“President Hillary Rodham Clinton” has a nice ring to it.
No matter what’s going on in the ongoing debate over whether or not America is ready for a “third” Clinton term, Clinton fatigue has never been among my afflictions. I’m beyond a Hillary supporter; I’m a fan. And when I think of Hillary Clinton, I think of Kaci Diane’s famous quote: “I love the person I’ve become because I fought to become her.”
With Clinton, it is so easy to get caught up in the finished product instead of taking time to appreciate the journey.
Clinton’s journey mirrors my own: that of a tough-minded Midwesterner born of a hardworking veteran father and diligent homemaker mother. We both walked away from the worlds we knew to thrust ourselves into the Wellesley College experience. Although we didn’t know anyone and felt out of place, it was an opportunity for necessary growth.
I arrived as one of the first in my family to go to college. Clinton arrived as a Republican who had limited experience with black people. However, as she learned more about the world through education, friendships and participation in protests, her politics began to change. Five of her classmates founded Ethos, the on-campus organization for students of African descent.
As a black woman, I’ve always been expected to exude the same type of toughness that has become a trademark of Clinton’s. She comes across as a no-nonsense person who was not coddled, and she does it with such grace.
It was that grace that sent me on my journey—a series of near-misses—to meeting Clinton.
There was the spring of 2001, when I was just weeks shy of graduating from Wellesley. Clinton (class of 1969) and Madeleine Albright (class of 1959) came back to campus to speak at the college’s 125th-anniversary celebration, and I signed up as a volunteer. When it came time to snag a picture after the event, though, I was distracted by a reporter hungry for a quote while all my friends got their photo taken with Clinton. Before that, during the summer of 1999, I volunteered for the Wellesley College reunion after I’d heard stories of others seeing her on campus. I even walked across campus to where her class events were being held. But did I find her? Nope.
In 2003 I was in the audience as she accepted her Alumnae Achievement Award. I was so close, but yet so far. Then, a few months later, I met her husband when he visited with my paternal grandmother prior to his commencement address at the historic African-American institution Tougaloo College. My grandmother was months away from her 104th birthday and thrilled to meet President Bill Clinton. I told him about my Wellesley connection, but I did not want to ruin my granny’s moment by telling him that I really wanted to meet Hillary.
But my excitement about Hillary’s campaign goes beyond our alma mater connections and outweighs my disappointment over a missed photo. Clinton gets it. By “it” I mean issues affecting the black community. In her appropriately titled 2003 autobiography, Living History, Clinton wrote, “My parents raised me to focus on the inner qualities of people, not the way they dressed or the titles they held.” This stood out to me because our country needs what seems like an infinite amount of work. “In order to form a more perfect Union,” we will all have to pitch in and help.
America also needs a president who empathizes with the needs of its people. She is passionate about health care, education and reforming the criminal-justice system. In her recent speech at Columbia University, she spoke about mass incarceration of low-level offenders and its damaging effects on black families and communities. Not only was her tone presidential, but it was evident that she wants change, starting with body cams for every police force.
When various media outlets were speculating that Clinton would announce her candidacy, I celebrated by making a floral corsage with a pearl in the center (another fun Wellesley reference) and re-created the famous “Texts with Hillary” picture. I asked a friend to create a meme using that photo in order to display my excitement and to lament the missed photo opportunity in 2001. Many of my friends loved the meme, but behind it was really my desire to see Clinton’s idealist collegiate years come together with her present-day wisdom and fortitude. I am ready to see the endgame, the results, the presidency.
But seriously, I would still like my picture with Hillary.
Alicia Whittington, Ph.D., is a health-services research professional who promotes public health advocacy, equality and women’s issues. Whittington is a craft and music enthusiast, freelance photographer, and proud Hillary 2016 supporter. Follow her on Twitter.