Hillary Rodham Clinton’s speech to accept her party’s presidential nomination marked the end of this year’s often contentious and often inspiring Democratic National Convention. Many promises were made and a lot of our concerns that were missing from the RNC actually got mentioned. Now that there’s been some time to process Clinton’s words at the DNC, we reached out to some people whose thoughts we respect to get their reaction.
Joanna Demkiewicz, co-founder of The Riveter magazine
I watched every night of the DNC, not in full, but I tried to watch as much as possible. The rest I caught up on via Twitter. I have to admit that I’ve been a lot more emotional about this election than I expected. I mean, holy fucking shit, we finally nominated a woman to run for president in a major running party. In 2016. My niece gets to take that for granted (she’s four). My mom was born only five years after the FDA approved birth control pills in 1960, which blows my mind. When I was growing up, I took birth control for granted. My grandma also grew up during a time when women were expected to become a nurse, a teacher, or a mother, and not much else. When I was growing up, I took for granted that I could choose to pursue a career in science, or law enforcement, or sports medicine (although I understand these careers are still heavily male-dominated).
I remember when Hillary ran against Barack in 2008—I was 18 at the time—and my mom was enthusiastically caucusing for Hillary. My mom and I butted heads a lot back then, and this was no exception. I remember arguing with her about choosing Hillary, as I was a Barack fan, and she would respond, “I want Hillary because she’s a woman!” I remember telling her that that wasn’t enough, and I hate that I so aggressively countered, essentially, with, “Don’t play the woman card.” I don’t think I understood the gravity then, nor the fact that Hillary’s resumé and experience in public service are unassailable, and for many male politicians, untouchable.
I only bring this up because it’s an anecdote I recalled during Hillary’s speech, when she referenced Trump’s “playing the woman card” comment and countered with: “If fighting for women’s healthcare and paid family leave and equal pay is playing the woman card, then deal me in.” I think this is the most brilliant way to address anyone in America who is concerned about gender and power. It is a pointed comment, a deliberate and concise one, one that shows how clearly “women’s issues” influence everyone. Then, she moved on. She mentioned science and climate change, that almost never happens. She mentioned LGBTQ rights. She mentioned disability rights. She mentioned Bernie by name multiple times, and I believe she was genuine when giving him credit for bringing social justice and economic issues to the forefront, and I hope to god that Bernie supporters hear her. I hope they are able to make it to their community voting station, and I hope they vote for her.
Abstaining from this election is a very dangerous, self-righteous choice. For any Democrat who is displeased with Hillary, I hope that you are fearful enough of the alternative to swallow your pride. I hope, also, you understand the complexity of being a woman in the public eye and how often the bullshit “likability” argument is plastered to a woman—if we can’t outwardly sexualize her, let’s talk about whether she is “likable,” which is a facet of sexualization. Hillary has always been at a disadvantage because of this, beginning even in 1979, when she was a governor’s wife. I spoke with some colleagues about the speech who said they were nervous that she wouldn’t be likable before she walked onstage. I did not have the same fear. I think that worry is a distraction, a mask, a blurring vehicle, another way to avoid what is actually being said.
I reread the speech transcript, and admit that a lot was said—a lot of promises were made by Hillary. And I understand that, if she makes it into office, there will be many forces that make some of these promises difficult to fulfill. What’s more important to me is how clearly she spoke about unity: “I will be a President for Democrats, Republicans, and Independents. For the struggling, the striving and the successful. For those who vote for me and those who don’t.” This message is crucial, in my opinion, as our country is littered with immovable wedges everywhere: gun politics, race, education, immigration. If anything makes me proud to be an American (without getting too philosophical or nationalistic), it’s the idea that unity is central to our identity, that when you’re fucked up, you can count on programs, laws, organizations, representatives, communities, or neighbors to lift you—even if this, in many cases, is just an “idea” and not fully imagined (i.e. the many problematic laws we have, and the many -isms that exist). Unity and lifting up the disadvantaged has been part of Hillary’s mission for years, and was at the core of her speech. That’s why I’m with her.
Nora Wessel, Harvard Business School Student
I watched the last night of the DNC on the couch in NYC with my two best friends from college. It was hot. And humid. Really hot and really humid. We were sweaty, our hair was frizzy, and we were rubbing ice cubes on the back of our necks. The cooling whirs of the window air unit drowned out the speakers’ voices so we stuck with the heat.
There was so much incredible stuff going on in Hillary Clinton’s speech: the rhetoric of an America we build together, lead together, and live in together. The patriotism. The inclusion. The love. A plan for overturning Citizens United, handling the TPP, climate change, education, gun control, you name it. It was a populist message of community that so starkly contrasted the “me, me, me” tone of Trump’s veritable circus last week. And it was a specific message of someone who clearly has the knowledge and experience to make policy decisions for us and our children, a point the DNC speakers hit many times.
I kept trying to think about what it would feel like to be in that gorgeous white pantsuit (very into her outfit) on that stage. What was she thinking? How did she feel? What is it like to be a WOMAN on that stage?
What really got me was Hillary quoting everyone’s favorite musical Hamilton towards the end of her speech: “We may not live to see the glory…let us gladly join the fight.”
The woman is strong. She is, beyond anything, a true fighter. She gladly joined the fight, and never stopped fighting for what she believes. Very few political figures have been through as much as she has, both in experience and in public scrutiny. As President Obama said, she’s more prepared to run the country than he or Bill was when they arrived in the White House. But beyond all the battles she’s waged to get to where she is today, the battle of doing this as a woman should not be taken for granted.
A few weeks ago I had lunch with a family friend and the election naturally came up. (Is there anything else to talk about?) The subject of Hillary’s likability and whether it matters that Hillary is a woman became the topic of conversation. We discussed how a lot of the rhetoric and polling sadly suggests young people, my generation in particular, don’t really care about Hillary’s gender. There’s a sentiment that “gender doesn’t matter” or that “we are beyond gender.” Our friend bluntly stared at me and then said something like, “Shame on anyone who doesn’t get why this matters. We fought with everything we had for this.” My mom has certainly said this to me as well.
The feeling of watching the first woman to win a major party’s nomination and the future president of the United States on stage was powerful.
I know Hillary “gets that some people don’t know what to make of her.” It was humbling when she told us.
But as I sat there, sweating in my friend’s apartment with one Bernie supporter and two Hillary supporters, it was incredibly clear what to make of her. And even more clear that her nomination means something to me as a woman. And watching her and her daughter stand on the stage, with her husband looking up, was a pretty special moment to witness.
Thank you Hillary for showing millions of women what your mom showed you, “When any barrier falls in America, for anyone, it clears the way for everyone.”