Stories of the three women who have changed my life

Hillary Clinton
Sep 20, 2016 · 6 min read

When it comes to public service, the “service” part has always been easier for me than the “public” part. I’ll never be the showman my opponent is — and that’s okay with me.

But let me tell you about the values that drive me and my vision for the future. That’s what you deserve from anyone running for president.

And that’s why I want to share the stories of three women who, at pivotal moments, changed my life and set me on a course of social justice, activism, and public service.

The first woman is my mother.

Hillary’s mother, Dorothy, pictured above.

My mother Dorothy was abandoned by her parents as a young girl and ended up on her own at fourteen, working as a housemaid.

When I asked her how she managed to grow up into a warm, loving person and not become bitter and broken, her answer was “kindness.”

She was saved by the kindness of others — like the teacher who saw she had nothing to eat at lunch and brought extra food to share.

The lesson she passed on to me was simple but powerful: No one gets through life alone. We have to look out for each other and lift each other up. And she made sure I learned the words of our Methodist faith:

On the left, Hillary is pictured with Dorothy and her brother Hugh Jr. On the right, Hillary is pictured with Dorothy.

That mission guides me still. When I stumble, it’s what picks me up, because there’s always more good to do and more people to help.

Especially children — because I deeply believe that all our children deserve the chance to share in the promise of America.

I think about all the Dorothys all over America who fight for their families, who never give up. That’s why I’m doing this. That’s why I’ve always done this. For all of the Dorothys.

On the left, Hillary is pictured with Bill and Dorothy on her wedding day. On the right, is Hillary pictured with Chelsea, Dorothy, and Bill the day she was sworn into the Senate.

The second woman is Marian Wright Edelman.

On the left and right, then First Lady Hillary is pictured with Marian.

Marian was a lawyer for the NAACP in Mississippi, an ally of Dr. King and Robert Kennedy, and founder of the Children’s Defense Fund. She’s an altogether remarkable woman.

One day during my first semester in law school, I saw a flyer on a campus bulletin board. Marian was coming to give a lecture. I made sure to be there. What I heard was completely captivating.

Marian talked about creating a Head Start program in Mississippi — using her legal education to make life better for poor children and families. Something clicked in my brain. I began to see how I could translate the commitment to helping others I’d learned from my mother and my church into real social change.

So I went up Marian and said, “Could I work for you this summer?” She said, “Sure, but I can’t pay you.” And I said, “Well, I am paying my way through law school, so I have to get paid.”

Marian said, “Well, if you can figure out how to get paid, you can have a job.” So I figured out how to get a grant and went to work for her.

After I graduated from law school, I could have followed many of my classmates to a high-powered law firm, but I went to work for Marian at the Children’s Defense Fund instead.

She sent me door-to-door in New Bedford, Massachusetts, on behalf of children with disabilities who were denied the chance to go to school.

I remember meeting a young girl in a wheelchair on the small back porch of her house. She told me how badly she wanted an education — it just didn’t seem possible.

My heart went out to her. I really wanted to help. But it became clear that simply caring is not enough. That wouldn’t force the public school to build more wheelchair ramps or put more resources into special education.

I learned that to drive real progress, you have to change both hearts and laws.

So Marian had us gather evidence. We built a coalition, and our work helped convince Congress to pass a law that ensures all children with disabilities have access to school.

That experience turned me into a lifelong advocate for children and families.

Then First Lady Hillary is pictured with Marian.

The third woman who changed my life is named Sofia.

On the left, Hillary during her Senate days. On the right, is Sofia introducing Hillary (Photo courtesy of Sofia Bernardin).

Sofia was the 17-year old captain of a high school basketball team.

In the late 1990s, Democrats in New York were urging me to run for Senate. I kept telling them no. After all, no first lady had ever done anything like that. I myself hadn’t run for office since the student council.

I’d always been an advocate, not a politician.

Then, one day, I visited a school in New York for an event for young women athletes with Billie Jean King. Hanging above our heads was a big banner that said: “Dare to Compete.” Before my speech, Sofia introduced me — she was tall, and as we shook hands, she bent over and whispered in my ear:

Once again, something just clicked. For years, I had been telling young women to step up, participate, go for what you believe in. Was I afraid to do something I had urged so many other others to do?

It was a difficult transition — actually becoming a candidate for the first time. Even all these years later, I still don’t enjoy doing some of the things that come naturally to most politicians, like talking about myself and asking people to vote for me.

But I took that leap then for the same reason I’m running now: to even the odds for those who’ve got the odds stacked against them, especially children and families.

I’ve learned that in a democracy, if you want to help the greatest number of people, you have to push for reform from both the outside-in and the inside-out. We need activists and advocates. Entrepreneurs and innovators. Teachers and mentors. People who change lives every day in a million quiet ways. We also need strong, principled leaders who can win votes, write laws, allocate resources, and do the slow, hard business of governing.

So I need you as partners, not just for winning this election but for driving real change over the next four years. The fights ahead of us are bigger than one election, one president, or even one generation. It’s going take all of us working side-by-side to build the kind of future we want.

Join us if you believe that when we work together, when young people like you turn out and vote this fall, we will trump hate.

Hillary for America

Stories from the campaign trail, moments in history, ideas…

Hillary Clinton

Written by

Wife, mom, grandma, women+kids advocate, FLOTUS, Senator, SecState, hair icon, pantsuit aficionado, 2016 presidential candidate.

Hillary for America

Stories from the campaign trail, moments in history, ideas to help Americans get ahead and stay ahead.

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