for Hillary Rodham Clinton this week and as I scrolled through my newsfeed this morning, I began to wonder what might have happened had I given myself permission to challenge that one man’s verdict of my future. The thought occurred to me, if I had had a voice in my head, an image I could have conjured to counter my advisor’s assessment, the plans and dreams I had had for my life might not have been so easily dashed. When I look at my children, I see potential, and character, and hope that makes me proud to be their mother. I want them to know the limits of someone else’s vision need not be theirs.
37 years have passed since I walked out of my advisor’s office. 37 years of women holding ground, and pushing forward, and sliding back, and pushing forward again. 37 years on top of the eons before that. 37 years of women lifting themselves and each other, and their daughters up and out and over the barriers, and the detours, and the stoney paths toward their futures. Tonight, one more obstacle will be removed. When Hillary Rodham Clinton says, “I accept your nomination for the President of the United States of America” no one will ever be able to take that voice, that singular example, away.
The fact I didn’t vote for her doesn’t matter. The fact she tried once before and was denied doesn’t matter. And whether or not she wins in November won’t matter either, though I hope with every fiber in me that she does. What matters is: Hillary Rodham Clinton entered the arena. A glass ceiling has been shattered. The playing field is level.