Witness to history, moved to tears
I have been extremely fortunate to participate in four Democratic national conventions. And I have experienced some very special moments.
I was in Boston when then-Sen. Obama gave perhaps the best speech I have ever heard, the talk that propelled him into the national spotlight. I was in Denver when at the conclusion of her remarks Caroline Kennedy surprised the delegates and introduced her uncle who was not scheduled to be at the convention. Everyone knew this was Sen. Kennedy’s farewell and if there one was person not in tears I would have been surprised.
And, of course, that same year I witnessed something I never thought I would see in my lifetime — a person of color nominated for the Presidency of the United States. Yep, I had more tears.
And then last week I again had the privilege to witness history. Never thought in my lifetime. We often say girls and boys can grow up and be whatever they want to be. Given numerous unfortunate social forces this has never really been true.
And it is not lost on me that when we finally nominated a woman she had to be the most qualified person to ever run for president.
Harks back to Charlotte Whitton’s quote:
“Whatever women do they must to twice as well as men to be thought half as good. Luckily, that is not difficult.”
Okay, I don’t care for that last sentence. But Tuesday night, that boys and girls can be whatever they want to be, became much closer to being true.
Cried again when Bernie Sanders, as the leader and unifier he is, moved to nominate Clinton by acclamation. For what it means for our daughter, our goddaughters, our nieces and all girls and young women. But also what it means for our country. We have been rather slow in getting to this point, but we are finally here. Will it eliminate misogyny? Of course not. After seven and a half years of a president who is black, recent tragedies are yet another indication that if our country is less racist at all, it is so by only a very small degree.
But, finally, every girl, every woman in America can look at who will soon be the most important person in the world and see herself. I do not underestimate that impact.
Nor do I underestimate the significant impact of the Sander’s movement. We have the most progressive platform in Democratic Party history. It is a platform that mirrors what our great union has spent generations fighting for. Thank you Bernie and Hillary.
There were many moments that were overwhelming on a personal level. When a speaker asked everyone who was an immigrant, child or grandchild of an immigrant to raise his or her hand, it took me a second to say, ‘hey that’s me,’ and my hand went up. Just two short generations ago my grandparents came to America. My wife Alice is the daughter of an immigrant and our two sons are immigrants themselves.
Khizr and Ghazala Khan, Muslim-Americans, also reached me on a very personal level. As everyone knows, Mr. Khan spoke of their son Army Captain Humayun Khan who was killed in Baghdad saving others. The power of his voice when he said to Trump, “you have sacrificed nothing and no one,” and then asked if Trump had ever read the Constitution as he pulled his worn copy from his suit pocket.
Some may see this as ironic but when Mr. Khan and other Muslim-Americans spoke I roared not only because I deplore discrimination, but as a Jew, I felt they were speaking for me and my people, against Islamophobia of course, but also against historic anti-Semitism and all religious discrimination. Maybe Donald Trump does have value. He just may bring many of us closer together.
I am rather cynical by nature so I am not surprised that Trump has the support he has. But I also believe that if we work as hard as we can, Trump’s insanity could have Hillary winning by enough to impact the rest of the ballot.
So we pull out all the stops. It’s what AFT always does.
We canvass one more block although all we can think of is lying down. We call through one more sheet, although we know there will be more kids yelling in our ear — “Mom, it’s for you!” We eat yet another slice of pizza as we meet with members at the workplace during lunch and after work.
We must do everything necessary to win. This is our opportunity to change significantly the political landscape for years to come. We must seize the moment.
David Hecker is president of AFT Michigan, an AFT vice president, a delegate to the Democratic National Convention and a long-time political activist.