Hillary Accepts

hillary clinton curvemag

240 years after the Declaration, women are finally included.

Hillary Clinton had been speaking for about 20 minutes before she said what tens of thousands of us at the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia – delegates, politicians, friends, family, colleagues, press – were waiting to hear: “And so it is with humility, determination and boundless confidence in America’s promise that I accept your nomination for President of the United States!”

The roar that went up from the floor to the nosebleed seats ricocheted through the room. Delegates pumped Hillary signs from the floor. A small phalanx of Bernie Sanders supporters dressed in yellow-green day-glo T-shirts attempted to boo from the California delegation but were drowned out by the raucous chants of Hillary! Hillary!

It was a moment in American history that those of us in attendance will never forget. On the 240th anniversary of the founding of this country, the first woman became the nominee of a major political party – the oldest political party in America. The party of Thomas Jefferson, Franklin D. Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson and Barack Obama. The party that has created the most change in American history. The party that now breaks a new barrier by electing the first woman as its nominee. The party that ushered in nearly all of the major achievements and changes in this country’s history.

It could have stopped there – her speech. We could have just gone on to party hard. But there was work to do – a plan to lay out, a message to deliver. A case to be made about how a woman could be the commander in chief in a country which this election cycle has proven to be extraordinarily misogynist.

The previous night all the heavy-hitters had been out: Vice-President Biden, vice-presidential nominee Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) and President Obama. The Mothers of the Movement – black women who have lost children to police violence – had spoken earlier in the night, including Geneva Reed-Veal, the mother of Sandra Bland. Former NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg had offered some brutal Borscht Belt-style one-liners knocking Donald Trump. He had appeared as the voice for Independent voters, saying defeating Trump was an issue beyond party loyalties because Trump is a “dangerous demagogue” and a “con man” who must be stopped. Bloomberg – a self-made billionaire businessman – said, “Trump says he wants to run America like he runs his businesses. God help us!”

Kaine, who is fluent in Spanish, spoke in both English and Spanish to a crowd that was thrilled to have the inclusion of their first language. Kaine accepted the nomination for Clinton’s vice-presidential pick and silenced any critics of Clinton’s trustworthiness by saying he and his wife trusted her with their Marine son’s life. Biden, who is known for his plain-talking, Uncle Joe POV, both lauded Clinton and slammed Trump and used his trademark term “malarkey” to describe Trump’s view of the economy.

But it was President Obama who owned the night with his 46 minute speech that covered the state of the union, his eight years in office and his deep fondness and respect for Hillary Clinton. He took credit for the work he’s done, including two signatures that will forever be associated with him and his administration: marriage equality and the Affordable Care Act.

Obama detailed how he and Clinton had gone from being adversaries vying for the 2008 nomination to colleagues to good friends. “Let me tell you, eight years ago, you may remember Hillary and I were rivals for the Democratic nomination. We battled for a year-and- a-half. Let me tell you, it was tough because Hillary was tough. I was worn out.”

The room erupted in laughter. “She was doing everything I was doing, but just like Ginger Rogers it was backwards in heels.”

Obama made the clear case for Clinton as president. Not just to represent what the Republicans have claimed would be a third Obama term, but her own distinctive voice and most of all, her long history of public service.

Obama noted Clinton’s tenacity and work ethic propel and impel her. “For four years, for four years, I had a front-row seat to her intelligence, her judgment and her discipline. I came to realize that her unbelievable work ethic wasn’t for praise, it wasn’t for attention, that she was in this for everyone who needs a champion. I understood that after all these years, she has never forgotten just who she’s fighting for. Hillary’s still got the tenacity that she had as a young woman working at the Children’s Defense Fund, going door to door to ultimately make sure kids with disabilities could get a quality education.”

