Up Close and Personal with Hillary
So much has been said about Hillary, so as a feminist who has worked for the past fifty years with and for women’s empowerment and healing, I will tell of my close up and personal experiences with Hillary Rodham Clinton.
The first time I met her in person was in Washington DC at a Church Women United event. I was serving as staff for the National Episcopal Church, Director of Women in Mission and Ministry. The audience was women of faith representing the many denominations who worked together through Church Women United and the National Council of Churches on behalf of women and girls. Hillary talked to us about being a woman of faith, raised in the Methodist Church and her mother’s wisdom to listen to what God was calling her to be and do and then just do it. She radiated enthusiasm and sincerity for her life in politics as First Lady. She thanked us for coming to Washington and asked us to continue our work in advocating and serving women for the betterment of their families, communities and our nation.
Several of us who had key positions in our denominations attended a small governmental meeting in DC with staff from the Interagency Council on Women set up to provide systemic change. I am not good at dates so not sure if this was in preparation of the UN Fourth World Conference on Women in 1995 or after. Staff for the Interagency Council and for the US Delegation to the Fourth World Conference on Women were very supportive of our roles and asked us to make our voices heard by telling them what we wanted. This was very different than how we were treated at the UN Third World Conference in Nairobi, Kenya in 1985. We were ignored and shut out of acting as consultants to the US Delegation even though we had UN NGO Consultative Status.
The second time to be close up to Hillary was in 1995, in Huairou, outside of Beijing where the UN Fourth World NGO Forum was held. The space given to us by the Chinese Government was a secondary school, too small to accommodate the fifty thousand women attending. The auditorium where Hillary spoke could only hold some of us on a first come basis, arriving early, waiting in the rain and singing songs. When Hillary ended her speech by saying the Beijing Noon Day Prayer I was stunned. The Prayer was written by me, Sr. Helena Marie of the Episcopal Church, Eileen King of World Day of Prayer and Florence Kelley of Baha International. Church Women United translated it into the UN official languages and made it into a postcard that became an official UN document accepted by the Chinese Government. I was not able to thank her or shake her hand but it was enough to have her with us in Huairou where she inspired us to greatness and to keep on keeping on. All fifty thousand women attending heard her say, women’s rights are human rights, that she first said to UN and Government Delegates in Beijing and then to us. For the thousands who could not get into the auditorium hearing her speech outside in the rain over a loud speaker was incredibly thrilling. All fifty thousand of us will never forget and will continue to work on having another UN Women’s Forum. She asked us to take the UN 12 Issues of the Platform for Action document and make it come alive for grassroots women everywhere. Sr. Helena Marie, Lucy Germany, Nancy Grandfield and I took this seriously and wrote a book called WomenPrints: A detailed Plan of Action for the New Millennium, that gave the history of the world conferences and used stories from around the world to bring alive the 12 Issues.
Because of my position in the Episcopal Church, I served on the National Committee of Pay Equity and was invited to the White House by President Bill Clinton for Pay Equity Day. The invitation goes to a small group of dedicated people making the White House event close up and personal. When Bill spoke out for pay equity and thanked us for our efforts, Hillary glowed with love and admiration. She and Bill when standing side-by-side radiated love for one another and mutual respect, something that can’t be contrived.
The next year, the year of the Lewinsky affair, we again were invited to the White House to celebrate Pay Equity Day. Hillary’s light from within was not visible. She was there in person but not the Hillary we have known. You could see the terrible strain and disappointment in her eyes and body language. It was sad to see.
The next time was in a New York crowd, the name of the event I can’t remember. What I do remember is that she was running for the New York US Senate. Her enthusiasm and amazing intellect about New York political needs and her professionalism on how she responded to questions related to her qualifications were outstanding. The light from within her was radiating out to each of us as she shook our hands and thanked us for coming.
As First Lady, US Senator and Secretary of State, Hillary has always put women first and has proven over and over to me that the global women’s dream for a feminist serving as president of the United States is truly possible. Imagine what we will accomplish. Imagine how the progress to improve the status of women worldwide will accelerate. Imagine having a 5th United Nations NGO Forum on Women building on all that we have accomplished, understanding all the barriers and working grassroots up and top down. Imagine the potential to reach through Internet, radio and women’s circles millions and possibly billions of women, girls, youth and men and to connect them to a 5th UN World Conference on Women. www.5wcw.org
Now that she is our candidate for President we can dream big, and like Hillary, do the work to make it happen.