“And Chelsea, thank you. I'm so proud to be your mother and so proud of the woman you've become."
Just like that – these words of gratitude and admiration from a [proud] mother – marked the beginning of one of the most historic moments of my lifetime. The moment the glass ceiling shattered, as the first female presidential candidate accepted the nomination of a major party for President of the United States.
It was only eight years before that I stood in Broncos Stadium, on the anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s I Have a Dream speech, and witnessed the first black presidential candidate do the same.
As a two-time delegate to the Democratic National Convention, I remain in awe of the opportunities I have had to be an eye witness to these historic moments. Both times – first in Denver and eight years later in Philadelphia – I was most moved by the inclusive nature of the Democratic Party. Not only did we nominate two historic candidates in terms of race and gender, we also elected delegates that reflect the diversity of our nation.
In Philadelphia, as we officially nominated Hillary Clinton, she witnessed history, too, as she looked out into the Wells Fargo Convention Center. Exactly half of our delegation represented people of color. Not only was our nominee glass-shattering, our delegation was ground-breaking. The week prior, the RNC’s delegation had less than 1% representing people of color – its lowest since 1912.
As the parade of talented speakers continued throughout the week, it became more and more obvious that each speaker would deliver an intellectual, yet heartfelt, case for Hillary Clinton as our nation’s 45th president. Each giving a speech that only he or she could give, topping the ones before them in his or her own way.
We heard First Lady Michelle Obama make a case for her faith in Hillary, not only as the most qualified person to ever seek the office, but also as a mother. Senator Bernie Sanders thanked his supporters and united the party – in what I can only imagine is the most difficult speech he has ever given. The crowd’s admiration of his courage was palpable. Former President (and potential First Gentleman) Bill Clinton, provided an inside look at the woman he fell in love with “in the spring of 1971.” Although he walked us down their path together, he also noted what this election is really about: “The reason you should elect her is that in the greatest country on Earth, we have always been about tomorrow.” Vice President Biden made a case, as only he can make, for Hillary as the best candidate to represent working people and the middle class (side note: my favorite part was the “Scranton” signs, of course). President Obama, one of the most eloquent speakers of our time, stood before the candidate he beat in the primary only eight years prior and called her the most qualified person to ever seek the presidency.
However, the speaker with the most difficult job, in my opinion, was Chelsea. She was tasked with introducing her mother – the first mother who has ever been nominated by a major party – as the party’s official candidate. She was poised, well-spoken, measured, and thoughtful. Apples don’t fall far from trees. As any candidate from school board to U.S. Senate will tell you – as difficult as it is to be the candidate – it is far more difficult to be the child of the candidate. I’ve been on both sides of that coin so I can personally attest to that. To experience this on a presidential level is more than my mind can comprehend – I simply cannot wrap my mind around the pressure Chelsea felt on the stage that night. Although, looking at her, you would have never known.
As Hillary Clinton took the stage to [finally] shatter the glass ceiling she put 18 million cracks in only eight years ago, the crowd erupted. History was happening right before my eyes. Again. The crowd hung on to her every word as she made an eloquent, hopeful, heartfelt, policy-rich, case for the future of our country with her as our first female president and Commander in Chief. Secretary Clinton’s message of America being “stronger together” resonates with all of us who believe we’re already great, and yet, that we have the potential to always be better. Her life of service to others was undeniable; her intellect, indisputable; and her plan for moving America forward, substantive.
As we transition from summer to fall and into the general election, I am cognizant of the imperfections of both parties, all of the candidates on the ballot, and the American voter. None of us are void of mistakes, immune to criticism, or free of blame for the shortcomings in our communities and our nation. Knowing this, there are two universal truths of every election season: 1) elections are about choices, and 2) we get what we ask for.
I will be asking for the candidate with the most experience, the steadiest hand, and the most thoughtful, sound policies for all Americans – not just the ones whose looks and beliefs are similar to hers.
Oh, and I look forward to the day that saying “I’m With Her” doesn’t clarify which candidate I support. Because when more women run, we all win. And, with 23 Emerge women on the November ballot, we have already won.
Emerge KY 2011