Watching Hillary Clinton accept the nomination for president was like glimpsing what might have been for my own mother, and a marker for how far we have come. My mother is a beautiful, fiercely intelligent, life-long politician and public servant, who was truly hampered by being a woman. Had she been born later than she was, I have no doubt she would have been the one standing on that stage. I have seen her speak countless times and she is brilliant, funny, and charismatic. Dolores L. Mitchell would have been an amazing president.
Don’t get me wrong, she accomplished much in her lifetime, retiring this year at the age of 87. She was the first woman to run for public office in my hometown, losing twice in her bid to be on the school committee, once by only 29 votes. She was instrumental in electing the first African American to the school board, though she herself was never elected. She was the cabinet coordinator of Massachusetts for Michael Dukakis, and Secretary of Human Services as well, during his governorship. She was the director of the Katie Gibbs School, and for 29 years she has been the Commissioner of the Group Insurance Commission of Massachusetts, working under 7 different governors until reluctantly retiring this year. She was instrumental in numerous health care and health insurance policy related initiatives and innovations. She still lectures around the country and though her short-term memory is problematic, her mind is still whip sharp.
It was not easy being her daughter. She was tough as nails. She was demanding. She expected a lot and though generous to a fault, was not generous with love and affection. This was hard for a daughter who just wanted a mom. Everyone knew her, and when I got in trouble, it was always “Oh, you’re Dolores’s daughter?” “Wait till she finds out!” She pulled me out of classes in school that she thought were a waste of time, like “home-economics” where we baked corn meal muffins and learned to set a table, and moved me into classes that would challenge me academically. She fought for me to excel but all I could see was that she was making my life hard and setting me apart. She tried to toughen me up because for her, being a woman in a male dominated world was hard and you had to be tough, unflinching and smart and she wanted me to be and do anything I desired. I didn’t understand it as a child, but I have come to understand these motivations as an adult and a physician. She gave me the gift of never questioning my ability to do what I wanted. She wanted me to be fearless and when I needed that bravery and she gave me a moral compass to live by. Because of her I never considered anything out of reach just because I was not a man.
So now, watching Hillary Clinton, who like my mother, had to persevere, to be strong, unflinching, smart, persistent, thick skinned, and dedicated beyond measure, I am filled with pride not just for Hillary, but for my mother, myself, and all the other women who have stood proud and worked hard to prove that we are equal to the job, whatever the job, and to know that, as she said during her acceptance speech, when the glass ceiling has been shattered, the sky’s the limit.
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