Dear Hillary: Thank You

Dear Hillary,

Thank you. During this election cycle, I have returned continually to your 1969 commencement speech. In particular, the Nancy Scheibner poem, The Art of Making Possible. Never have I felt more sharply the reality of those “hollow men of anger and bitterness / the bountiful ladies of righteous degradation.” Your speech, and this poem, served as a reminder of why we pursue progress, despite the pain and discomfort such journeys bring. I am struck by the synchronicity – as a young woman facing my own confusion regarding the state of our nation, those who suffer within it, and the questions this presents about our democratic experiment. I do not understand, and in the aftermath – I struggle with the idea of creating in a world where hate and fear prevail.

But if I have learned anything from you – it is to rise above this confusion, to utilize this struggle to deepen my empathy and my resolve, to place more effort behind love and hope in my community. I did not cry on election night but I sobbed when listening to your concession speech: somehow you have managed to remain present, available, committed. Through every piece of unimaginable bullshit: you prevailed. Your message resounds more clearly than ever; not guarded but reverberating in the very bones of those who see and hear you. Regardless of the outcome, your impact is indisputable. Your resilience is extraordinary, your grace superhuman.

It would be impossible to thank you on behalf of our aching world – your life of service strikes me as vocational: irrepressible and its own reward. What I can thank you for is less significant, but profoundly felt. Thank you for being ambitious – for showing me that a woman is capable of being her most intelligent and powerful self while also attracting love, admiration and belonging. That took longer than it should have in your case. I regret that personally and collectively. Thank you for demonstrating the imperative of strength in moments of pain; showing us how to take deep breaths, pull ourselves up and lead the next generation by example. Thank you for teaching me how to work, and giving me the opportunity to champion your voice and values. The space you created for difficult conversations has been a challenge and a gift. Thank you for laughing like a human being, for generously sharing the most vulnerable parts of yourself (including your practicality within challenging systems,) for committing so fully to your calling, for absorbing poisonous amounts of vitriol so we wouldn’t have to. Slowly, this election is starting to feel less like degradation and more like a booming call to dignity. Awake and connected, we will only push harder, dig deeper, reach further: demonstrating these keenly felt convictions through thoughtful action.

When I read your 1969 commencement address, I hear my own heartbeat. Though I feel frightened and beaten this week, your example leaves me grimly certain that doing good work in this world, fighting for decency and truth: will reap bounty. I hope you continue to feel this way on your darkest days, knowing that you have much to offer – and many to join you in that work today, tomorrow and for the next eight years: Not to save the world in a glorious crusade / Not to kill ourselves with a nameless gnawing pain / But to practice with all the skill of our being / The art of making possible.

Jess Shoemaker

PS – I think you are super fucking likeable and I would have drinks with you ANYTIME.