The picture that emerged from Obama’s speech was of a woman driven by the needs of others – be it a young girl in a wheelchair on a porch in Massachusetts who wanted desperately to go to school or the New York senator who held the hands of 9/11 survivors as they recovered from their injuries or America’s first black president who needed her to go around the world and fix the impression other nations had been given by the previous administration.

Obama described her tenacity, something many of us have witnessed but found hard to imagine, given the attacks she’s weathered on her work, her character, even her looks. Obama asserted, “Even in the midst of crisis, she listens to people and she keeps her cool and she treats everybody with respect. And no matter how daunting the odds, no matter how much people try to knock her down, she never, ever quits.”

Then he made the most important endorsement of the night: “That’s the Hillary I know. That’s the Hillary I’ve come to admire. And that’s why I can say with confidence there has never been a man or a woman, not me, not Bill, nobody more qualified than Hillary Clinton to serve as president of the United States of America.”

The President reminded people that globally, nations fear a Trump presidency while many remember the Secretary of State who sat and listened and made them feel safe with America. “People outside of the United States do not understand what’s going on in this election, they really don’t,” Obama told a cheering crowd. “Because they know Hillary, they’ve seen her work. She’s worked closely with our intelligence teams, our diplomats, our military. And she has the judgment and the experience and the temperament to meet the threat from terrorism. It’s not new to her. Our troops have pounded ISIL without mercy, taking out their leaders, taking back territory. And I know Hillary won’t relent until ISIL is destroyed. She will finish the job and she’ll do it without resorting to torture or banning entire religions from entering our country. She is fit and she is ready to be the next commander in chief.”

Speaking to the constant criticism Clinton has received that study after study has shown is far more negative than male candidates, Obama said, “Look, Hillary’s got her share of critics. She has been caricatured by the right and by some on the left. She has been accused of everything you can imagine and some things that you cannot.”

But, the President said, “That’s what happens when you’re the kind of citizen Teddy Roosevelt once described, not the timid souls who criticize from the sidelines, but someone ‘who is actually in the arena, who strives valiantly, who errs, but who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement.’ Hillary Clinton is that woman in the arena. She’s been there for us, even if we haven’t always noticed.”

Even if we haven’t always noticed.

That was the single most impactful statement – a reminder that, as speaker after speaker had noted – Hillary Clinton works behind the scenes to get things done. She doesn’t broadcast her achievements, but they are manifold and important and they have changed literally millions of lives – especially the lives of women and children. Between her finding a way to mainstream disabled children into public schools to her creation of CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Program) to her groundbreaking statements on the rights of women and LGBT people, Clinton has altered millions of lives.

In closing, Obama repeated that we cannot do the work of a nation singlehandedly – we need that village a younger Clinton wrote about in her award-winning book. “Hillary Clinton understands. This fighter, this stateswoman, this mother and grandmother, this public servant, this patriot, that’s the America she’s fighting for….Elect Hillary Clinton as the next president of the United States and show the world we still believe in the promise of this great nation.”

Obama’s speech was the pure oratory for which he’s been known throughout his career. It was moving, forceful, at times funny, at times bringing all of us to tears. It was a message about his time as president and a message about who he feels safe to pass the office of president on to.

At one point in the speech people were booing Trump and he said, “Don’t boo, vote.”

At the end of his speech Clinton appeared—a surprise entrance—to thank him. And as they hugged and held hands, it was a vision of an America none of us saw reflected at the Republican National Convention last week in Cleveland. I am old enough to remember how scandalous it was to show interracial anything on TV. But over those 50 years between my childhood and now, the nation has moved forward so much that the two people standing on stage were the first black president of the country and the first female nominee.

And in that moment, as the cheers just kept coming and the applause fairly shook the place, I saw the tectonic shift this country has gone through in the past half century, as I noted on Twitter.

That shift was apparent throughout the final night of the convention as the tension built for the only speech we really wanted to hear: Hillary Clinton’s.

She chose white. The pantsuit queen who has some striking drama in her wardrobe, including leather, chose white.

