Dear Charlotte & Aidan,
You are the best and most important parts of my life. I love you more than I will ever be able to express and more than you may ever understand. I start this letter with those fundamental truths not because I haven’t told you of your centrality to my life or of my love, because I do both every day. I start this letter that way – even if you cringe at the sappiness of it in a few years — because, for me, the 2016 Election was most of all about you and the world I wanted for you and your generation to grow up in. While your grandmother’s name was on the ballot, for me, it was an election fundamentally about our country’s future, about your future. I am so proud to have campaigned for her — and fought for you.
We are very blessed and lucky. Blessed in that you are both healthy and surrounded by people who love you. Lucky in our privilege — you do not know what it is like to be hungry, to be homeless, to not have health care, to not have books to read, to not have a safe place to play in, to not know if your parents may be taken away in the night, to not have safe drinking water. You will not have to worry about whether you may be shot because of your skin color colliding with generations of racist rot. My entire life I have watched your grandmother work for a world in which more children are supported, cared for, encouraged, protected. Where good education, good health care, safe environments, and so much more is not related to privilege, to skin color or to zip code and rather the right and reality for every child, and every family. I saw that in Arkansas as a kid, in the White House as a teenager, in New York as one of her constituents and as an American when she served as our Secretary of State. I heard it in every speech she gave throughout last year.
I will largely leave the parsing out of what mattered most in the 2016 Election to your grandmother (she’s just written a book on the topic) and to historians. You will no doubt develop your own views on the election. I really can’t wait to hear what you think about, well, everything, including 2016. I have no doubt we will talk about emails. I certainly think her choices — all her choices — were worthy of scrutiny though I remain flabbergasted that your grandmother’s emails were covered more than all other stories of the election combined. More than children being poisoned by tap water, shot by those who should have protected them, failed by schools meant to educate them, or finally receiving health care thanks to President Obama’s signature legislation. No doubt we will talk about “deplorables” too — I was in the audience that night and heard her talk first about people who felt left out and left behind, who worried about their children’s future. She spoke about all she hoped and planned to do to lift up everyone’s lives and opportunities. Then she talked about people with racist, sexist, xenophobic, homophobic views that then-candidate Trump emboldened and validated. In 2016, your grandmother was equally fighting for the people who agreed with her and those who didn’t — but she wasn’t afraid to call out bigoted views for what they were.
When I campaigned for my mom, I did, or at least tried to do, the same — talking about what she wanted to do to strengthen health care quality and access; invest in education from early childhood through college; build a 21st century infrastructure from our underground pipes to our bridges to satellites; her determination to protect a woman’s right to choose; her fight for DREAMers; her commitment to advance LGBT equality; and the need to focus on the Supreme Court because it affected all of that and more. And, I repeatedly called out then-candidate Trump and others for their hate speech. I also thought about my grandmother, your great-grandmother, Dorothy Rodham. A lot. She was a quiet storm of true strength and purpose — and she would have been so proud of her daughter — she was always telling her to stand up to bullies.
Everything that motivated me to work so hard for your futures throughout 2016 is still true today. Arguably more so. What’s once again clear a couple hundred days into President Trump’s administration is that who is elected to office matters — for what is done, what is undone, and who and what are neglected through malice or incompetence. A core lesson of this time in your early lives is that progress is possible, but it is not inevitable. It must be protected and advanced at the ballot box and beyond. We’re citizens not just when we campaign or when we vote or when we protest. We’re citizens every day in the way we treat one another, what we stand for, and what we stand against.
I foolishly used to believe that the political and the personal could be separated; I no longer believe that. We have a president who excuses neo-Nazis, who wants to ban members of our military because of who they are and keep out immigrants because of who they worship; that’s personal regard-less of our religion, our gender, or where we’re from. We have a president who denies science, whether it’s vaccines or climate change or evidence that, yes, health insurance helps save lives; that’s personal, too, because it’s about protecting our public health today and in the future. The marked rise in bullying in our schools, with some kids citing President Trump’s words to taunt others? That’s personal, too. Protecting children isn’t someone else’s job; it’s all our jobs — even if the president doesn’t think it’s his.
The 2016 election didn’t have the outcome I hoped for, but my hopes for your futures haven’t changed. It’s never occurred to me to pull the proverbial (or actual) covers over my head. There’s no such thing as neutrality or opting out when everything is at stake.