On 5 November 2016, I was filled with hope and enthusiasm for the days ahead. I was certain that on November 8, we’d be electing Hillary Clinton to be the next President of the United States – and our nation’s first woman president.
I baked cookies resembling Hillary’s campaign logo and sent a letter, along with a trunk-up (for good luck) stone elephant, to Hillary’s campaign offices in New York.
Then, the unthinkable happened: Donald Trump electorally won the presidency, despite Hillary earning nearly three million more votes.
I won’t lie, the sharpness of that defeat lingers – and I’m certain each one of us that worked on, believed in or gave to her campaign looks back and wonders about how much more could we have done, or what we could have done differently.
I know Hillary does.
I also know Trump’s victory isn’t without an asterisk: A foreign government (Russia) interfered in our election (against Hillary), James Comey – the FBI Director – inappropriately acted and mishandled the an investigation, we learned how easily liquefiable GOP spines are and how prevalent misogyny is – and we saw our media fail, by allowing Donald J. Trump (a known racist, xenophobe, misogynist and accused – and self-admitted – sexual predator) to be presented as Hillary’s equal.
When I think back to the 2016 election, I will always recall the shock, horror and disbelief. I will think about America’s (electoral) failure and I will always view it as the moment Hillary Clinton should have had.
I will always think about what I invested, and what Hillary’s campaign meant to me. I’ll think about the women in my life, Ruline, the celebratory letter I wrote (express shipped to arrive Nov. 8) and the cookies I baked.
But I’ll also remember Maryam.
Maryam was a campaign staffer based in New York. I received my first letter from her the week before Christmas. She told me of how the offices closed after the election, how the mail was divided and how my letter ended up in her willing hands.
Maryam shared with me how moved she was by my letter (her mom and grandma loved it, too). As I read her response, I wished so badly to read that letter again. I searched and searched and searched – but as luck would have it, I hadn’t saved it and a power outage reset my computer and it was gone – until my latest exchange with Maryam – in which she included a copy.
I welcome the opportunity to share this letter with you now, no matter how bittersweet it has since become. I hope you’ll gain insight into the campaign I recognized and the woman I truly believe in.
I hope you’ll see why I still presented those cookies on November 9 (and again at my Christmas party), rebranded as “Cookies of Compassion.” Hillary’s efforts have always been compassionate – and it’s that compassion that drew me to her campaign and candidacy and brought together two complete strangers about a thousand miles apart.
I’m still with her. Onward together!
5 November 2016
With deepest regards, I hope this letter finds you well and that your dance in the gleam of shattered glass is all you’d dreamed it would be. This is an unforgettable moment – one filled with hope – in our nation’s rich and storied history. I am confident in your ability and believe in your vision for our shared future – a future where corrosive divides begin healing, where equality is recognized, authenticity embraced and diversity celebrated.
People are people first – it’s a lesson I learned long ago and one I’m reminded of daily. I believe you share that sentiment. I think some people have gradually lost sight of this in the past two decades. The internet and social media offer anonymity, and while it may be a constructive and enriching tool, I believe it is far too-often used to promote intolerance, hate and fear.
It is my hope that we progress into a future where people meaningfully engage with one another and exchange ideas with civility. It is my hope that we stop seeing race, gender, sexuality or disability as defining characteristics. I hope for a future of inclusivity, compassion and freedom. I believe you are the change-maker, and I share your vision for a brighter tomorrow.
I stand with you.
There are many reasons why I believe in you, and your vision for America, but no reason is greater than this: I have long envisioned a world where women are viewed and treated as fundamentally equal. I was nine years old when you delivered your speech in Beijing, but life had already versed me (and would continue to verse me) in the inequity of women.
At the time, my parents were recently divorced. My mother (Beth) emerged from her decade-long struggle with domestic violence. I recall those oftentimes loud and frightening nights – nights my mother was a true-life hero to my sister, younger brother and me. No child should ever have to endure this violence, but far too many do – because women aren’t perceived as equal.
In our struggle to redefine our lives, women from my mother’s family filled in – it truly does “take a village.” While my mother worked two, even three, jobs to make ends meet (because a livable wage wasn’t available to a single mother), our lives were supplemented by my grandmother and aunt.
My grandmother (Sarah) taught children with developmental or physical disabilities for over twenty years with the Francis Howell School District. She loved her work, despite her minimal salary being just enough to get by. All she did for her students, she did for us. She encouraged hope, creativity, compassion and acceptance. She was a champion for our dreams and always prayed we’d smile and find joy in life. She protected us emotionally and enriched our lives with love (sadly, we lost her to cancer-related complications on September 11, 2007).
My aunt (Charlene) was, and remains, another vital part of our family. She showered us with love and distracted us with fun – oftentimes with trips to the St. Louis Zoo or to a place that no longer exists – a place once known as Twin Island Lakes. Throughout the most tumultuous time in my childhood – on the most violent evenings – she was our safe haven, a place where we could escape.
My aunt has used her life to save, or enrich, others. She worked as a first-responder (paramedic) on the streets of St. Louis before becoming the St. Louis Fire Department’s training officer. Since then, she has worked in college administration and as a paramedic instructor – all while battling against the systemic sexism present in male-dominated professions (I’m certain you identify).
What’s most troubling to me though is that my grandma earned so little, yet provided so much without ever wavering from her commitment. It’s disheartening that my mother couldn’t earn a livable wage from one employer and spent the years in between the divorce, and her two [successful] battles against cancer, away from us. It troubles me to have seen my aunt combat systemic sexism and insurance companies while battling lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.
This is not how we should treat women – our mothers, grandmothers and aunts – the women in my family taught me that, and shaped the man I am today. My vote for you was a vote to reject all of it. I truly believe in your message, that we are stronger together, and it is why I have been proud to be part of this historic campaign and moment.
This is for you. This is for them. This is for us. From the bottom of my heart – thank you. I believe in you, and I’m counting on you.