I know I don’t typically write about politics, but NGN has always been a place for me to write about what moves me and inspires me. And, as you’ll see, the following is something I have been passionate about for a long time but nervous to talk about so openly before today. But if any day is a day for a politically active woman to speak what’s on her mind and in her heart, it’s today.
When I was a little girl, my mom used to tell me, “Girls can do anything boys can do.” I’m sure this is a common refrain in many American households, especially ones that are predominantly female. While I took those words to heart as a kid and never let anyone stop me from doing things because of my gender—whether it was graduating top in my high school class or running a sports blog in college—there was one thing I never really dreamed of doing—not even during that stage of childhood where you pretend to have a thousand jobs at once.
I never dreamed of being the president.
Sometimes we have no idea what we can dream of being until we see someone like us achieving it. Some people can believe without seeing, but even from a young age, I was a bit of a Doubting Thomas. I had trouble dreaming without knowing in the back of my mind that there was a chance that—if I worked hard enough and had enough support—my dream could come true.
Sometimes we limit ourselves without even knowing we’re doing it—all because we have never seen the full extent of what is possible.
Last night, I finally saw the full extent of what is possible. And I hope that parents let their little girls (and little boys) stay up past their bedtimes—or watch in the morning—so they could see the full extent of what is possible, too.
Last night, I saw Hillary Clinton accept the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination, and in her speech, she said something that I haven’t been able to stop thinking about:
When there are no ceilings, the sky’s the limit.
That “highest, hardest glass ceiling” has hung over my head for my entire 27 years on this Earth. And when you’re born under a glass ceiling, sometimes you don’t even know that there is anything for you beyond it. I dream big—I always have—but I never thought to extend those dreams beyond that ceiling, to think of achieving what Hillary did last night.
But from this moment forward, little girls will grow up thinking there is no limit to what they can achieve because of their gender. They will grow up believing that the sky is the limit and that there is a desk waiting for them to sit behind in the Oval Office. They will grow up with footsteps to follow in because a trailblazer named Hillary Clinton made the uneven path smoother with her strides. They will grow up in a world where someone who looks like them and their mothers and their grandmothers can be a major political party’s nominee for president. They will grow up with the fullness of the American dream made visible for them: that someone like them could do amazing things through hard work, a strong support system, and belief in herself.
I know that this fight is far from over. It’s one thing for young girls to see a woman become a major political party’s nominee for president, but it’s another thing for them to see her actually be elected president. But last night was another step in the right direction, another foot forward on the path toward a life where little girls and little boys get to have the same unlimited dreams.
There are still plenty of obstacles to overcome and debates to be had and victories that must be won (and that we must help her win). But today is a day for optimism. This whole week has been a week for optimism. In fact, during many parts of the Democratic National Convention, I found myself reminded of another optimistic program about government that I loved to watch on television: Parks and Recreation. My favorite things about Parks and Rec were on full display at the DNC: strong women, friendship (I think we can all agree that the Obama/Biden friendship is one for the ages.), hope, and the belief that we are always “Stronger Together.”
More than anything, that last point was what I took away from the DNC, and those of you who know me even a little bit should know how directly that message spoke to what I believe. One of my favorite quotes is the Parks and Rec motto: “No one achieves anything alone.” That core belief was found in nearly every moment of the DNC, including Hillary’s big speech last night. In that speech, she said, “No one gets through life alone. We have to look out for each other and lift each other up.” Leslie Knope herself couldn’t have said it better.
Ultimately, I know that political conventions are emotional manipulation machines. I also know that I am easily manipulated. But the choice between the two nominees who emerged from the conventions was incredibly clear: Do you want to be manipulated by fear or by hope? By anger or by optimism? By frustration or by faith that we can be better and do better, but only if we work together?
In my mind, the choice isn’t even close to being a hard one. I’m an anxious person. I have to work hard every day to make sure the decisions I make and the things I do aren’t driven by fear. So to see one candidate preying on and exploiting people’s fears is something I do not take lightly. It’s something I will never support. Instead, I choose to stand on the side of hope. I choose to stand on the side that acknowledges that there are things to be afraid of, but also acknowledges that an end to those fears can be found by working together to make a better and safer world—not by turning against each other and building walls between us. I choose to believe that the country I live in doesn’t need to be made great “again” because that implies going backward instead of forward. I choose to believe that love is stronger than hate and that our desire to heal the broken parts of our nation is stronger than our desire to burn the whole thing to the ground out of anger.
I also choose to believe that it’s time for little girls to finally see the truth so many of us were taught but never fully believed until last night. They can do anything boys can do—even serve their country as its president.
For all these reasons and so many more, in this upcoming presidential election, I’m With Her.
Just stopping in to say I am proud of you for being brave to put this out there! I love a lot of what you say here, especially about not even realizing you are putting limitations on yourself until someone shows you what is possible.
I relate completely to the part about being manipulated. Like you, I am definitely someone that is motivated more by hope than by fear, and that kind of message is always going to resonate with me. I also try my best to understand that there are people on the other end that do respond to fear, and there is still the possibility that being motivated out of fear could lead to positive change. What I dont stand for is when that fear is used to oppress others, and its been sad to see that message so prevalent in our current election. I just hope that whatever happens, the American people (ALL of them) are still allowed the freedom and opportunity to be anything they want to be.
Thanks, Shauna! I was a little nervous about being so openly political in a forum where I don’t usually share those views, but this mattered to me too much to stay silent. Your last sentence is exactly what I hope for the future of this country, too. I just want to live in a country where all of its citizens have the right to live happy, fulfilled lives and where they can grow up believing that they can achieve their dreams no matter who they are.
Full disclosure: I’m frustrated with both parties. I want to take them all — ALL OF THEM– and smack their heads together like Stooges.
However . . .
