Thank you, Hillary.
“You’re sure I can FAX it in?”
“Mom, if my ballot doesn’t count…”
It was the morning of November 8th and I was at the US Embassy in Mexico City, filling out a last minute ballot as, only naturally, my mom had accidentally thrown away my Early Voting ballot. We refused to accept that I wouldn’t be able to vote, and, as Hard-Headed Women, we’d found a way.
Hillary Clinton was my first public role model.
My mom likes to tell a story of when I came home in kindergarten telling her and my father that I was determined to become the first female president. It was 1998, and the Clintons were on every media outlet, so my dad turned the TV on, pointed at Hillary, and told me that even though she would be the first female president, it did not mean I could never be one.
I became obsessed with Hillary Rodham. I watched her speech before the United Nations from 1995 when she spoke her famous words “Women’s rights are human rights and human rights are Women rights” and asked my dad what that meant.
I asked why she wasn’t the Democratic presidential candidate in 1999.
I asked why she wasn’t the candidate in 2003.
I asked again, in 2007.
Over the course of those years, my public models for women’s leadership grew beyond Hillary: Princess Diana, Oprah Winfrey, Mother Theresa were just a few of the names I would look up in libraries and try to read about. Hillary was special to me, though. She was my girl. There was a certainty to her, a type of dignified grace, a conviction, a silent but powerful strength.
I recognize that for many, this woman brings up fears, doubts, and concerns of distrust- the same emotions which come up for me with leaders in whom others may find assurance. I suppose this relativity is true for many parts of life, which is precisely why I don’t believe it makes any ones’ beliefs or opinions any less valid. This is why I find it important to write and make this note public, even if it is to be lost in the millions of words written about her since November 8th.
Over the past 18 years, I have been empowered by this woman. One could look and speak to the policies she has advocated for, scripted, and pushed through the many legislatures she’s sat in, but I wish to speak of the emotional and symbolic influence she has had played in my life.
In my own coming of age, I found a sense of quiet dignity and resilience as Hillary would push through her losses. Having been raised by a romantically liberal father and a devoutly conservative Catholic mother, I found it neat that they both respected and admired Hillary. Our dining room political or social conversations would often end with one parent storming out, so it was especially inspiring to see that Hillary never did, from any room, post, or conversation.
There wasn’t much discussion on this fact in the media, but one similarity between Hillary’s 2000 senatorial campaign in New York and her 2016 presidential campaign were her “listening tours”. There’s a clip from her kickoff in 1999 in Pindars Corners, New York, where a protestor holds a sign saying “Hillary Listen: Go Home!”.
While I was raised in a household with divided politics, as they were both immigrants, my parents consistently exposed my sisters and I to the politics and conversations surrounding immigration. Additionally, growing up in Arizona, “Go Home” was a rallying-cry I’d heard used far too often, one which I knew meant “you don’t belong here”.
Hillary’s response is one I’ve remembered since the day I watched that interview, “I have some work to do to demonstrate that what I’m for is as important if not more important than where I’m from”.
As a woman, as a Latina, as the oldest daughter of Mexican immigrants, “I have some work to do to demonstrate _______,” is a phrase which resonates to my very core. Although I was young when I first heard her say that, it rings just as true now as it did then. Both the invocation of being an outsider, as well as her response spoke to this perceived unworthiness and ineligibility for post based solely off who she was.
In my high school application essay, I was prompted to write about how a non-fictional character’s story was similar to my own. I decided to write about Hillary’s cheerful letter to NASA, and their response that there would not be women astronauts. This story is one which has driven me to move to places, fill spaces, and have conversations where I’d been told I “did not belong”.
To have grown up watching this woman pursue the highest offices, have been relentless in her search to do great work, and greatly serve the most vulnerable is a timely privilege I’m forever grateful for. Perhaps she did not “break the highest glass ceiling,” but she came damn close to it.
I look forward to the day, when 20 years from now, I will tell my own daughter what it was like to watch the first woman take the stage as a main contestant for the most powerful leadership role in the world. I will tell my daughter of the example in keeping one’s morals and ambitions high, and doing the grunt work others won’t- even as they criticize your efforts.
I will tell her how she spent her career listening, rather than yelling. I will share with her the immense pride and hope I felt in *faxing* my ballot for my first public role model.
I will play her the speeches.
I will read her the quotes.
I will share with her the campaign trail stories, the Clinton-shimmy, the pantsuits.
And from the Woman herself…
“never doubt that you are valuable and powerful and deserving of your every chance and opportunity in the world to pursue and achieve your own dreams.
Do not grow weary of doing good, for in good season we shall reap harvest. Have faith in each other, do not grow weary and lose heart, for there are more seasons to come and there is more work to do.”
Thank you, Hillary Clinton. Although I do not personally know you, you have proved a faithful friend to me. From a 5-year old girl wanting to be president, to a 23-year old woman hell-bent on making a difference, thank you, thank you, thank you.
In heartfelt gratitude,
Karla April Moreno