Today a woman, Hillary Clinton, accepts the nomination of a major party for President of the United States.
That night in June when I heard the AP report that she had clinched the nomination, I surprised myself and cried.
I never expected it to feel so personal.
I can’t remember a time I didn’t believe a woman could be anything – even president. I was raised by a (mostly) single mother who is one of the most intelligent and capable human beings I’ve ever known.
But knowing a woman could become president in the abstract turns out to be different than seeing the concrete reality. And I cried.
To say that Hillary represents so much more than herself in this moment does not negate her personal accomplishments or responsibility. Presidential candidates always represent more than themselves. And this time, for the first time, we have one that represents being a woman in this country built on the tensions of liberty and oppression.
I believe many of the attacks on Hillary are exaggerated, and some are unfounded altogether. At a time when I adamantly disagreed with her politics, I came to deeply respect her dignity and endurance in the face of the most personal and embarrassing of betrayals. I was raised to believe that with enough grace and strength, a person could forgive such betrayal and rebuild a relationship. Hillary did just that, and under a level of public scrutiny and criticism few of us can imagine. I respected her for it then, and I respect her for it now.
We have nominated scoundrels and complicated heroes for president. We have nominated warriors and even a few peacemakers. We have nominated the brilliant and the not so brilliant. We have nominated outright liars and those who told us more of the truth than we wanted. And most of those we have nominated have been at least a little of all of those things rolled into one.
But we have never before nominated a woman.
I cried because our children are seeing this. Our girls and, just as importantly, our boys. I want no little girl to ever question her abilities because she doesn’t see our world value them in a woman. And I want no little boy to ever again hear the word “girl” or anything else related to being female as an insult.
We’ve learned to see each other – men and women, and maybe even more so, liberals and conservatives – as caricatures. Something none of us are.
Not even Hillary.