The color of the suffragists.

A nod to history. Her daughter, Chelsea, who introduced her, wore red. Michelle Obama had worn blue. The colors of the flag were complete.

Chelsea Clinton is not a public speaker, despite having been in the public eye throughout her life. But she gave a poised and tender speech about her mother, a woman she clearly admires in both a deeply personal way as her mother and a more abstract way as the public servant.

As I was watching her – she’d given birth to her second child a mere five weeks ago – I was reminded of Michelle Obama saying Hillary had raised Chelsea “to perfection.”

Chelsea did indeed seem perfect.

She reminded people that she had grown up in the public eye and with a mother who was often traveling in her role as First Lady. She said, “Whenever my mom was away for work… she left notes for me to open for each day she was gone. I treasured each and every one of those notes. They were another reminder that I was always in her thoughts and in her heart.”

A simple anecdote that was an entree into the personal Hillary we rarely glimpse.

She said, “That’s who my mom is. She’s a listener and a doer. She’s a woman driven by compassion, by faith, by a fierce sense of justice and a heart full of love. So, this November, I’m voting for a woman who is my role model, as a mother, and as an advocate. A woman who has spent her entire life fighting for families and children. I’m voting for the progressive, who will protect our planet from climate change and our communities from gun violence. Who will reform our criminal justice system, and who knows that women’s rights are human rights. And who knows, that LGBT rights, are human rights.”

When Hillary walked out and embraced her daughter, there was a feeling of mutual love and pride in the room. What an extraordinary moment for feminism – these two women on stage in the biggest political arena in the world.

Clinton’s speech was long and detailed. It was at times emotional, at times funny. It was – as we have come to expect – wonky as hell. Where POTUS had said Trump was short on facts, Clinton is loaded with them. Facts are her bailiwick. As Kaine said on Wednesday night, Trump has no plans, but you can click on Hillary Clinton’s platform at any time.

Clinton addressed everything from her life-long battles for various rights–the rights of children, of women, of the disabled, of 9/11 victims and their families. She addressed the battle against ISIS. She addressed racism and how it has gut-punched America. She addressed the relentless fight to gain equality that women have been battling her and our whole lives.

She thanked her family and President Obama, VP Biden, Michelle Obama and Tim Kaine. She paid special attention to her only rival for the nomination, Bernie Sanders, and his supporters, a handful of whom were outside the hall protesting his not being the nominee, even though she won by over four million votes and more than 1,000 delegates.

Clinton said, “I want to thank Bernie Sanders. Bernie, your campaign inspired millions of Americans, particularly the young people who threw their hearts and souls into our primary. You’ve put economic and social justice issues front and center, where they belong.”

Chants of Bernie! Bernie! went up in the crowd. Then she continued, “And to all of your supporters here and around the country: I want you to know, I’ve heard you. Your cause is our cause. Our country needs your ideas, energy, and passion. That’s the only way we can turn our progressive platform into real change for America. We wrote it together – now let’s go out there and make it happen together.”

Throughout the primary Clinton’s generosity toward both Sanders and his supporters has often been rebuffed, but it has been reflective of her stateswomanship. This is someone who knows you bring your competitors close – you don’t shut them out. Like Obama, she believes in a team of rivals.

I expect Sanders will have some place in a Clinton Administration, perhaps related to the college issues they have both discussed throughout the campaign.

Clinton was harsh on Trump, who just the day before had called on the Russian government, which has been implicated in the recent hacking of the computer files of the Democratic National Committee, to hack Clinton. It was an outrageous statement which Obama had referenced in his speech.

One of Clinton’s most powerful and succinct lines about Trump rang scarily true to anyone who has followed Trump’s midnight rants on Twitter. She said, “A man we can bait with a tweet is not a man we can trust with nuclear weapons.”