I should hope that we live in a world — or at least our corner of the NGN world — where you can articulate “here is why I think something is important and here is why” and that be ok.
Yes, politics is about manipulation . . . unfortunately . . . but let’s not lose sight of the ideals. These are gorgeous ideals. The politicians may not always believe them or act on them. (Sorry, I think my cynicism is showing . . .) This shouldn’t stop the rest of us. So, go Katie, with your optimistic self. You go, girl.
Yes. I am still over here being Rose. Go Peggy. 🙂
Forever the Rose to my Peggy. ❤
Thanks, friend. I am plenty frustrated with both parties and politics in general—especially in this election season, but I wanted this to be an exercise in finding something that could make me care and make me happy if I'm going to be stuck listening to all this for the next 100 days. They are such gorgeous ideals, and I want this to be a place where we can still celebrate those ideals—even if people aren't always great (or even good) at living up to them.
Aaaand this is why we love you, sweets. It’s not always easy to make a decision to see and pursue hope and goodness and community and all the lovely ideals.
I’m adding this post-election . . . This is when we double down on the ideals here. We double down on hope and support and friendship and goodness and community and possibilities and dreams for better.
“I also choose to believe that it’s time for little girls to finally see the truth so many of us were taught but never fully believed until last night. They can do anything boys can do—even serve their country as its president.”
I adore this and your optimism. Often because I don’t possess it and because in you I see the tangible possibilities. I’ve talked a lot about the impact of the elections on me as a parent. I was the little girl who was told she couldn’t because I was a girl… because I was Latina… because my family was without influence. The personal power I possess I have taken and it has held consequences every step of the way. It has isolated me at times and it has led to unforeseen results, some that set me back and some harder to overcome because they chipped away and questioned my self-worth and identity. Growing up not only was the idea of the Presidency not attainable, my desire to be a lawyer was considered a pipe dream. Sonia Sotomayor changed that perception for me when she was appointed to the NY District Court while I was in college.
For years I’ve said it matters to see yourself reflected in what’s possible. The confidence one gains from that reflection is the ability to envision where you can go beyond it. In the 43 years I’ve walked this planet I have spent a lot of time explaining that ones experience defines their vantage point on the world. Eight years ago, when President Obama was elected the vantage point of the world changed (if not our politics or our world as a whole). Thursday night, a similar shift happened with Hillary Clinton’s nomination. My support or lack of enthusiasm for any given candidate doesn’t change the fundamental fact that the granddaughter of an unwanted child is in a position to become President of the United States.
I vividly remember my mother’s fear in 2008. A woman who migrated here from Puerto Rico with my grandparents as a young girl for better opportunities yet still had limitations. She was beginning to raise her family as the country lived through a series of assassinations that were a direct assault on hope. I remember the night of his nomination her saying to me, “My God, I can’t get away from the fear that they are going to kill him.” Because in her mind and experience that’s what happens. As for a woman, that was not even fathomable, even for a woman who had the wind at her back like Hillary Clinton — after all in a public life of service she’s always been measured against the misogynist undertones that no man would ever be scrutinized under.
But for me, Wednesday night held weight because I sat as a daughter and mother watching our current President pass the baton to our potential future president and I couldn’t help but be struck by the idea that within a generation my mother’s unattainable beliefs had manifested into my daughter’s only known realities. My daughter will not need to make compromises with her identity to achieve or aspire. She will harness them to do so. They will be the source of her power. Yes that is because of what I teach her but it is also because when she looks out into the world she sees the likes of Sonia Sotomayor, Barack Obama, Serena Williams, Lin Manuel Miranda, and a litany of others who are doing so every day. That wasn’t true when I was 10 years old and that alone makes me proud and fills me with hope.
This whole comment fills me with hope. I adore the entirety of your last paragraph and what it says about how important it is for you to see your daughter live in a world where she doesn’t need to compromise who she is to achieve great things and where she isn’t limited by the narrow world that came before.
As you said so perfectly, “it matters to see yourself reflected in what’s possible.” I believe that so strongly. That’s the whole point behind The Fan Mail Project. All we want is to see people like us achieve good things because that allows us to believe those things are possible for us, too. And belief is such a powerful tool. It’s also a tool that must be harnessed. It’s my hope that Hillary’s nomination inspires so many more young women and girls to become involved in public service and to not just dream of running for office but to set it as a goal for themselves. We need more women—and more women with new ideas and fresh ways of thinking—in political leadership positions, and I hope that this opens the door for a generation of girls to own this place at the table and make the world a much better place than it is today.
Coming from somewhere else with a very different political structure, I have been extremely frustrated by the slowness of the US to get to this point and, I suspect, the unlikelihood that having a viable female candidate will be a regular occurrence. (Sorry, I’m a pessimist about this country/politics, especially regarding Presidential politics). And I’m afraid that if Hilary does win (and I hope and pray and vote that she does because the alternative is simply unthinkable to me) that the awful attacks on her (so many of which are sexist crap) are probably going to get worse before they get better. I remember the nasty things that we said about our female leaders in NZ (before I knew better).
But in the end, this milestone can’t be taken away. Little girls growing up today will have a different view on the world and what they can do and be, as you say, and that’s a wonderful thing.
If you haven’t seen her you should watch (on EllenTube) Ellen’s little presidential expert – I think her name is Macy. She is just fascinated by the presidency, full of fun facts, and through Ellen she’s had the chance to meet Dubya and Hilary and perhaps Obama (?). But the bit you would love, of course, is her interaction with Hilary – they got her a mini Hilary suit, and she’s totally convinced that she will be president when she’s older. (And maybe she will. She has a lot of down home country charm! She’d appeal to the middle.) It’s wonderful.
(omg I thought wordpress ate my comment for a second there and I wanted to scream!)
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