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.