They put me in the lowest-level reading group in first grade. The next year, during a summer reading competition, I read 138 books - 101 more than 2nd place. I refused to let someone’s assessment of my abilities hold me back. My mom beamed proudly.
In the 4th grade, during Catholic school, I wrote a letter of support demanding that girls have the same right to be alter "boys", which was later granted at our church. My grandmother celebrated this victory by baking my favorite cake.
I got detention in 7th grade for challenging a priest in class when I openly disagreed with his pro-life stance. My female homeroom teacher slyly gave me a wink and smile while she was forced to document my “disobedience.”
In 8th grade, when male peers encouraged me to run for secretary positions, it was always the strong women in my life who whispered “or maybe the presidency?”
As an adult, it has always been women pushing and propelling me forward. They are the ones telling me to remove the words “I’m not ready” from my vocabulary. They have been the ones to email, call, or fly across the country to encourage, support, and inspire me to dare to the do the things I am the most scared to do.
Hillary, I share these anecdotes because throughout my life I have felt connected to you and your journey. I’ve read your books and followed your career. I loved you through the headbands and pantsuits. My heart ached for you though the Monica years. I saw how you managed the challenging double-bind of female leadership (too soft vs. too bitchy), decade after decade.
I am the same age as your daughter. I am aware that you have fought the good fight so that women of our generation do not have to manage the same battles that you and your generation did.
You are flawed like we all are and you have been publicly critiqued for every misstep. More significantly, you have been harshly criticized much more than any man would be simply because people are turned off by the audacity of your insistence that you belong in each and every space where men said you should not be.
You talk a lot about the importance of dreams and goals and you encourage people to unapologetically go after their dreams. I too have big plans for my future and you have provided the blueprint for how to get there - work hard, do your homework, over prepare, and exhibit grace when you win and when you lose. As the old saying goes, “fall seven times, get up eight.”
So my heart broke this week. For you, for me, for the women who have come before you and the ones that will follow. You have the lit the torch and carried it further than any other woman and you were stopped an inch before the finish line. What I can promise you is that the women of your daughter’s generation will take the torch that you have kept burning for decades and we will carry on your legacy of advocacy and relentless fight. We will not be deterred. We will be stronger together because you have shown us that grace wins over cruelty and we all win when we band together to lift and support each other in achieving our goals.
Your presidential run is over. But the race continues. Thank you for your leadership and legacy. Now we have the baton and will commit to shattering that last shred of the glass ceiling. I promise to work tirelessly on behalf of women and encourage women to find their greatness so that I may also whisper, or shout, to those women “or maybe the presidency?”