Dear Senator Clinton,
Having spent the better part of my youth defending your honor, as I take my first unstable steps into true, bonafide womanhood, I wanted to thank you.
As a young girl I wanted you to be President. I wanted you to be President before I knew what it would mean for you to be President. I hadn't even been in school long enough to realize that there hadn't been a girl president. I did not yet have the intellectual framework of "the glass ceiling" to understand the playground patriarchy, but I did know that my propensity to be "one of the boys" was beginning to define me as a leader. I looked for strong women to watch, to learn from.
Bill Clinton was elected president when I was two years old, so as I was growing up his was the only concept of presidency that I knew. He was "The President" and you were the infinitely more fascinating First Lady. Growing up, I idolized many first ladies - Abigail Adams, Eleanor Roosevelt, Jacqueline Kennedy- but part of me was ultimately dissatisfied with what it meant to be First Lady. Either being in that role was something that fell into their laps because of who they were married to, or, they reluctantly took it upon themselves to do it because they wanted to support their husband.
I never got either sentiment from watching you. I found you interesting because you neither seemed reluctant or dissatisfied. In fact, the twinge of dissatisfaction you may have displayed was not because your husband's presidency had come as an unwelcome interruption to your domestic bliss, but rather, because you were not president yourself- and you were more Bill's co-President as far as a young girl with no real understanding of politics was concerned. As I began to explore this perception with the adults in my life, I was pleased that they did not immediately disagree with me.
I was ten years old when Bill Clinton's presidency ended. During your joint reign I had learned (in the absorbent way a child "learns" most things at that tender age) many new terms which I integrated into my ever-evolving "strong woman" vocabulary. I threatened boys who teased me with "in-peachment", was jealous of my friend's natural affinity for the saxophone and had more than one awkward exchange with adults about the Lewinsky Scandal. While those were the hot-topics of the time, as I grew older, those things faded into the background - while your interests, success and strength came front and center.
As I became a teenager and read your first memoir, I grew to have an appreciation for you that surpassed a simply good first impression during The Clinton Administration. You were highly intelligent, driven and believed in the noble pursuit of public service. Those were nice qualities for a woman to have- though, you made it clear that having nice qualities wasn't always enough in a man's world. Sometimes, to get things done, you had to be a not-so-nice girl (by society's standards, anyway) and that was a liberating concept for me. I learned that being strong, independent and leading wasn't inherently tied to "being a bitch" - that connection was made by the society we live in. I learned quickly that that term 'bitch' got assigned to women with hard gazes, regardless of whether it was a murderous, malicious gaze or just the unwavering gaze a gal who won't be going down without a fight.
The year you ran for president, I wasn't old enough to vote but I campaigned and I campaigned hard. Even though I realized what a historically relevant election year it was, I wanted you to be president not because you were a woman, not because I wanted to watch you single-handedly punch through the glass ceiling- but because I'd known since I was a little girl, growing up seeing you as our nation's First Lady, that you wanted it more than anything and you had worked incredibly hard for it.
Of course, when you didn't win the nomination, I followed your lead and endorsed Barack Obama. When he chose you as Secretary of State, I figured, well, that's something. It's not what she wanted but it's pretty damn good.
Something tells me, though, that to Hillary Rodham Clinton "pretty damn good" isn't enough. That's not why you persevered through scandal, your string of 'hard choices', and the sticky web of American politics.
Today, I picked up a copy of Hard Choices and the similarity to your first memoir, Living History, took me back to the first time I picked up that book. The hope I had that reading it would help me understand how a woman 'becomes' in our world today. There was, of course, no simple, reproducible secret within those pages but by the time I had closed that book I understood what hard work really meant.
This time, older now but still not quite content myself with 'pretty damn good', a young woman who understands the ramifications of threatened impeachment, still enjoys a slow, sexy saxophone riff and to whom all the magical mythos of 'blow jobs' has been lost, I cracked open Hard Choices today hoping to understand more about myself through your journey. I'm still working hard to make a life for myself in America, not a dream per se because dreams don't often come true - more like the American Scheme, which one must plan and plot actively. You can't sit around and wait for what you want, you have to go find it for yourself.
Because you've made those choices for yourself, you've always set the course of history for young women like me who will likely be part of the generation that pounds through that glass ceiling once and for all. You are a pioneer who, regardless of whether or not you become president, is undoubtedly one of the most influential women in history.
And that, Senator Clinton, is much more than pretty damn good.
Sincerely and with deep gratitude,
Abby Norman, 23 years old
September 1st, 2014