Learning from the Future

Last week’s celebration of Women’s Equality Day reminded me of the history of our country — the progress we’ve made, the beautiful diversity of our nation, and all the potential that awaits us.

I had a chance to see my mom recently. We re-lived a bit of history as well as talked about the state of our politics today. She follows politics very closely and these days even closer.

You see, my mom grew up as a migrant farmworker, worked as a secretary at my school for 36 years, and then upon retirement, she ran for school board. To everyone’s surprise, she won. Today, she’s the only woman on the school board.

Eight years ago, I asked her why she ran for office. She said, “I learned from you girls Mija”. I took that to mean that the world had changed to give us girls, her daughters, opportunities that she never had. It was one of those moments when I realized how lucky I was to grow up at a different time in our country’s history.

It’s not often I think about the fact that my mom was a working professional who couldn’t get a credit card without a man’s signature. Or that the only way to have a small business or rent an apartment was if my Dad signed the papers. Or that sports for her, before Title IX, meant being an avid fan versus being on the court.

I know we haven’t entirely broken through, women represent less than 15% of our United States Congress and women are still earning less than men for the same work. My heart breaks every time I hear another story about gender violence, sexual violence, harassment and discrimination. And, I am appalled at the advice that women who are harassed should “just switch jobs”. For what? To step aside and let another woman take the job and be harassed?

But, for all those moments of disappointment and frustration, we are making progress.

Thirteen million voters across the country came together to state once and for all that a woman can be President. That is progress. As I witnessed Secretary Clinton walk on to that stage to accept the Democratic nomination for President, I again felt how lucky I am to be a part of our country’s history.

I also now understand when my mom said, “I’m learning from you”. I can only hope to say those same words to my kids someday because it will mean that the next generation has moved forward and redefined what is possible. In fact, during the Olympics, I was cheering on the women’s gymnastics team and my three year old son asked me whether gymnastics “was just for girls” and my six year old answered, “No, TJ, it’s for everyone. Boys and girls can be in the Olympics”. I couldn’t help but chime in “just like the Presidency, Mijo. It’s for boys and girls”.

Diego and TJ may just be six and three, but I am hopeful that I will learn from them since their world will be even more empowered than mine. It is true that when any barrier is broken the path becomes easier for everyone. That is America. It has always been America. And, it’s why I am so proud to be part of this era, this moment in history, and working as hard as I can to elect the first female President of the United States.