Voices4 Hillary's Continuing Millennial Series.

Growing Up With Hillary

by Jon Ashken

Hillary Clinton has always been in my life.

1995, the year I was born, Hillary was nearly halfway through her tenure as First Lady. It was not until later that I would hear about her (at the time controversial) efforts to promote women's rights, provide healthcare for all Americans, and play a central role in US politics.

Hillary's long held belief that every American should have access to healthcare is one of the reasons I support her. Furthermore, in the First Lady's 1995 Beijing speech she stood up to domestic and international entities by stating unequivocally that, "human rights are women's rights and women's rights are human rights…"

Hillary changed the world when she spoke in Beijing in 1995.

As a 21 year-old man in 2016 I wholeheartedly agree with this statement and have difficulty understanding why it was controversial in the first place. But I also realize that it is important not to take today's increasingly inclusive and just America for granted.

Hillary's decision to break away from the traditional role of First Lady and challenge the status quo caused her approval ratings to plummet and inspired vicious attacks on her character. She kept fighting.

When I was in elementary school, Hillary Clinton was the Senator from New York. Those are my earliest memories of her. Of course I did not follow politics closely but still Hillary made an impact. Through the eyes of a young child Senator, Clinton seemed warm, smart, and strong. The respect that I heard in the voices of adults, when they discussed Hillary, was sometimes grudging and sometimes admiring but it was always present.

Hillary was New York's Senator during 9/11. She stood with and fought for The First Responders. They spoke for her at the 2016 DNCinPHL.

Having this powerful female in the background of my life normalized the idea of a woman in a position of authority. When I was twelve years old and heard adults claiming, "America is not ready for a woman President," I was confused. Why would America not be ready? I had grown up with Senator Clinton and it seemed to me that women were perfectly capable leading.

I must admit that during the 2008 election, when I was 13, I still did not follow politics particularly closely. However, there are a few moments that I remember very clearly. I am from the dependably blue state of Connecticut and at the time it felt like we were divided between Senator Obama and Senator Clinton. People were becoming bitter and the bitterness of parents was trickling down to their children. Middle Schoolers argued fiercely (and most likely with horribly inaccuracies) on behalf of their chosen candidates. The atmosphere was becoming toxic and I avoided talking politics for fear of inciting a fight. That is why I will never forget the grace and dignity Hillary Clinton displayed when she suspended her campaign.

In one breath she was celebrating the achievements of her campaign and in the next she was congratulating Barack Obama on a race well run. She did not sound bitter or angry. On the contrary she spoke with optimism and patriotism.

This was the first Presidential election I paid any attention to. The concession speech reinforced my belief in democracy, a system I had always taken for granted and admired but never fully understood until then.

Hillary's Concession Speech in 2008 was a model of grace and dignity. She went on to campaign for Obama and then became his Secretary of State.

I was no longer afraid to talk about politics. As Senator Clinton became Secretary Clinton, I moved on to high school. While there I would develop an enthusiastic interest in International Affairs that would eventually lead me to seek a degree in the subject. One of my parents is British and I knew from family conversations that the Bush foreign policy had damaged America's global reputation. I was eager to see the changes our new Secretary of State would implement.

I was not disappointed. Hillary brought a measured and solution oriented style to diplomacy. At a time when our politicians seemed to disagree on literally every single issue, she brought a refreshingly non-partisan tone to foreign policy. I watched as she continued to promote human rights while forging diplomatic ties. Furthermore, she shored up America's alliances and undermined its adversaries.

As Secretary of State, Hillary worked tireless on behalf of her President and the American people. She raised America's prestige around the world, and remains the most admired woman in the world, a title she has held for 20 years.

As an American millennial I understand the importance of the United States as a global influencer and a beacon of democracy. Having lived through the Bush years, I also understand the price of incompetence and the need for a steady hand.

Hillary has demonstrated a commitment to humanitarian values and a rational form of diplomacy that I fully appreciate.

I am now a rising senior in college and as I write this Secretary Clinton has become the first woman nominee of a major American political party.

Hillary has run on a progressive platform that seeks to curb climate change, promote LGBT rights, support immigrants, rectify racial injustice, and bring more fairness to our economy.

I'm so glad she will continue to be in my life.


August 8,2016

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