The 20th Anniversary of My Off the Sidelines Moment

UNITED STATES - JANUARY 25:  Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has lunch wtih her replacement, the new Senator Kirsten Gilli
UNITED STATES - JANUARY 25: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has lunch wtih her replacement, the new Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, at Oscars Restaurant on 50th Street and Lexington Avenue (Photo by Enid Alvarez/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)

Think back to when you were a child and remember the sincere, optimistic answer you gave when asked, "What do you want to be when you grow up?"

Many of us had big ideas for the road ahead.

I was blessed to have been surrounded by strong, independent women. As an organizer in our state capital, my grandmother taught me the value women bring to politics. In raising our family while building her own career, my mother taught me the importance of not only finding balance, but bringing your unique perspective -- hers as a caretaker -- to bear in your work.

So when I declared, at the age of six or seven, that I wanted to be a U.S. Senator, it didn't strike me as anything but possible.

But like so many of us -- particularly women -- that confidence fell away as I grew older. When it came time to choose my career, I opted for a more conventional path: corporate law.

Fast forward many years later: I was working at a law firm in New York City, achieving professional success but feeling that something was missing. What was I contributing? Was I reaching my full potential?

These were the internal questions I struggled to answer when, in 1995, I heard First Lady Hillary Clinton give her iconic speech before the United Nations' Fourth World Conference on Women.

It was then that she proclaimed: "If there is one message that echoes forth from this conference, let it be that human rights are women's rights and women's rights are human rights, once and for all."

Hillary was brave to deliver that message from China, a nation where I had studied and knew had culturally devalued women and girls -- but her impact was more far reaching. She was speaking to each of us, to let us know we have a voice and we must raise it.

I decided that if I were truly going to make a difference in my community and on the issues I cared about, then I needed to become engaged in government.

I went to political events and raised money for candidates I believed in -- including Hillary when she ran for Senate. I started to think about how I might transition from my own career to public service, and in 2006, I ran for office myself.

This weekend marks the 20th anniversary of Hillary's history-making call to action, and the 20th anniversary of my off the sidelines moment. I will be forever grateful to her for her encouragement, and will continue to work to encourage women to become involved in the issues they care about.

So, now I want to hear from you. Tell me: what is your off the sidelines moment? Who has inspired you? What goal are you working toward and what inspired you to pursue it?