Many of my women friends want to see Hillary Clinton elected President so much that they refuse to seriously consider Barack Obama at all. They’re curious about him, to be sure–no one could overlook all the campaign excitement or miss seeing at least a few of his ads. But they would never be so disloyal as to actually listen to one of his speeches or read his campaign literature for more details. They tell me quite frankly, they’ve got a nominee, one who looks a lot like them, so would I please just leave it alone?
I've always admired Hillary’s dignity, and of course, her many achievements. She's a survivor in what many women have experienced as a rough-and-tumble man’s world. We identify with her tragic husband-troubles, and respect her commitment to her marriage. We celebrate her moxie when men have dismissed her contributions and disrespected her ambitions. We’ve waited breathlessly our whole lives for this chance to elect a smart, capable woman President of the <?xml:namespace prefix = u1 />United States, and we know what a strong woman-Presidency could mean to our daughters and granddaughters. As years have passed, as she's won battles for women and children, we’ve smiled with Hillary because we know what she knows, that doing well is the best revenge.
What we are not doing is asking the question that we as patriots, citizens, and voters should ask, are duty-bound, even, to ask: Which candidate would make the best President?
However generously we acknowledge Hillary’s abilities and achievements, we should thoughtfully consider Barack’s as well, if only because our long experience informs us that the next President must be armed with an unusually fine and rare combination of strengths and abilities to successfully navigate the dangerous shoals ahead.
Of course Hillary and Barack are both well-informed about the state of the world. But Barack is truly gifted in human relations—in people skills, diplomacy, and communication. He empathizes uniquely with difference and diversity—with those having different agendas, cultures, perspectives, memories, and understandings than his own. Our next President must be brilliant, but also extraordinarily able to relate to disparate viewpoints and interests in order to arrive at the inclusive solutions which alone can resolve complex global problems.
Of course Hillary and Barack are both experienced public servants. Hillary’s seven years, and Barack’s eleven, of public accountability in elected office are just the beginning. Hillary’s many years as an attorney and as first lady gave her just as much opportunity for growth as did Barack’s years of community organizing, his work as a civil rights attorney, and his professorship in Constitutional Law at the University of Chicago Law School.
Hillary’s whole life has prepared her to be a tough political in-fighter, capable of ramming through incremental changes in the face of almost insurmountable opposition. Barack, on the other hand, disarms both potential and perceived adversaries through his non-polarizing approaches to problem-solving. He seeks, finds, and articulates common ground and mutual goals, disagrees amiably, and steadily builds both consensus and grassroots support through his hard work and clear, eloquent, impassioned communications.
Of course both Hillary and Barack have achieved great things, or they wouldn’t be where they are today. But Obama’s years of greatest productivity and achievement are arguably still ahead of him, while Hillary seems thrilled with her chance to put the finishing touches on her once-aggressive 60’s-era agenda. She has earned her recognition and vindication, but while she’s enjoying it, Barack and his generation, and the next one too, have rocketed past her into a tomorrow Hillary can’t visit even in her dreams.
Both Hillary and Barack are tested and tenacious campaigners and fearless competitors. Hillary has fifteen years of Washington experience on Barack, whose present stature derives mostly from his work ethic, brilliant planning and organizing, and charismatic leadership born of strong character, values, empathy, wisdom, and hope. Barack has risen to every challenge on his path, and he has always emerged ever-closer to a national mandate for leadership.
In their very differently-conducted campaigns, Hillary and Barack have given us new insight into their personalities and character. But Barack has also given those who’ve followed his trajectory a tantalizing taste of what it would be like to have a strong, candid, universally-respected, and visionary President on whom we could rely for trustworthy, respectful leadership, for inspiration, and example.
Hillary is burdened with our nation's collective memory of past nasty campaigns and embarrassing setbacks. Unfortunately, she is a somewhat polarizing figure, distrusted and disliked still by too many voters. Barack, too, has fought difficult campaigns—beginning in Illinois, a state famous for its tough political climate—and has emerged squeaky-clean, greatly loved, and consistently elected in landslides by a constituency mirroring the wide range of backgrounds, interests, ages, genders and ethnicities found across America.
Ever since a skinny guy with a funny name no one could remember took on Hillary’s formidably-organized, well-heeled and internationally-recognized campaign, Americans who have read his books and listened to him speak about his plans for America have begun to write their own hopes and dreams upon the fresh new slate which is Barack Obama.
If nothing else, we’ve learned from our beloved civil rights and feminist leaders of the past that we cannot make good decisions about the best person for any job by considering the color of their skin, their race, or their gender. We must instead carefully weigh the content of their character, and thoughtfully consider their suitability for the job at hand. I think Hillary well-suited to be a Secretary of Health and Human Services, and her husband would be a formidable Supreme Court Justice. Consider, ladies, that a unifying Obama Presidency may be just what we need to help us find our way through today's troubles, toward a future we’ll be proud to leave our grandchildren.
(Nancy Pace blogs on breaking news at the intersection of politics, peace, culture, and spirituality at www.epharmony.com.)
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