On Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2016, Hillary Clinton, accompanied by her family, walked on stage for the last time as a presidential candidate. The words she uttered stunned the world: “Last night, I congratulated Donald Trump and offered to work with him on behalf of our country. I hope that he will be a successful president for all Americans.” As I watched her give one of the toughest speeches of her political career, that moment, simply took my breath away.
I looked around the room, men and women, young and old, were wiping tears from their eyes. You could feel the raw emotion; the hurt, the disappointment, and the pain, as it engulfed the room. I wanted to believe that this wasn’t happening. You could hear her words, but in your mind, you kept asking, is this true? She was hailed as the "most qualified" person to have ever run for president. She became the first woman to receive a major party’s nomination. She has gone on to receive almost three million more votes than her opponent. How is it that she is not the president-elect?
As Hillary reminded us that day, our campaign wasn’t about one person or one election. “It was about the country we love and about building an America that’s hopeful, inclusive and big-hearted,” she said. She spoke directly to the little girls who might have been watching across the country and whose hearts were breaking. She told them, “Never doubt that you are valuable and powerful, deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world.” Even in her greatest time of need, Hillary composed herself to face not just her family, friends and staff, but the world. With grit, grace, and determination, she summoned the courage and yes, resilience, to provide a hopeful and optimistic outlook for our future.
Over the years we’ve learned to marvel at Hillary’s resilience and strength. Unfortunately, this day was no different. Consciously or subconsciously we’ve all grown accustomed to her getting knocked down. In the face of relentless attacks and insults, Hillary has always managed to get back up. You would often hear her say, "When you stumble, keep the faith. And when you’re knocked down, get right back up and never listen to anyone who says you can’t or shouldn’t go on.”
Many people have asked, how does she do it? Where does she draw the strength? How does she get back up after all she has gone through? What causes her to continue to fight for the values we all hold so near and dear? Maybe it can be found in her quiet and steely Methodist upbringing where she was taught to “do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.” Maybe her resilience and can-do spirit trace back to her mother.
At Hillary’s first public appearance after the election, she spoke eloquently about her mother’s journey and impact on her life. She recounted how her mother was abandoned by her parents at the age of 8 and put on a train with her little sister to travel alone to California. “I think about her every day and sometimes I think about her on that train. I wish I could walk down the aisle and find the little wooden seat where she sat, holding tight to her younger sister, all alone and terrified… And I dream of going up to her and sitting next to her and taking her in my arms and saying, look at me and listen. You will survive, you will have a family of your own, three children, and as hard as it might be to imagine, your daughter will grow up to be a United States senator and represent our country as secretary of State…” And, her daughter would go on to receive almost 66 million votes as the first female major-party nominee for president.
Just as she has often imagined what it was like to walk in her mother's shoes, Hillary has often asked us to imagine what it is like to walk in someone else's shoes. And as much of the nation is still trying to figure its way back to a hopeful place, we may want to imagine what it must be like to walk in Hillary’s shoes, sometimes against amazing odds. And as you imagine that, imagine a person who is still hopeful about the future of America; still caring about the dreams and hopes of a brighter tomorrow for our young people.
Imagine the workers who believed they had a champion. Imagine her continuing to stand up for the dignity of every child, family, and human being who is seeking a better life. Imagine her wondering if women will lose the freedoms they have come to enjoy, or whether equal pay for equal work will become just a slogan? But imagine her continuing to fight for women and girls around the globe, promoting their health, safety and well-being. Imagine the mothers of the movement who saw a champion in Hillary Clinton because she saw their sons and daughters. Imagine the little girl who wept in Hillary’s arms, fearful she might lose her parents. Then imagine the communities that are no longer invisible because she saw them.
Just imagine Hillary Clinton, rested and re-energized, continuing to use her voice, and her massive platform to speak about issues that are important to us all. Just imagine her still representing our interest at home and abroad. Just imagine those 66 million lights, each with a voice, ready to promote the ideals of fairer and just society. And, let us imagine the history she will continue to make and the barriers she will continue to break down.
There is no doubt, these last several weeks have been tough and painful as we watch an uncertain future unfold before our very eyes on a world stage. But let us go forth and harness the powerful words of the great author, Marianne Williamson: “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us… playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you… And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same…”
As we usher in a new year, a new season and a new beginning, now is the time to let the world see 66 million lights shining. Let each light reflect kindness, love, grace, grit, determination and courage. Let us reflect the true spirit of Hillary Rodham Clinton: “When you get knocked down, get back up.” There is still much work to be done.