Tuesday, November 08, 2016

My persuasion can build a nation

Last night I was lying in bed watching President Obama's speech in Philadelphia - his last campaign speech of the election cycle. As ever, he was eloquent and inspiring. And as he spoke, I felt this well of emotion and I started to cry.

First I thought back to his final campaign speech of the 2008 election, which was delivered the day his grandmother died on the day before the election. I remember crying then at the enormity of what was about to happen but also with sadness at the fact that the woman who raised him, who was smart and capable but whose career bumped up against a glass ceiling, would never get to see her grandson elected as the first black president of this country.

I thought with wonder about the world my children were born into - during the administration of the first black president, and now about to witness the election of the first female president. I was talking with Zeke on the phone this morning as I walked to work and remarked on how incredible it was that he and Josie were born in a time when barriers to success are increasingly falling. That you can achieve what you are willing and able to work for, no matter what color you are, no matter whether you're a man or a woman.

"It's like in the movie Zootopia!" he said.

Yes, like Zootopia.

I thought about how when my dad went to the University of Virginia, women weren't allowed to attend, except in the nursing school. How when my mom was in law school in the mid-60s, the few women in the class were criticized because they were taking up spots that should have gone to men.

I thought about the number of times men who didn't know me have defined and reduced me because I am a woman, whether in the form of a "nice tits" comment muttered under their breath as they passed me on the street, or in the form of an assumption when they walked into the law firm conference room that I was a secretary rather than a lawyer.

I thought about women throughout history - and still today - who live their lives waiting to be noticed by men, their validation and self-worth intrinsically wrapped up in the male attention they receive rather than in their own strengths and accomplishments. Believing, like the proverbial tree in the forest, that if they aren't coupled up, if they aren't singled out by a man, they don't really exist.

All of those thoughts flooded over me and I bawled.

My friend Ali added me to the Pantsuit Nation Facebook group last week, and it has been moving and inspiring and wonderful to read the posts of men and women from all over the country - straight, gay, transgender, black, white, Asian, Hispanic, Jewish, Muslim, Catholic, Protestant, immigrants, blue dog Democrats and registered Republican - giving their heartfelt testimonials about what it means to them to vote for Hillary Clinton in this election. Men who are proud feminists. Women voting for her in secret because their husbands wouldn't approve. People who were bullied at the polls, or who stood in line for 4 hours to cast their votes. Women who were born before women had the right to vote, and who now rejoice at being able to cast their ballot for a woman. In a political season characterized by hate and intolerance and polarization and negativity, the Pantsuit Nation page is a bastion of encouragement and love and inclusiveness. It represents the best of America.

I'm watching the news footage of long lines of women waiting to put their "I voted" sticker on the grave of Susan B. Anthony, and it makes me choke up all over again.

I am an intensely patriotic person. This country is flawed and messy, but I believe so strongly in the ideals and principles on which it was founded. And yes, our political system is frustrating and this election season has been exhausting, but today I could barely contain my excitement as I put on my Notorious RBG t-shirt (I don't have a Hillary shirt, but RBG is a badass woman, so it felt appropriate) under my pantsuit, which I will wear as I do some final election day canvassing later this afternoon.

Today is a great day.

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