It was a busy week, in September, when I saw Canadian hero Roberta Bondar followed by Hillary Clinton the next night. I joined 5499 other individuals (mostly women) to promote her book What Happened and to hear her speak about her experience running for President. At the time, the Invictus Games was also being held in Toronto and she spoke about how much she appreciates Canada’s diversity, support for immigrants and the invitations for her to relocate to Canada! As much as she enjoyed Canada, she plans to stay in the United States and be part of the ongoing resistance.
Writing the book was painful at times, as she reflected on the mistakes that she had made and she shared that she feels “ok as a person but worried as an American”. Here are four lessons that she learned:
- Everyone gets knocked down – we all face loss and disappointment but she encouraged self care (she appreciates yoga and the alternate nostril breathing that is not my favourite meditative type of breathing) and shared the importance of moving onward together through activism and engagement.
- “The only way to get sexism OUT of politics is to get more women into politics” – this sentiment got enthusiastic cheering from the crowd as she spoke of the double standard for women, referenced Lean In by Cheryl Sandberg and shared that “just by being at the table, in a room, you are making the government more representative”. She applauded Trudeau’s gender balanced cabinet and got more cheers as she repeated his comment that it was balanced “because it is 2015”!
- The forces at work in the 2016 election are still happening in the US – she spoke of the “perfect storm” of an undercurrent of anger, press obsessed with her email mistakes, the FBI investigation and interference from the Kremlin to undermine democracy.
- “There is no such thing as an alternate fact” – it is hard to believe how much fictional news was planted making it difficult for individuals to determine fact from fiction including the refusal to accept science. Social media makes it so easy to spread lies and rhetoric.
Hillary feels that “democracy is under assault” and hopes that the “lessons we should learn from 2016 will help heal democracy and protect the future”. She encouraged the crowd to “refuse to be silent in the face of sexism, racism, bigotry and rhetoric” while “working together to face and solve problems”. Although this message was shared in September, it continues to ring true with respect to the many allegations for sexual assault and harassment that are being reported.
Regardless of your political views she encouraged everyone to “find every opportunity to be active participants” and “get back to listening to each other” showing that “extremism and authoritarianism has NO match for democracy and free thinking people”.
Hillary spoke of Trump as the “first reality TV candidate” which “enabled him to be outrageous day after day”. She described how she wished that she could have said “back off you creep” when he got into her personal space during the debates but how she felt that this was not the kind of reaction voters would want to see from their potential president – perhaps this approach might have been appreciated!
Her overall message was to encourage women to get involved, that women’s different leadership styles and ways to approach problems would be beneficial. She encouraged the crowd to participate, support other women, VOTE and turn out at political events. She encouraged women not to give up and noted that she will continue to “use my voice and platform to get even more people involved and to support democracy”.
Her final message was to “get up every day to resist, insist, persist and enlist“.
The crowd was electric, engaged and the event was positive and well managed. We had purchased general tickets so were quite far back in the crowd but could see her up close on the large screens. Afterwards, I learned that there were secret service and RCMP agents in plainclothes within the crowd.
I wish that I had brought my daughter so she could hear the lessons and hope that women become more involved and have equal representation in politics going forward! A few days before the event MacLeans published this article which is worth a read as we wait for a future with an American President who can behave like an adult, bring the country together, treat everyone fairly despite their gender or diversity and work with other world leaders for peace.