Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Hillary's gift

Hillary Clinton, in accepting her victory in the Pennsylvania primary, said, “This has been a historic race and I commend Senator Obama and his supporters tonight. We are, in many ways, all on this journey together to create an America that embraces every last one of us. The women in their nineties who tell me they were born before women could vote and they're hopeful of seeing a woman in the White House. The mothers and fathers at my events, who lift their little girls on their shoulders and whisper in their ears, ‘see, you can be anything you want.’"

As I heard Hillary speak, my thoughts went back more than fifty years ago when I was a young girl around twelve or thirteen. I remember announcing to my mother, “I have decided, when I grow up, that I want to be a pediatrician.”

My mother looked at me, and without hesitation, she clicked her tongue to the roof of her mouth, making a sharp “tsk” noise that I had become accustomed to, and said, “Don’t be ridiculous.”

Back in the fifties, it was a rather ridiculous statement from a young girl growing up in the suburbs of Scarsdale, New York. My mother had modeled what she expected from her three daughters. She was a housewife. That meant she was in charge of keeping the household running smoothly. But Margaret was our “housekeeper;” she was rather ubiquitous, and, as I recall, even had her “maid’s quarters” where she stayed. So I am not certain just what my mother did to “keep the house.” I know she was there for her four children- driving us to dancing class, attending our ballet recitals, being a girl scout troop mother, and making sure our Stride-rite shoes fit us perfectly. She was here for my father – making sure he had his coffee and two minute boiled egg for breakfast, served in an egg cup with two pieces of buttered toast. She had the car running and warmed at 7:45 sharp to drive him to the train station to catch the 8:02 to New York City where he worked on Wall Street in order to provide well for his family. I never asked her what she did while we were in school, though I know she was active with the Junior League, had lunch at the golf club with her friends, and bowled regularly, once a week.

I was expected to do well in school; it was a given that I would attend college. But education was a way to make me more eligible, more attractive. The goal for my future was to find a handsome man with good genes and a lucrative career who would buy me a nice house in suburbia and give me wise and healthy children – and if I took proper care of all that was given to me, I would find the ultimate meaning of my life.

-A pediatrician? “Don’t be ridiculous.”

I did go to college, but the suburban life eluded me. I married a teacher, and found myself following my three sons down the hall of their Montessori school and magically breathing in the education of young children which, unbeknownst to me, became my career.

I never had a daughter, but when Hillary spoke those words, I pictured young parents embracing their young little girls and with such conviction, without any hint of a “tsk”, with laughter in their voices saying, “see, you can be anything you want."

“Mom, I’ve decided to be a pediatrician when I grow up.”
“Mom, can I be an astronaut?”
“Mom, can a girl become President of the United States?”

Hillary Clinton is adored by many, and she has her critics. But one thing that everyone clearly understands is that she is capable of leading this country and being President of the United States. For that I am truly grateful.

Thank you, Hillary, for the gift of the resounding YES YOU CAN that you have given to the daughters of this wonderful country.