Early 20th century novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald once famously said: "There are no second acts in American life." He was wrong, of course, because time and time again we have witnessed comebacks, late-in-life success and numerous examples of redemption in the arts, politics and the business world. My old friend and mentor, Frank McCourt, a long-time high school English teacher, wrote a best-selling memoir and won a Pulitzer Prize in his mid-60s. What a second act he had.
Now we have perhaps the most fascinating individual in recent American history, Hillary Clinton, who is attempting to embark on what I would probably call her third or fourth act. In her long-running show, Hillary has been the object of admiration, hope, praise, derision, anger, petty criticism and jealousy. She is the embodiment of the women's empowerment movement in our still not-overly-progressive society. She serves as a prism through which many express their hopes for a fully egalitarian society.
But, of course, it is unfair to view Hillary as just the "Great Female Hope," because she is so much more than that. She deserves to be judged by the content of her ideas, not the chromosomes of her DNA, to paraphrase the late Martin Luther King, Jr. She is a feminist icon, a mother and grandmother, the former First Lady of our country, the most-talked about woman in the world and all of these just tell half the story.
Hillary Clinton has been on the world stage since the early 1990s, before many of today's millennials were born, when an Apple was just a fruit, when a hard drive was just a long trip and when Google was simply the prefix of a very large number. She was a different kind of First Lady, more Eleanor Roosevelt than Nancy Reagan, a trusted advisor and confidante to the most powerful leader in the world. She took a lot of heat then for standing by her man, through thick and thin; in retrospect, this was the most courageous path and allowed both of them to continue to be important leaders well beyond their two terms in Washington, D.C.
Her second act, which began in 2000, was her own political career. She went on that famous listening tour, was elected New York's junior senator, and was then off to blaze her own trail. All went according to plan until her smooth path back to the White House as a powerful feminist icon was eclipsed by the meteoric rise of an even more dramatic American success story, Barack Obama's audacious arc from electric Democratic convention speaker to the first African-American president of the United States.
But now, it appears to finally be Hillary's turn. Many successful presidential campaigns in history followed on the heels of a losing campaign -- most recently in the case of George Bush, Sr. Even Ronald Reagan failed twice running for president before he succeeded in 1980. Many will lament that Clinton is not a fresh face in politics and ask why should we have another president with the surname of Clinton or Bush. These people are entitled to their opinions but it would be wrong to dismiss Hillary Clinton's candidacy because of petty reasons like these.
In fact, we should look at Hillary's experience, her ideas, vision and her temperament when evaluating her fitness to lead the world's most powerful nation.
Her resume is quite impressive: four years steeped in high-level foreign policy as Secretary of State, eight years in the Senate as a prodigious legislator and, of course, eight years in the White House as the First Lady during an economic boom period. It would be very hard to match that level of experience.
What about her ideas and vision? Well, we got a small glimpse of that in her two-minute campaign video last Sunday: she wants to be the champion of middle-class Americans and all those who want a level playing field so they can get ahead.
But we'll need to watch in the coming months as she articulates her vision of how she will achieve this goal. Will she try to raise taxes on the wealthy and implement a more progressive tax code? Will she push for significantly higher minimum wages and greater paid sick and maternity/paternity leave?
We will want to hear specifically what she would do in the Middle East to make sure that region doesn't continue to degenerate and potentially drag the world into a war. We will need to hear how she will navigate climate change, the rapid spread of alternative energy sources and how she plans to pay for the much-needed rebuilding of America's infrastructure -- highways, high-speed trains and urban roadways. There are so many challenges and we hope Hillary has the answers and a plan to confront them.
I am the father of two daughters and I am excited and concerned about their future. The prospect of Hillary Clinton becoming president would be an incredible inspiration to them -- and millions of other young women in America. The glass ceiling to the highest office in this land might be shattered after 240 years. Countries around the world, Germany and England and Israel among them, have been led effectively by strong women.
I know this is not enough reason to vote for Hillary. But it certainly is a good reason for me to eagerly discuss this campaign with my two teenage daughters and to hope that our country, once and for all, treats Hillary like the incredibly talented and experienced candidate she is.
Tom Allon is the president of City & State, NY, LLC, and a former Liberal Party-backed candidate for mayor of New York City. Questions or comments: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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