7 Life Lessons Our Kids Can Learn from Hillary Clinton's Historic Nomination

08/01/2016 12:05 am ET Updated Aug 01, 2016

You have probably seen the Clinton campaign ad.  You know, the one where Donald Trump disparages women, encourages violence against protesters, claims he could shoot up Times Square and his supporters would still vote for him, makes racist comments about Mexicans, and mocks a disabled reporter.  (If not, click here or see below.)   We have all heard Trump say these things, almost to the point of becoming desensitized to them.

But what about our children?  The ad is particularly devastating in that it shows the faces of children watching Trump on TV.  It shows that they are listening and taking in the words and the message.  Trump, in essence, says and does things that we as parents try to teach our children not to do.  The ad (entitled “Role Models”)  next displays this message “Our children are watching.  What example will we set for them?”

And then, the ad concludes with the words of Hillary Clinton herself, who is saying during a speech (again, as children watch on TV), “Our children and grandchildren will look back at this time, at the choices we are about to make, the goals we will strive for, the principles we will live by.  And we need to make sure that they can be proud of us.”

We have heard a lot about the horrifying things that Donald Trump has said and done―both during his campaign and over the course of a lifetime.  It almost goes without saying that these things―bullying, incitement to violence, racism, misogyny, xenophobia―are lessons we do not want our children to learn.  But what about Hillary Clinton’s campaign, and the things that she has said and done over the course of her lifetime?  What does her historic nomination teach our children (and us) about life and the principles we want them to learn?  The media has done little to distill these for us (except to note the self-evident, highly significant truth that at least one woman has been able to achieve the previously unattainable).  So, here are seven other life lessons (the first being that kids should dream big, that even a girl from a middle class upbringing can grow up to be president) that our kids can take away from Hillary Clinton’s extraordinary life and nomination.  It wouldn’t hurt to point these out to our sons and daughters and show them how Clinton’s story is, in many ways, a model well worth following

1. Perseverance Pays Off

Clinton is the poster child for the motto, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”   Her perseverance has been one of her most important character traits over the course of her adult life.  When she took on as First Lady, the thankless, impossible job of tackling universal health care and failed, she could have given up and retreated into a more traditional role.  Instead, she worked with members of Congress to find common ground and enact the Children’s Health Insurance Program, providing health care insurance to millions of children.   When she lost the nomination in 2008 to Barack Obama, she could have thrown up her arms in despair and lived out the rest of her life in comfort.  Al Gore did just that in 2000 when he narrowly lost the election to George W. Bush.  Instead, Clinton picked herself up, dusted herself off, and returned to public service, working directly for the man who had defeated her.  And then, put herself through the same grueling schedule and withering criticisms by running for the nomination again four years later.  Lesson taught?  If you give up, there is no chance at success, so why not persevere and try again.

2. Nobody Is Perfect But That’s OK/Own Up to Your Mistakes

Clinton has been around the block―many times.  She has been in the public spotlight since the early 1990s and, as a woman ahead of her time, has endured a particularly harsh, brightly lit, and cynical spotlight at that.   Could anyone come out of that without making some mistakes?  Of course not.  Do we expect our kids to be perfect and never make mistakes?  Do we never make mistakes ourselves?  Of course not.  Clinton has made her fair share of mistakes and her political enemies have always tried to make hay of those mistakes.  However, Clinton has also been unusual on the political scene by keeping an open mind and when she sees she was indeed wrong about something, she will admit it.  She will grow and learn from her mistakes and change either her way of thinking or try to make things right.  Male politicians on the whole seem to struggle with admitting to mistakes and instead dig in deeper and double down.  Changing one’s mind in the face of reason or admitting you made a mistake and sincerely apologizing for it is not a sign of weakness, but a sign of strength and it’s a great lesson for our children.

3. Ignore Naysayers

How is it possible that Clinton holds her head up every day and forges ahead despite people yelling “Lock her up!” (and that’s just the Bernie-or-Busters)?  How can she work towards making a change to a deeply entrenched idea (like, disabled children can’t be educated in the public school system, or a woman’s place is in the home with her husband) when people all around her are saying it’s impossible, it’s not worth the effort, it’s just plain wrong?  Somehow she can block it out because she is secure in her values and in her heart knows she is doing the right thing.

4. Stand Up to Bullies

Clinton spoke during her acceptance speech at the DNC about how her mother―herself a tough cookie who had to fend for herself at a very young age―taught Clinton always to stand up to a bully.  When you’re relatively small, or weak, or female, it’s easy to be intimidated by those who seek to shut you down through force―physical or emotional.  Clinton’s defiance in the face of men―most recently, Donald Trump―who seek to bully her is another great life lesson for all of us.

5. Listen to & Learn from Others

While Clinton can block out a lot of unfair, politically motivated noise, she somehow maintains her ability to let in voices of reason and constructive criticism.  She also has never become so powerful that she forgets to listen, or has stopped listening, to those people who are weak and powerless and downtrodden.  Those who are closest to her and her advisors marvel at how she can truly listen to the plight of individual men, women, and children while on the campaign trail and immediately try to help solve their problem.  She does this by listening and not just hearing what they have to say.

6. Have Confidence in Your Abilities/Dare to Be Different

To be a college woman in the 1970s, the first student commencement speaker at your school, a student at an old boy’s club like Yale Law School, a political activist that poses as a housewife and mother to uncover school segregation in the South, and a First Lady that pushes the envelope like no one before her, etc., etc., etc., you have to be both very confident in your own abilities and also willing to go out on a limb and try another pathway.  Girls and women have always struggled with these things.  We allow ourselves to be talked over at meetings, needlessly apologize for our words and actions, doubt ourselves at every turn.  Clinton’s life history teaches all of us that we shouldn’t psych ourselves out and rather to trust our instincts and values to make change when we feel something is wrong and needs to be fixed.

7.  Empathize with Others

Clinton gave a speech when she was First Lady saying that what the world needed was more “love and kindness.”  She was crucified in the press for it.  This was yet another of her ideas that was ahead of its time.  She was right, of course.  What an antidote for the hatred and divisiveness peddled by her opponent than some love and kindness for our fellow humans.  When Clinton talks about “love and kindness” what she really means is that we need more empathy.  We need to be able to step into the shoes of a single pregnant mom living in poverty or the child of an illegal immigrant who is terrified he will be deported.  We need to see that saying racist things leads children who are African-American or of Mexican descent to feel devalued and ashamed of themselves and their ancestors.  We need to understand that “Black Lives Matter” because all lives should matter but do not, even in 2016.  We need to empathize more and judge less.  What a great life lesson for all of us.

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