My sweet girls,
Today is the day your lives changed, and you don’t even realize it. You two were playing video games, trying to stay cool during our long, hot summer, and I sat at my computer with tears in my eyes. I watched the roll-call of states at the Democratic National Convention, and for the first time in our country’s storied, tumultuous history, a woman became the Presidential candidate for a major political party.
I remember earlier this year as we talked about the Suffrage Movement and the shock on your faces when I said that it was nearly 100 years ago that women received the right to vote. Both of you, and your brother, sat dumbfounded that at one point in our country’s history the right to vote was limited to just one gender, and even more shocked when I told you skin color was once a restriction as well.
I remember when you came home from SC History at our homeschool co-op and told me you learned about the governor’s office, and then you said, “And mom, our governor is a woman, Nikki Haley!” I saw something in your eyes, my oldest. I saw the spark of opportunity.
I remember as the presidential primary season kicked off and you paid special attention to two particular candidates – Carly Fiorina and Hillary Clinton. I loved it when your brother said, “I hope one of the girl candidates win. It’s time we had a girl president.” He’s one of your champions, as I and your father are and always will be.
Understand this, as your mother, from the moment I held you in my arms, I wondered what your future would hold. I wanted to make sure you had ample opportunity to achieve whatever your heart desired. And so today, when Hillary Clinton’s name was read aloud from the podium of the DNC, when her primary rival Bernie Sanders asked that by acclimation Hillary receive the Democratic nomination for President of the United States, emotions overwhelmed me.
I saw you sitting there and suddenly, unlimited opportunity became your future. The promise of our country – that all are created equal – was fulfilled just a bit more today. I can’t begin to tell you, as your mother, what that means to my heart.
When I was a girl, I was obsessed with two very adult topics – the space program and politics. I loved watching the news and as a child of the 80’s it was all Ronald Reagan and Space Shuttles. Sally Ride, Judith Resnick, Christa McAuliffe, Kathryn Sullivan, so many names became regular news stories about women in space. I was enthralled. People like me, in space!
I watched Ronald Reagan and his political friendships with Margaret Thatcher. I was amazed to see a woman leading a major country in our world. And then, back in 1984, though my parents were dyed-in-the-wool conservatives and Reaganites, I secretly was filled with wonder when Geraldine Ferraro was tapped as the Vice Presidential nominee on the Mondale ticket. I cheered along the night Reagan won in a landslide, as a good Republican child would, but Geraldine Ferraro stuck with me. It was a crack in a glass ceiling that made me dream… Could I ever be President?
Fast forward, my dears, to my first year in college. I had to write a paper on a woman in politics. I thought about my go-to conservative stand-by: Margaret Thatcher. I even thought about Sandra Day O’Connor, the first woman appointed to the United States Supreme Court. But instead, I figured, I’m in college now, I should challenge my norms and instead, I wrote a paper about the First Lady of the United States, Hillary Rodham Clinton. It was at that time, I developed a bit of a small political crush. Something about Mrs. Clinton, her story, her upbringing, her drive… it spoke to me. But I kept most of that private to myself. I’d lose some cred with my fellow College Republicans if I admitted to that aloud.
It wasn’t until my mid 20’s that I finally thought we had a shot at breaking through that glass ceiling. I jumped on the bandwagon for Elizabeth Dole, a two time Cabinet member (yes, your mother was a Republican until recently). Deep within me, I wanted to see someone like me stand on the steps of the Capitol and take that solemn oath of office. But, it wasn’t meant to be. Liddy Dole, tried to add a crack to that glass ceiling, but fell short. George W. Bush won and passed on Dole as Vice President, instead going with what had been the status quo for 224 years: another white guy.
In 2008, women had great representation and it was exciting for me. Sarah Palin was the Republican Vice Presidential nominee (for better or worse). Another crack or two in that proverbial glass ceiling, despite the McCain/Palin ticket losing the election. But just a couple months before she was tapped for that position, a truly historic race was happening on the other side of the aisle. Hillary Clinton was aiming to be the first female candidate for President. And Barack Obama, a black man, a person of color, was fighting for the Democratic nomination as well.
As you know, from listening to news stories and our discussions at home, Barack Obama won the nomination in 2008, and he went on to win a historic election, serving as our 44th President. But Hillary Clinton made great strides in 2008, as well, fighting for the nomination until the end. Despite my desire at the time for a Republican president, I remember sitting, listening to her concession speech with a bit of admiration and pride. In that speech, Hillary Clinton hit on the two loves of my early, formative years when she said:
As we gather here today in this historic, magnificent building, the 50th woman to leave this Earth is orbiting overhead. If we can blast 50 women into space, we will someday launch a woman into the White House.
Although we weren’t able to shatter that highest, hardest glass ceiling this time, thanks to you, it’s got about 18 million cracks in it, and the light is shining through like never before, filling us all with the hope and the sure knowledge that the path will be a little easier next time.
The inevitability of a female president in my life time, and certainly in yours, seemed greater than ever at that moment. A glass ceiling with over 18 million cracks isn’t bound to last. It will shatter and we will rise, my daughters.
I think back to Barack Obama’s election in 2008. I remember your grandparent’s neighbor, Mrs. Pat, a wonderful black woman who had lived through the Civil Rights movement say this the day after the election, “Today is a good day… a wonderful day. To see a person who looks like me become President after all we fought for…” And her voice trailed off, full of raw emotion and hope, tears in her eyes. I didn’t quite understand what she meant. My politics and my religious sensibilities at the time didn’t allow me to empathize with all she had seen and overcome as a person of color. I couldn’t understand the excitement and emotion in her voice.
But these past 7 years, I’ve changed… a lot. And today, as I heard the nomination for a woman to be a major party candidate, today, I immediately remembered that emotion, that hope Mrs. Pat possessed. And I know people you love can’t stand Hillary and her politics. But I hope that they can see that this is a historic day in America, and an amazing day for girls like yourselves.
This is a day that will make little girls like yourselves dream bigger. This is a day that says to little girls like yourselves that any opportunity in this country is within your reach. This is a day that the glass ceiling came raining down in tiny pieces around us all.
It’s like Hillary Clinton said tonight, “If there are any little girls out there who stayed up late to watch, let me just say: I may become the first woman president, but one of you is next!”
And that my daughters makes this momma’s heart glad. You, my sweet girls, now have as much opportunity as your brother has. Tonight was historic. And we’ll see… even more history is yet to be written.
I love you,