I called my grandmother the day after the election. Having watched Hillary Clinton’s concession speech earlier, I wanted to gauge her reaction to what I saw as a scary day for our country. Plus, I just like talking to her.
I knew she would be wearing the same “Ready for Hillary” shirt she adorned the last time Hillary ended a campaign for the White House; I knew she would be feeling the same profound sadness that is difficult to describe. Women of her generation saw so much more in Hillary than a collection of policies and proposals. They dealt with so many barriers and obstacles in their lives, so to see a woman—and such an eminently qualified one at that—ascend so close to the pinnacle of American power, yet end up so far, is a feeling that simply can not be put into words. In Hillary, they saw themselves; when she won, so did they; when she lost, they wept together.
My grandmother was not, as I expected, upset. She told me she was “in awe of the woman” and that “hopefully something good comes from this.” She wished the best for our new President-elect. She conveyed little anger and even had a sense of optimism. She had not wasted away crying at CNN all night; rather, she prayed. She prayed for our country, for the Muslims in my family, for what she believes in, and for what America has always stood for. She prayed for the day, one that may not even occur in her lifetime, when a woman’s place would be in the White House. Above all, she was resilient in the face of this adversity, determined to persevere.
In Clinton, I saw the kind of politics that inspires me—one of compassion, of listening, of sympathy. She had a unique ability to internalize the struggles of the suffering and the pain of the hurt. She gave a voice to those fighting to be heard. Whatever decision came before her—and there were many—her first thought always went to the single mother working two jobs she met over a rope line or the child that cried into her shoulder over his dead father. She was never perfect—none of us are—but she always fought for what she believed in and, above all, she cared. Hillary Clinton cared.
Whether it was providing childcare to millions of kids, fighting for the victims of 9/11 on the floor of the Senate, or repairing the United States’ image across the world, Clinton always followed her methodist upbringing: “Do all the good you can, for all the people you can, in all the ways you can, as long as ever you can.”For over 30 years, she has constantly battled misconceptions and stereotypes about a woman in power. She had to balance her emotional response to the struggles of a nation with her steely resolve to find solutions to those problems. If she smiled too much or cried at all, she was an “emotional” woman unfit to lead. If she took herself seriously and sought powerful positions she was “bossy” or “too ambitious.” When Clinton stood to give a speech or when she traversed the country, she did so not as a singular woman, but as a beacon of everything our country has ever embodied. She stood on the shoulders of those who came before her and laid the groundwork for those who will follow.
Clinton may have been an imperfect candidate for 2016, but she would have been the ideal President for what lies ahead. Unlike perhaps any other presidential candidate we’ve ever had, she revelled in the details and was far more excited for the work of governing than she was for the requisite campaigning. In a political climate dominated by self interest and appealing to the worst in ourselves, she constantly sought to practice the politics of uplift rather than that of oppression. It was refreshing to see a candidate so focused on the policy prescriptions for societal ills rather than the hot rhetoric that attracted more attention. Even in her concession speech she remained preternaturally optimistic and hopeful about our nation as she implored her supporters to “never stop believing that fighting for what’s right is worth it.”
Hillary Clinton and I envision the same America. An America wherein one’s success is a direct result of his or her hard work and where the barriers to greatness are torn down for all. An America that works hard to solve its problems, but never forgets its founding principles. An America that understands its strength is derived not from division or hate, but from unity and compassion.
As we move forward into uncertain times, I, like my grandmother, wish our new President-elect all the best, for as he goes, so do we. But I will never stop believing in the scripture Hillary quoted in her concession speech: “Let us not grow weary in doing good, for in due season, we shall reap if we do not lose heart.” Hillary never lost her heart, and neither should we.