Growing up, my parents felt it was important to expose my brother and me to the U.S. elections and democratic process. We stood alongside them in the election booth while they cast their votes. We even received "I Voted" stickers and wore them as badges of honor. We were certainly always aware of their political leanings, but they encouraged us over the years to support the candidates and causes we believed in and those that closely related to our own personal values. They also modeled unwavering respect for others' differing opinions and choices.
It was rare for our small town of Wilson, North Carolina to get much attention, especially in the form of a Democrat or Republican presidential campaign stop, so my mom, brother and I waited in line for hours for Bill Clinton to arrive on October 26, 1992. I was 15 years old then. I don't remember much about what Bill said during his campaign speech, but I do remember being introduced to Hillary for the first time. I held a bright pink sign that said, "Happy birthday, Hillary!" I also shook her hand.
A few days after the campaign stop, this article was written about Hillary. This quote stood out to me most:
"It hasn't been easy being the Woman in this Year of the Woman, everybody's favorite target for all that's dangerous about being independent, smart, impatient, articulate, outspoken, ambitious -- and while she's at it, a three-fer: wife, mother and successful corporate lawyer. By any standard, Hillary Clinton has been a handful for America to deal with."
And now, in 2016, following Bill's campaign stop in Wilson 24 years later, Hillary has continued to serve America. She has taken on a few additional roles including First Lady, Senator, Secretary of State (my former boss), Grandmother and recently -- the first female Presidential Candidate of a major party in U.S. history.
This post is not about my personal political beliefs; it is about gratitude for strong female figures like Hillary who have sacrificed so much to serve our country, to pave the way for equal rights and to show young girls and women that they can follow their dreams and to be whomever they want to be.
From Hillary's concession speech today:
"And to all the little girls who are watching this - never doubt that you are valuable and powerful and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world to pursue and achieve your own dreams."
When I turned 18, I registered to vote and have since voted in every single election in Florida - local, state or national. I'm grateful for the privilege to vote and for the freedom to respectfully agree and disagree with my fellow Americans. In 2012, I became a public servant when I was sworn in as a Human Resources Officer for the U.S. Department of State, a career I'm proud of and grateful for.
As someone who faithfully serves our government abroad, I recognize that the freedom to serve my country and the freedom to vote are privileges that many people around the world do not have. I do not take these privileges for granted.
Today, we need to thank Hillary: Thank you for paving the way for women around the world to follow our dreams and to fight for what we believe is best for our country and the world.