By: Paola Aguilar
The first time I heard your name, I was in the first grade and my mom was telling me that maybe someday I could be like you. At the age of 6, there was so much that I still didn’t know, but I knew that you were a person I could look up to. I always strived to be at the top of my class and didn’t let anyone tell me I couldn’t be. My peers called me bossy and teachers asked me to give other kids a chance to answer their questions. None of this fazed me. As soon as I knew who you were, I saw a successful woman who worked hard to fight for every American, every chance that she got. If you could do it, so can I.
When I was a senior in high school, I realized that my passion for social justice issues would best be utilized in public service. When I started my college career, I decided my major would be political science and since then, I wanted to become a United States Senator. If I didn’t know about you and other successful women in politics, I’m not sure that I would have known that I could have a career in politics. I am thankful that I had someone to look up to.
Ever since you lost the 2008 election, I was anxiously waiting for you to announce your second run for the presidency. When you announced your candidacy in April 2015, I cried out of joy and excitement. I completely fangirled with my best friends and we talked for hours about how great it would be when you were finally president. The thought of a female president was so realistic to me in that moment that I didn’t know what to do with myself.
Throughout your campaign, you faced criticisms left and right about just about everything but you never faltered. You stayed on message and kept working. You debated men who interrupted you, talked over you, and who even threw insults your way. You stayed calm, level-headed, and on message. You put up with what women have to cope with on a regular basis but you did it in the public eye and you did it with such grace.
Even in a red state like Idaho, I still carried my water bottle around campus that was covered in your campaign’s bumper stickers. I proudly wore my hat with the beautiful “H” logo your campaign used. I even saw Bill speak at a rally in Spokane on your behalf. I was proud to support you and everything that you stood for. I was so excited for my nieces and nephews to know a woman president and know that women can truly do anything they want to do.
On Election Day, I wore a white blazer in honor of our suffragettes and as the symbol of a great achievement toward gender equality that I hoped would happen that night. I spent the day phone banking, canvassing, talking to voters, and finally sat down and watched the results come in with my closest friends when the polls closed.
As the night went on, we all watched the television in despair as states that should have turned blue turned red; and the possibility of having our first woman president was shrinking. When the race was officially called, I was completely heartbroken to see that you had lost the race.
By the time I watched your concession speech the next morning, I was in need of some comfort. Something to tell me that everything was going to be okay. Something to tell me that all of my friends and family were going to be okay. So I watched you give possibly the best speech I’ve ever seen in the most peaceful and solemn tone. You weren’t angry like I was, your eyes weren’t swollen from crying all night like mine were, you were put together and you still gave me hope even when I was feeling completely hopeless. Just when I started to have think that I could never become President not just because of my gender but also because of my race, you said, “Never stop believing that fighting for what is right is worth it,” and that’s something I will never forget.
I thank you for giving me the inspiration to live my life the way that I want to regardless of what gender norms were being placed on me. Thank you for always fighting for what you believe in and showing me that I can do it too regardless of what anyone says to me. Thank you for never giving up and running for president a second time even when it would have been easy to settle for all of your accomplishments thus far, you still kept fighting. Thank you for being an example of grace even when you were up against the most explicitly misogynistic attacks. Thank you for standing up for minority communities and truly listening to us and our needs. Most of all, thank you for selflessly dedicating your life to helping others.
While your campaign may not have ended the way that so many of us wanted, I know that our fight for social justice is definitely not over. For me, you have given me so much hope, inspiration, and the belief that one day I will accomplish my dream of serving in the United States Senate and maybe even serve as president. It’s my hope that I won’t be the first to shatter the highest glass ceiling, but if I am, it’s because of the path that you and so many women before you have paved to the Oval Office.