Why I’m With Her — and What Comes Next

In 2003, I went to Washington, D.C. on a school trip. The mandate of “Washington Seminar” was to come face-to-face with politicians, staffers, and journalists doing the day-to-day work of making and reporting on policy. As liberal New York City teenagers visiting Bush Administration officials, we were riled up and ready to fight.

What we found was a city full of competent, passionate people — even those arguing, against us, for federally-funded faith-based rehabilitation programs or for more aggressive intervention in the Middle East. I don’t remember most of the individual meetings that well, but I remember the feeling of earnest, articulate experts at work.

There was only one moment that I recall with total vividness, because there was only one moment that changed my life.

It was the moment — on a crisp spring day on the Capitol steps — that we met our senator, Hillary Clinton.

Hillary Clinton addressing the Hunter College High School Washington Seminar trip, 2003

Hillary Clinton addressing the Hunter College High School Washington Seminar trip, 2003

I remember looking up at her as she stood in front of us, totally in awe. She talked to us about her dream of universal health care coverage for all Americans. She’d been fighting for that since she was First Lady; “Hillarycare” didn’t happen, but CHIP did, and it covered millions more children. I thought: this woman has complete mastery of these issues, unrivaled knowledge of the intricacies of policy, unflagging passion proved over decades of work, and a clear and inclusive vision for the country.

After the D.C. trip, my political views came more into line with Hillary’s. My 2004 senior yearbook quote was from Ayn Rand (!), but then I grew up — my eyes opened to the entrenched disenfranchisement, discrimination, and disadvantage that complicate a high schooler’s libertarian fantasy. As I got to know her better, I came to appreciate even more Hillary’s particular resilience, diligence, and idealism.

I was thrilled to be amongst the crush of New Yorkers who helped her sail to reelection to the Senate in 2006, and it was an easy choice to back her in the 2008 presidential primary. Sure, lots of my friends were getting fired up by the young orator from Illinois, but I was all-in with the history-maker who personified diligent hard work, lifelong progressive passion, and grace under pressure.

She fell short, but her dignity in defeat, and her commitment to making the Obama administration a success — and rehabilitating America’s image abroad — only increased my admiration.

One moment from that period stands out: watching Hillary give a speech to a room full of world leaders in Geneva, many of them antagonistic, saying that gay rights are human rights, I wept. The secretary of state of the most powerful nation on earth was, full-throated, demanding that all the nations of the world recognize the equal humanity of LGBT people.

This is a country where we could be arrested for having homosexual sex in the privacy of our own homes until 2003. 2003! That was the year I’d gone to DC and seen Hillary up close. And now, not even a decade later, this badass woman, who had traveled the world — negotiating peace, standing up for women, and staring down antagonistic leaders — was speaking up for my equality, too.

I’ve felt that awe and uplift all the time listening to Hillary over the years. Her commitment to fostering economic growth, equality, and opportunity; her passion for protecting and expanding the rights of women, children, working families, and LGBT Americans; her vigor in addressing racial discrimination in criminal justice, healthcare, and housing; her steadfast commitment to America as a force for good, peace, and prosperity abroad — in all of this, she is, more than anyone else I know, doing the work to make the world into what I wish it were.

When Hillary announced her 2016 run last year, I knew I’d do all I could to call her Madam President. I had dropped out of a PhD program to launch a tech start-up that had grown to a dozen employees and hundreds of customers nationwide; my plate was full, but with Hillary in the race my spare time was spoken for.

And my friends felt the same way. Even as millennials were flocking to Bernie Sanders, we were heading to the phone banks and canvassing on the streets to tell primary voters we were #WithHer — and when it came to donating, we were giving all we could spare (and buying up all the swag we could afford).

When the campaign asked me to participate in a debate between millennial supporters of Hillary and Bernie in advance of the April NY primary, I was honored to have a chance to put my mouth where my money was, and to tell people outside of my social media channels how much I admire the most admired woman in the world.

CBS Radio debate, April 2016

CBS Radio debate, April 2016

Friends quit jobs to join the campaign, others got on buses on weekends to canvass in battleground states, and we held fundraisers to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for the nominee. We cheered and wept together watching the convention; we clenched each other’s hands and texted each other with relief (and disbelief) after the debates. We found each other in Pantsuit Nation, took our full hearts and our readiness to make history to the voting booth, and huddled together in in Javits Center security line on November 8th so we could be together when the confetti dropped — sixty million pieces and 240 years of glass ceiling, finally shattered.

When interviewed by Glenn Thrush in March — when the primary fight was at its most fervid — Jill Abramson said something that really stuck with me: “You know, young people want to be excited. They want to feel the way I did about Bobby Kennedy when I was in junior high school. They want to fall in love, and feel…not only that they want to change the world but that they can.” She was describing how many young people felt about Hillary’s challenger, but she couldn’t have put into words better my own feelings about Hillary Clinton, the woman I was thrilled would be our 45th president.

But the election didn’t turn out how we wanted, and the stakes of the outcome couldn’t be higher.

As usual, we took our cues from her. In her concession speech, she said:

Our constitutional democracy enshrines the peaceful transfer of power.

We don’t just respect that. We cherish it. It also enshrines the rule of law; the principle we are all equal in rights and dignity; freedom of worship and expression. We respect and cherish these values, too, and we must defend them.

Let me add: Our constitutional democracy demands our participation, not just every four years, but all the time. So let’s do all we can to keep advancing the causes and values we all hold dear. Making our economy work for everyone, not just those at the top, protecting our country and protecting our planet.

…This loss hurts, but please never stop believing that fighting for what’s right is worth it.

It is, it is worth it.

…I count my blessings every single day that I am an American, and I still believe, as deeply as I ever have, that if we stand together and work together with respect for our differences, strengthen our convictions, and love for this nation, our best days are still ahead of us.

Because, you know, I believe we are stronger together and we will go forward together. And you should never, ever regret fighting for that. You know, scripture tells us, let us not grow weary of doing good, for in good season we shall reap. My friends, let us have faith in each other, let us not grow weary and lose heart, for there are more seasons to come and there is more work to do.

The work to do is more pressing than ever, and as our shock turns to resolve and our mourning turns to motivation, we must come together to plan — to devise a strategy and then mobilize to make it happen.

That’s what this blog is meant to be.

It is not about Hillary Clinton — though I continue to draw strength from her strength and hopefulness from her hopefulness.

I tell my story of passion for Hillary as merely a starting point, because what Jill Abramson said, Hillary has proven to me: Not only do we want to change the world — we can.

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