When Senator Clinton decided to suspend her candidacy after eighteen months of rigorous campaigning last Saturday, I just so happened to be in Ohio, among nearly 100 women who had come together to -- of all things -- learn how to run for political office. Imagine the odds; after so many months of speculation, calls to concede and cries to persevere -- Senator Clinton ended her historic race on the very day that this cadre of women were launching their political aspirations.
It was a unique moment for all of us. For me and my staff, it was our eighteenth Go Run political leadership training -- and our first in Ohio -- yet we had never experienced such a historic event in the midst of our weekend programs. But what about the nearly 100 women who had come together to garner the information, inspiration, and tools to run for office? What would Senator Clinton's concession mean for their political futures?
Earlier that morning, these women had learned how to build a winning campaign plan, and were coming off the heels of a training on community organizing and field work. They were learning the nuts and bolts of how to win -- just as they prepared to watch a woman admit defeat.
Regardless of party affiliation, candidate preference, or political ideology, Senator Clinton's withdrawal was political history, so we gave the women the option of watching the concession speech. And many of them -- Republicans, Democrats, and Independents alike -- did choose to watch. As one participant, Annie, later remarked in her blog about the event:
"About two minutes into Senator Clinton's speech, it started. It was a sniffle at first, then a sob, then frantic searching through purses and totes for tissues -- there was not a dry eye in the entire room...It was a very sad, somber day for all women in America."
Despite the myriad of political and partisan leanings in the room, these women were deeply moved by the woman speaking before them. Yet within this emotion-laden and reflective room sat the hope, the vision, and the future of our country -- the next round of women who have entered the pipeline to political leadership. They came together despite their differences (age, race, income level, and political party, to name a few) to learn from and about each other, to pool their resources, to network, and to make a difference. Despite the familiar charges (young women weren't connected to her candidacy; conservative women reviled her; Obama supporters wouldn't back her), women bonded this weekend over the historic run of a trailblazing woman for the highest office in the land.
In the end, representation really does matter. From a room full of political hopefuls in Columbus, Ohio, to the millions of women and men, girls and boys, who watched their televisions in earnest on Saturday, the significance of Senator Clinton's candidacy is beyond powerful. Our nation witnessed so many firsts this season, and to see a woman come so close, to hear her acknowledge defeat with poise and candor, and to watch her put her full power behind another worthy opponent in the interest of her country and her party paves the way for us all to see other women running - and winning.
Senator Clinton implored her listeners on Saturday: "It would break my heart if, in falling short of my goal, I in any way discouraged any of you from pursuing yours." I think she was speaking to the women in particular, encouraging them not give up their dreams of leadership simply because she lost this time around. And I hope the women across the country -- and the women this weekend at Ohio Go Run -- heed her call. If they do, several of them will surely be our nation's future presidents.