She said, “Our country’s motto is e pluribus unum: out of many, we are one. Will we stay true to that motto? Well, we heard Donald Trump’s answer last week at his convention. He wants to divide us – from the rest of the world, and from each other.”

Clinton’s motto is “Stronger together,” and she continually invoked it. She said, “Freedom and equality, justice and opportunity. We should be so proud that these words are associated with us. I have to tell you, as your Secretary of State, I went to 112 countries, and when people hear those words – they hear America. So don’t let anyone tell you that our country is weak. We’re not. Don’t let anyone tell you we don’t have what it takes. We do. And most of all, don’t believe anyone who says: ‘I alone can fix it.’” As Trump had said in Cleveland.

Like Obama, Clinton reminded people of the historic place the DNC was being held: Philadelphia, the nation’s first capital, the place where the country as we know it was founded, where it broke free of British rule and where, 240 years ago, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were written.

Clinton said, “Remember: Our Founders fought a revolution and wrote a Constitution so America would never be a nation where one person had all the power. Two hundred and forty years later, we still put our faith in each other.”

She enumerated the ways in which we needed to rely on one another and then she said, “America needs every one of us to lend our energy, our talents, our ambition to making our nation better and stronger. I believe that with all my heart. That’s why “Stronger Together” is not just a lesson from our history. It’s not just a slogan for our campaign. It’s a guiding principle for the country we’ve always been and the future we’re going to build.”

Clinton laid out plan after plan, and then said if people wanted the things she was fighting for, then they should vote for her. “If you want to protect a woman’s right to make her own health care decisions… join us. And yes, if you believe that your working mother, wife, sister, or daughter deserves equal pay… join us… Let’s make sure this economy works for everyone, not just those at the top. Now, you didn’t hear any of this from Donald Trump at his convention. He spoke for 70-odd minutes – and I do mean odd. And he offered zero solutions. But we already know he doesn’t believe these things. No wonder he doesn’t like talking about his plans. You might have noticed, I love talking about mine.”

There was no one left out of her speech. She touched everyone – addressing all the current fights for equality and dignity and a future we can believe in and trust. In the end she said, “That’s why we’re here…not just in this hall, but on this Earth. The Founders showed us that. And so have many others since. They were drawn together by love of country and the selfless passion to build something better for all who follow. That is the story of America. And we begin a new chapter tonight. Yes, the world is watching what we do. Yes, America’s destiny is ours to choose. So let’s be stronger together, my fellow Americans. Let’s look to the future with courage and confidence. Let’s build a better tomorrow for our beloved children and our beloved country. And when we do, America will be greater than ever.”

And then it was over. The hall erupted with cheers and tears and a near-deafening applause, and about a trillion balloons, red and white for the stripes of the flag and blue with stars for the field of states. It was difficult to imagine we wouldn’t be reprising this in November. Her speech was so full of passion and determination and all those things Obama had said about her on Wednesday night and Michelle Obama and Bill Clinton had said about her on the previous nights.

Hillary Clinton is a stronger, more determined candidate than she was in 2008. She is seasoned by yet another round of public service. And her dedication to both country and to individual people came through over the past four days. This was a convention about not just Hillary Clinton, but the direction America needs to take. We are on a journey – things are changing rapidly on a near daily basis and we have to be able to meet the challenges before us.

Hillary Clinton seems utterly prepared for those challenges. Most importantly, she wants to include all of us in that journey, that next step toward a more perfect union, toward a nation indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

History was made again and we made it collectively. While many felt the Bern, it was the diverse voters who are most often marginalized but who also most accurately reflect America who voted overwhelmingly for Clinton – women of all races, men of color, immigrants, LGBT.

As we sat in that hall – the thousands of us sweltering in the July heat wave much like our forebears had – we saw the evolution of a candidate to a nominee. This is a woman who has been tested and tested again. She is, as Obama said on Wednesday night, ready on Day One.

And now that the conventions are over, the general election and all it portends begins. The real battle for the heart and soul of America.