Hillary Clinton gave the speech of her life today and as she endorsed her primary opponent, she cemented her place in history. As importantly, she also shone a path for herself as a national leader for years to come.
She said: "The way to continue our fight now, to accomplish the goals for which we stand is to take our energy, our passion, our strength, and do all we can to help elect Barack Obama, the next president of the United States."
I was tough on Hillary earlier in the week. I shared the disappointment of her losing a hard fought and terribly close campaign. I thought we needed her to provide us with a bridge to move past the primary and into the General Election by acknowledging Obama's victory. Instead on election night, she announced would take her time. It doesn't matter now whether that was the right decision.
What is clear, is that she couldn't have given the speech she gave today on Tuesday night. Today, her voice was strong, her mind was certain and her back was straight. She wanted us to know she would be an unequivocal supporter for Obama. But she also wanted to say something else.
Yes, it is true she not so silently admitted, in the beginning she was trying to avoid running as a "woman." She thought she needed to prove she was Commander in Chief material instead. But in the last five months, she changed her message because she realized that people accepted her a a national leader, what they wanted was to connect with someone who understood their daily lives. She is filled with the stories of women along the campaign trail. They saw in her a woman who understands the complexities of life as a mother, a daughter, a wife and a worker all at the same time. The glue in other people's lives. Whether it was about health care, education or knowing a soldier in the war, women needed to tell her their stories. She would nod knowingly because she understood them. And she also understood that all too often a woman's dreams take a back seat to someone else's or they are filtered through a thin film of sexism that men don't see.
Hillary found a bold new public voice during this campaign. For those of us who have know her a long time, it was the Hillary we knew. The compassion, the humor and the grit.
She said: "But I am a woman and, like millions of women, I know there are still barriers and biases out there, often unconscious, and I want to build an America that respects and embraces the potential of every last one of us. I ran as a daughter who benefited from opportunities my mother never dreamed of. I ran as a mother who worries about my daughter's future and a mother who wants to leave all children brighter tomorrows."
She didn't talk about being a wife. Yet as she spoke, I couldn't help but think that among the legacies of this campaign is the certain re-branding of the "Clinton" name. It is now Hillary Clinton who is the contemporary political leader. The one whose future in the Senate and place on the national stage is more important than ever. For instance, when Barack Obama's first presidential priority is universal healthcare, it will be because of Hillary that we will understand its possibilities. What was once dubbed derisively as "Hillarycare" will now carry that moniker as a brand of honor.
We have a lot of work to do in the next several months to win back the White House. But today was Hillary's day in the sun.
"So today I'm going to count my blessings and keep on going," she said. "I will do it with a heart filled with gratitude, with a deep and abiding love for our country, and with nothing but optimism and confidence for the days ahead."
Like so many today, my heart is filled with gratitude for Hillary Clinton.
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