Born in Harlem, raised in Washington Heights, even though not living in New York today, at heart I am always a New Yorker. Having attended public schools, graduated CCNY, received a Masters from Baruch and taught elementary school in Harlem it is who I am. A political junkie since the age of nine handing out flyers for Adlai Stevenson; running a storefront for JFK in 1960; supporting Congressman William Fitz Ryan (D-NY), Robert Kennedy (D-NY), then Bella Abzug (D-NY) who I worked for.
My progressive activism is inherited from my mother, an immigrant from Austria from where she and my grandparents escaped Hitler. One of my childhood memories is my mom holding a fundraiser for an African American mother and her nine children being evicted from their home by Columbia University in Morningside Heights. I remember being so proud of my mom standing up to some of our neighbors who couldn't understand why she would do this saying, "Because it's the right thing to do". I imagine Chelsea thinking that way about some of the things Hillary did. I learned sticking to your principles was not only the right thing to do, often not easy, but in the end rewarding. I learned to respect people who not only spoke out, but acted on their principles. Those who learned to compromise not on principle but on the people you had to work with to get the results you wanted.
Very few have been able to do this successfully throughout their careers and none without being attacked for it. No one more successfully than Hillary Rodham Clinton who I first met in Little Rock in 1990. She had just championed education reform in Arkansas and keynoted an education conference I ran. She spoke from her heart about a lifelong passion she still fights for today; every child deserves an education that allows them to reach their God-given potential. It resonated with everyone lucky enough to hear her that day and every day she has said it since.
I have seen political courage working for a quintessential New Yorker Bella S. Abzug (D-NY) who helped found Women Strike for Peace against nuclear testing and the Vietnam war; led the women's rights movement along with Gloria Steinem and others; introduced the first civil and human rights bill for LGBT Americans; and fought for a mass-transit trade-in from the Highway Trust Fund, along with Ted Kennedy (D-MA), getting $800 million for New York mass transit and finally stopping the building of a new Westside Highway. A brilliant progressive firebrand who none-the-less was named a Whip by Speaker Tip O'Neill in maybe the most successful six year congressional career anyone ever had. She knew when to speak out and how to get along to move her agenda forward.
This same courage and understanding of how to get things done is what makes New Yorkers respect Hillary. She has shown it in her fights for children's rights, civil rights, the rights of women and the LGBT community, immigrants' rights, universal healthcare and the rights of everyone around the world to live in freedom. Her courage in Beijing in 1995 speaking truth to the power to the Chinese government in their own capital declaring to the world 'Women's rights are human rights and human rights a women's rights'. Doing it again in Geneva in 2011 when she said to the United Nations and the world 'Gay rights are human rights and human rights are gay rights'.
When Hillary announced she was running for the Senate in NY many were skeptical. I never was. Speaking out for her and supporting the campaign was exciting. Hillary did as she always has; met with people and listened to their needs and wants and won them over one at a time. My New York friends soon saw the woman I admired who worked harder and longer hours than anyone else. The woman who takes the time to understand people's problems, shares her principles and ideas with them, and then joins hands to get things done.
Hillary is so many things; a woman, a mother, a lawyer, an activist, a progressive, and now a grandmother. The first lady or Arkansas, the first lady of the United States, a Senator, and Secretary of State. No one in their right mind could suggest this woman isn't qualified and ready to take on any challenge including being president of the United States.
After 9/11 she fought for and secured the money to make New York whole again. She did so by joining with others and sharing her passion and showing compassion, and willingness to fight for what she knew was right. She fought for and won healthcare benefits for those brave first responders who were heroes that day and in the weeks following.
Whether it was her fight for women in Beijing in 1995; her fight after 9/11 for New Yorkers; Geneva in 2011 for the LGBT community; Hillary comes through for people and she always will. She may have been born in IL, and been first lady of Arkansas and the nation but when electing her and reelecting her as their Senator New Yorkers' understood she has the intelligence, courage, stamina and even the sometimes needed 'chutzpah' of a born and bred New Yorker.
On April 19th New Yorkers' have the chance to make Hillary Rodham Clinton the nominee of the Democratic Party. All of us New Yorkers, no matter where we live, whose hearts will always belong to New York, know they will do this resoundingly.