How Hillary Clinton Made Me Cry—Twice
A first-person response to her victory speech.
Hillary Clinton is the Democratic Party’s official, indisputable nominee for the 2016 Presidential race.
Let’s say it another way: Hillary Clinton is the first woman in the history of the United States of America to secure a major political party’s presidential nomination.
Hillary Clinton is running for president.
And right now I can’t stop thinking about 2008. Eight years ago, Barack Obama secured his party’s nomination in a race even closer than the one that was just fought between Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and Clinton. Obama accumulated a total of 2,158.5 delegates to Clinton’s 1,920. He had more pledged delegates, more super delegates and had won more individual contests than Clinton. She held on until the very last primary, but eventually suspended her campaign on June 7, 2008—eight years to the day before she would secure enough delegates to become the Democratic presidential candidate in 2016.
After she dropped out of the race, Clinton threw her full support behind Obama, saying “This has been a tough fight, but the Democratic Party is a family and now it's time to restore the ties that bind us together.” And then eleven weeks later, at the Democratic National Convention in Denver, Colorado, she endorsed Obama again with what was quite possibly the best speech she’s ever given.
On that Convention stage on August 25, 2008, Hillary Clinton whipped up the crowd in a signature pants suit, this one bright orange. It didn’t matter how deeply let down she must have felt, having to cede the nomination. It didn’t matter that her lifetime of public service would have to plateau, and that she would have to hear “Maybe next time.” It didn’t matter that she would have to be a woman adjacent to history once more. Hillary Clinton stood before a room of thousands, brining them to their feet screaming at the prospect of a Better Tomorrow—that would be ushered in by someone else.
Near the end of her half-hour long speech, she invoked Harriet Tubman for her emotional crescendo.
“This is the story of America, of women and men who defy the odds and never give up. So how do we give this country back to them? By following the example of a brave New Yorker, a woman who risked her life to bring slaves to freedom along the Underground Railroad. On that path to freedom, Harriet Tubman had one piece of advice: If you hear the dogs, keep going. If you see the torches in the woods, keep going. If they’re shouting after you, keep going! Don’t ever stop. Keep going! If you want a taste of freedom, keep going! And even in the darkest moments, that is what Americans have done. We have found the faith to keep going!”
The camera cut to Michelle Obama, who stood up rapidly to applaud. Clinton’s husband, Bill, was beaming with pride. Her daughter was clapping along with everyone else. And I was crying. Alone in dark living room of my parent’s house I was jumping in place, pumping my fists and crying, all silently so I didn’t wake up my parents in the next room. I had voted for Barack Obama, but in that moment I wanted nothing more than for Hillary Clinton to represent me, and us, and everyone in America. I wanted her to be the one to wash away the years of anger and frustration under the Bush Boy King. I wanted her to be the future. Barack Obama addressed the convention the next night with what was surely a great speech, because they’re all great speeches from Barack Obama. But I don’t remember it. On that night, I was still with Her.
So here we are in 2016 and I am with her once again, but this time, the glass ceiling had too many cracks to stay intact. In 2008, Hillary Clinton expressed how meaningful it was for her daughter, Chelsea, to be able to cast her vote for her own mother in a presidential primary. In November, she will be able to cast her vote once more, but this time in hopes of seeing her ascend to the office of President.
And just as she did eight years ago, Clinton paid homage to history in her speech, this time at her campaign headquarters in Brooklyn, New York. She cited the Women’s Rights Convention held in Seneca Falls, New York in July of 1848 that was designed to “discuss the social, civil, and religious condition and rights of woman.” She said she wished her own mother, who was born on the same day Congress ratified the 19th amendment giving women the right to vote, could be present to see her own daughter become the Democratic party’s presidential nominee. She paid tribute to the past while framing her narrative and her campaign for the future, because Clinton knows that by pure virtue of her gender, she represents a possibility that has never existed before in this country.
“Yes, there are still ceilings to break for women, for men, for all of us, but don’t let anyone tell you that great things can’t happen in America. Barriers can come down. Justice and equality can win. Our history has moved in that direction—slowly at times—but unmistakably, thanks to generations of Americans who refused to give up or back down. Now you are writing a new chapter to that story.”
The fight for the presidency will be its own battle, but for today, the moment belongs to Hillary and her supporters and to everyone that has endured defeats and celebrated triumphs throughout the long, hard fight for equality in this country. In 2008, Clinton reminded us to keep going. And in 2016, the same year Harriet Tubman was designated as the new face of the $20 bill, we could have our first female president of the United States.
Today is a good day.