The Third Third

My Friend, Hillary

I’ve known Hillary Rodham Clinton since we were sophomores in college. And I like her. I think she’s nice. (Nice enough, for example, to invite my college-aged daughter to tea at the White House just because she and I had been interns in Washington when we were in college, too). I also think she’s brilliant. And infinitely well-qualified to be President of the United States. The surprise (to me) is that she’s had to wait so long. I have observed Hillary at work for more than 40 years, and I still marvel at her ability to grasp the core issues of a community and work within the system to address and resolve them. When we were in school, she cut her teeth on curfews and parietals, those quaint governors of young women’s behavior with individuals of the opposite sex, before moving on to civil rights (and the fact that our college had deemed only a mere handful of African-American students “qualified” for admission) and, finally, the Vietnam War. In each instance, through education and persuasion, she created a highly rational consensus among like-minded students and powerfully and effectively articulated it to the administration, with which she then negotiated what we at the time considered radical change, without resorting to radical behavior. She is better known for her confrontational speech at our commencement, but it is this more difficult – and more sophisticated -- understanding of whom she’s working with, what she’s working for, and how to achieve it, that impressed me. And impresses me still. She did the same thing to get elected – and overwhelmingly re-elected -- in New York. She cared enough to learn about her constituents and she worked hard to serve them well. This consistency of service, of a powerful understanding that is both intellectual and personal, combined with her lifelong commitment to justice for all (and all the extra work required to make that true for the least among us, including children, women, minorities, the underserved, and the poor) is what inspires me to hope for positive change in our country if we elect Hillary Clinton President. I understand that Hillary is not the perfect candidate. Poor thing. She’s been retooled as often as her speeches – and still she isn’t – and they aren’t -- beautiful enough. She also made a costly miscalculation on health care reform at the beginning of her tenure as First Lady. But, hey, she grasped the need and she took it on – and think how much she learned for this next time. And, finally, there’s her husband’s very public indiscretion – but even that she handled with generous dignity. What counts for me is Hillary’s intelligence, her diligence, her deep commitment to Democratic values, her respected stature in the world and all the potential that represents for reversing the economic, global, political, military, and moral decline George W. Bush has presided over these past seven years. I know what Hillary can do. I’m gratified she wants to do it after all she has been through. I’m furious (if you really want to know) that she’s being upstaged by a campaign of celebrity (Oprah, anyone?) and that it doesn’t seem to matter that Senator Obama’s sole political accomplishment to date has been to get himself elected to the Illinois and the U.S. Senates. I get it. I really do. Our world is so troubled it is tempting to embrace empty rhetoric. It would be wonderful if (remember these words?) we could all just get along. I do wish there were a magic wand – something we could wave and then hope for change to take over in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the economy, health care and health insurance, educational opportunity and excellence, and to create justice for all. But there is no magic wand. And there is no hope if we don’t embrace that old American stand-by: hard work. Hillary has worked hard and she has proven she’s got what it takes – she’s proven it over and over again, leading us in college to banish 11 p.m. curfews, leading her fellow senators to preserve the children’s health insurance program, and leading women in the world to stand up for their sisters in Africa. I hope you’ll help me elect my friend Hillary Clinton Rodham President of the United States. It would mean the world – to all of us.
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