Hillary Rodham Clinton has the compassion to feel, the courage to act, and the wisdom to listen. She reminds me of Gloria, beloved wife of 47 years. Hold that thought, please.
"Grampa," said Kate, age seven, "Do you do EVERYTHING Gramma tells you to do?" I was putting away dishes at the time. Kate and her brother Jason, twelve, were dubiously considering their homework on the kitchen table. Gloria was stirring something Italian on the stove.
"That reminds me of a story," I said. Kate and Jason looked at each other, and put down their pencils.
It was about 1979, and I was working as a professional scuba diver at Marine World Africa USA, in Redwood City, California. Every day I would swim down into the giant aquarium tanks, and scrub the walls and windows, among the sharks, dolphins, eels, seals and killer whales of this man-made sea.
And one day Gloria asked me to do her a favor:
"I want you to take one college course," she said, "Just one, and I don't care what it is, you decide."
That made no sense to me.
But Gloria would not let it go.
"I'll buy your books," she said, "I'll fill out the forms, stand in line-- all you have to do is show up for class."
It became clear there would be no peace in the house until I said yes.
When I finished that class, Gloria signed me up for another.
This went on for years, until finally Marine World was about to shut down. A giant corporation had bought the land beneath the aquarium-zoo, and told us we would have to leave. There followed a huge political battle, which we (the employees) won, gaining time for the park to relocate, rather than go out of business.
And Gloria said:
"This is when you become a teacher."
I explained to her I had no interest in such a career change.
"Let me put it another way," said Gloria, "This is when you become a teacher-- or I divorce you." (She says now she was joking...)
And so, for the next decade and a half, I explained to eighth grade English students how language gave them power over their lives.
Today, America is about to elect our first woman President. Hillary Rodham Clinton is overwhelmingly qualified, having essentially trained for it her entire life.
But some of us cannot accept that idea. Part of the problem, perhaps, is plain old gender politics: sexism.
Did you notice Donald Trump's attitude, in the debates with Hillary? It was not the same as when he argued with the males. He gave them silly nicknames, of course, and did his best to dominate. But with her, he seemed to feel insulted, that he had to explain himself-- to a woman? He interrupted constantly, shouting and wagging his finger at her.
And how did Hillary react? Sometimes she mocked him with a smile, or studied him like something mildly distasteful. When he was particularly rude or nonsensical, she might shake her head, or curl up one side of her mouth. She got her points across, never allowing him to shut her up. But when it was his turn, mainly she just let him talk .
What an important ability: to listen, and not lose your cool.
Abraham Lincoln was once called a "damned fool" by Edwin Stanton. When informed of this, our greatest President said:
"Stanton is a wise man, who speaks his mind and is nearly always right... If he says I am a damned fool, I very likely am. I had better step over and see him."
Hillary also can listen and not let her feathers be ruffled: whereby she will get the best from her friends, and the better of her enemies.
When Hillary began her campaign, it was with what TIME Magazine called a "listening tour". She went from place to place across the country, asking questions, while people told her the problems they faced.
But Donald appears to have little interest in listening. Even his advisers (he is on his third set now) are those who will "let Trump be Trump". If he will not stop talking, how will he understand the sufferings of those he is charged to protect?
Maybe that is why Trump mocks the disabled, while Hillary embraces them.
I love language, the power of words, life squeezed down into print. And in the word women, there are the letters "w" and "e", we, the power of cooperation. When Hillary speaks, I feel a sense of "Let's work together, and get the job done".
She embodies the characteristics we need, in the office of the Presidency.
And then it came to me, how to explain to Kate and Jason, why Gloria makes most of our day-to-day decisions, and why that is okay. We respect each other, of course, and major choices are made jointly. I do have my own territory, a cozy little study where I am writing this today. But Gloria, the person who knew I would be a good teacher, and who manipulated the situation until I became one?
"On practical stuff," I said, "Grandma is the brains of the outfit. It would be crazy for her not to be in charge."
"Ah," said Kate.
And that was that.
Don C. Reed is the author of "STEM CELL BATTLES: Proposition 71 and Beyond: How Ordinary People Can Fight Back Against the Crushing Burden of Chronic Disease", available now from Amazon.com.