I have always been intrigued by politics and have been passionate about my political ideology since I can remember. One of my earliest memories in politics, and in fact in life in general, is from the 1988 election. I was preschool age, we were living in Detroit, and I vividly recall the tiny television in our living room glowing brightly as my parents huddled around it, watching election night returns. They were frustrated with the result in a visceral way, and it sparked a fascination and curiosity in me that has never faded. What was happening on that tiny little TV that mattered so very much? Who were these men, what made them different from each other, and how does one decide which one is the best?
By the 1992 election, I was in elementary school and found Hillary Clinton completely compelling. She was unlike most of the First Ladies I was learning about in school. She had her own career, her own ideas, and asserted her existence outside of her husband's political ambitions. I saw my mother and her friends, all independent career women, identify with her. Hillary Clinton had a voice and she used that voice, even when people were trying to silence her. She seemed so intelligent, so resilient, and so determined to empower women and girls. As a young girl who did the homework, understood the material, and raised my hand in class time and again (only to have many teachers call on all the boys first), Hillary Clinton carried with her a message of equality and self-worth that resonated with me, and stuck with me.
Four years later, when my middle school ran a mock election in the cafeteria at lunch, I jumped at the opportunity to help work the "polls." I also proudly cast my vote that day for President Bill Clinton. Returning home after school, I lamented that I wished I could vote for President Clinton for real. "Oh, don't worry," my mother winked, "You will." I understood her meaning and my mind was blown. It had never occurred to me that a woman could be president. I laughed it off, but my parents insisted that Hillary Clinton was the smarter of the two astronomically smart adult Clintons, and that she would most certainly run for president one day.
Through the years, as I grew into a young adult, I was extremely proud to call Hillary Clinton my senator in New York. I supported her in the 2008 primary, but I was young and didn't know how to actively involve myself in the campaign. I thought simply casting my ballot for her was all that I could do, and I planned to do so. However, due to a snafu in switching my voter registration to California, where I had recently relocated, I was rendered unable to vote for her that June. It may sound trite, or self-important, but I felt as though I had let her down. Not only her, really, but every woman who ever fought to secure my right to vote in this country.
I was raised with the understanding that voting is important and it is a privilege not afforded to many in this world, especially women. What would Susan B. Anthony or Elizabeth Cady Stanton think? I vowed that should Hillary Clinton run again, I'd make sure to do whatever I could to create a different outcome.
When it became clear in early 2015 that an announcement was imminent, I started asking my friends, and anyone on social media who would listen, how I could quit my life and campaign for Hillary. Not just because I had made a promise to myself seven years prior, but because she is the most qualified person who has ever sought the presidency. I felt it was my duty as a woman, and as an American, to do whatever I could to help. Once the official announcement was released on April 12th, 2015, I started checking her website daily, submitting the volunteer form each time, and eagerly awaiting an online store so I could start showing my team spirit. I camped out for the official campaign launch on Roosevelt Island that June, and the following day attended a grassroots fundraiser hosted by an endlessly energetic organizer, an event which helped shape the trajectory of my level of involvement as a volunteer with the campaign. This organizer saw my enthusiasm and offered me some volunteer opportunities throughout New York City. Soon I was leading a team of other volunteers and, not long after that, I began to volunteer at the campaign's national headquarters in Brooklyn on a regular basis. Over the past year and a half I've been able to speak with people all across the country, volunteer alongside some extraordinary humans, travel to battleground states on weekends to register voters in 100 degree heat and chilly downpours, and through it all I've not only gained a greater understanding of the political process, but of who I am as a woman and how we can redefine womanhood in society.
I'm proud I was able to keep that promise I made to myself and all the women before me, but this campaign has been so much more than that.
In 2008 I made a promise to women in the past, but in 2016 I realize that what I do every day I volunteer - and what everyone who works so hard on the campaign does - is a promise to women in the future. I see young girls who are the same age I was when I first learned the name Hillary Clinton, and they are ecstatic at the prospect of a female president. It's within reach for them. It empowers them with confidence. They know that if she can do this, they can do anything. Representation matters, and it's so evident in this election cycle when talking to young girls. They don't laugh at the idea of a woman leading our country, instead, they see that it's possible. They demand its validity be acknowledged, and they're hungry for the realization of a female president.
Hillary Clinton has continued to show us how important it is to recognize your own voice and use it to change the world for the better. I'm grateful every day that I've had the opportunity to do my part to help her shatter that highest, hardest glass ceiling.