I broke my foot in September. It's been painful and slow to heal. The only good to come of it happened on Thursday, January 7 when my broken foot afforded me a brief conversation with President Bill Clinton.
Because of my foot, I was ushered to a chair in the front row of the ADA seating section at the Hotel Julien in Dubuque. This auspicious seat gave me the opportunity to move easily to the barrier when Clinton finished his speech and stepped down from the platform to greet the people. Although the barrier had a rail for me to rest my foot, I was uncomfortably crushed by an avalanche of people behind me also wanting to meet the former President. Multiple times I considered relinquishing my spot. But like hundreds of others, I was drawn to speak to him. It wasn't his celebrity that drew me. I was moved by his words, and I wanted to thank him. When he finally got to me, he took my outstretched hand and we made eye contact. I said, "Thank you for telling us who Hillary really is. It's so important, and only you can do this." Pausing and taking a step toward me, he said, "It really makes a difference, don't you think?" "Totally!" I exclaimed.
Many deem Bill Clinton to be one of the greatest political speakers of all time. It's because he connects with his audience. Clinton began his January 7 speech by making a connection with an individual and expanding his connection to the whole state of Iowa. First, he recognized the Ukrainian heritage of the man who introduced him, acknowledging that most of "our people" have come from someplace else. He reminded us that we are, most of us, children of immigrants. Then he quipped about the Hotel Julien at one time being owned by mobster, Al Capone, bringing laughter into the room; he mentioned a speech given in Dubuque by President Franklin Roosevelt; and he praised Iowa for its leadership in the production of wind power.
Half-way through, Clinton took off his glasses. Presumably, he could no longer see the teleprompter containing the words of his official speech, and he proceeded to speak from his heart. This is when he told us who Hillary Clinton really is -- as only someone who has known her for 45 years could do.
Hillary is someone who sees people's needs and does something to make a positive difference in their lives. Accordingly, as a young lawyer in Arkansas she started a legal aid program; at the Children's Defense Fund and as First Lady in Arkansas, she developed programs to protect and educate children; as First Lady during Bill Clinton's presidency she uncovered the humanity of contentious Republican leader, Tom Delay, and together they co-created legislation regarding foster care/adoption; as Senator of New York, she devoted her energy to caring responsibly for the survivors and families of victims of 911; as Secretary of State, she skillfully guided China and Russia to common ground. "Even I didn't think she could do that," Bill Clinton said of the this historic agreement.
After sharing each of these accounts from Hillary's life, Bill concluded with a variation of this powerful, factual refrain: "Hillary makes good things happen."
Many of these good things that Hillary has made happen remain an unnoticed part of her record. After Bill Clinton spoke in Texas earlier in January, 2016, one paper offered this headline regarding Hillary's past accomplishments: "Who Knew?"
I felt it was important to thank President Clinton for sharing these unnoticed accounts of Hillary's enduring commitment to serving Americans, because they go deeper than her qualifications for the job of president, deeper even than her campaign promises of what she will do. These accounts demonstrate her efforts -- over a lifetime -- to work effectively on behalf of the American people, often vulnerable people.
Sadly, Hillary can't, in her own voice, fervently proclaim the accounts of her bulging portfolio of good things...because doing so, as a woman, she will risk being labeled as arrogant. It's already happening, even without her dwelling on the meaningful, life-changing contributions from her past. Several women in Dubuque have told me they don't like Hillary because of her personality. "She's so arrogant," they said. This is sexism, folks. Hillary Clinton is intelligent and accomplished. Any man revealing similar accomplishments would be considered competent and confident. A woman is judged as arrogant.
The lingering effects of sexism in our country are also showing up in other ways in this campaign. News reports of the Iowa polls on January 12 indicate that more than 60% of male Iowa democrats support Bernie Sanders. Seriously? Are the Iowa men really THAT liberal? Or are these liberal men having a hard time (perhaps unconsciously) relinquishing their position of privilege and accepting that a woman is the best candidate for our next president?
The local newspaper's coverage of Bill Clinton's speech in Dubuque raised another aggravating issue regarding political campaigns. When there was so much to say about the Clintons, the reporter wasted too many words on Donald Trump's effort to dredge up ancient scandals in an effort to denigrate Hillary's campaign. I just can't understand why we, as a society, have to keep humiliating these people by bringing up past mistakes that are no longer even remotely relevant to anything that is happening now. Trump did the original humiliating, but why does the Media make this into news?
Maybe readers will be equally fascinated to know another fact about Bill Clinton's past (equally irrelevant to the present, but infinitely more interesting - in my opinion). Due to my front row view, I can reveal a way that Bill Clinton continues to represent his Arkansas roots. He was wearing cowboy boots!
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