DENVER, Colorado -- Is there a score higher than an A+? I have heard about a hundred speeches by Sen. Hillary Clinton. Tuesday night's speech in Denver was a clarion call filled with power and grace.
Hillary's job at the Democratic National Convention was a big one. She had to make a strong and compelling case to any of her recalcitrant supporters for the election of Sen. Barack Obama.
She had to express her deep appreciation for all those who supported her in this campaign but not too much appreciation so that people would think she was trying to keep them to herself.
And finally she had to describe the stakes in this election and the choices we face, particularly for American families. But she had do it in a way that was not threatening to Obama but rather would be seen as amplifying his message.
And she had to do it all in 23 minutes (including applause). For weeks, people will make comments about what she should have or shouldn't have said.
But Tuesday night she was strong and compassionate, comforting and combative, deeply intelligent and extremely charming. She did everything she needed to achieve for a united party and a dignified conclusion to her campaign for her supporters. I think she gave the speech of her life.
Clinton's journey broke barriers on several levels. Yet it also gave us some real insights about the road ahead. We cannot try to replicate how men got ahead in politics, but must be open and heartfelt about the special qualities that we as women bring to public office.
Yes, it is true, she not so silently admitted, that in the beginning she was trying to avoid running as a "woman." She thought she needed to prove she was commander-in-chief material. But instead in the last and more successful months of her campaign, her message evolved.
She realized that what people wanted was to connect with someone who understood their daily lives. 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.
From the waitress in the diner to the schoolteacher to the executive on Wall Street, women feel the daily slights that are often invisible to others. Many of Clinton's supporters needed real and immediate help from the government, but so many more are just grateful to be noticed.
Her campaign was for every woman who has spoken up in a meeting and was greeted with silence, only to have a man say the same thing and be praised. It was for the mothers who are taking care of their children and their parents and their home and have no time to take care of themselves.
And yes folks, it resonated for all the women who have seen the younger guy come along and get the promotion, even though she has worked in the company loyally for years.
Because she connected with women on this level, she has forever changed women's role in politics. So, after Hillary is done having to be the Democratic Party's therapist, what are we left with?
Where do women really stand now in the Democratic Party, in politics and in the governance fabric of our country?
First, some statistics:
- In 1985, two Republican women served in the U.S. Senate, including the first woman elected to the Senate without having filled an unexpired term, Nancy Kassebaum of Kansas. No Democratic woman had yet been elected to the Senate in her own right. In 2008, 16 women serve in the U.S. Senate (11 Democrats and five Republicans).
- In 1985, 23 women (12 Democrats and 11 Republicans) served in the U.S. House of Representatives. In 2008, 71 women (51 Democrats and 20 Republicans) serve in the House.
And most important of all, Rep. Nancy Pelosi is speaker of the House. Clinton goes back to the Senate to join her 15 colleagues with more to come.
That is a lot of power.
We have moved to the next step. That means that we no longer count firsts, we count what counts -- which is wins. Hillary Clinton's candidacy is important not only as a milestone. It is important as a beacon of expectation, not just hope. The expectation that comes with knowing that we are not waiting in line, we are in the race.
For more Huffington Post coverage of the Democratic National Convention, visit our Politics @ the DNC page, our Democratic Convention Big News Page, and our HuffPost bloggers' Twitter feed, live from Denver.