November 10, 2016
Dear Hillary Clinton,
Some years ago, during my time as a student at Pleasantville Middle School (just one town over from where you and Bill live in Chappaqua, NY), I sent my senator a letter. I was concerned about the environment and I wanted to know what Hillary Clinton was doing to save it. And you replied. You put my name on that response letter, and you told me that my opinion mattered. You told me what you were doing to help. I was just a child then, but your campaign ads were right: our children are watching. I know I was watching: when that letter arrived in the mail, you earned yourself a voter.
Now, I am 20 years old and regardless of this election’s tragic and shocking outcome, I am so very proud to have voted for you in my first presidential election. I’ve been thinking a lot about how much your response to my letter meant to me, how included it made me feel in the democratic process even before I turned 18. It’s about time, I think, that I send another letter: this time to thank you for all you’ve done for this country, for the world, and especially for women and girls.
In your speech at the Democratic National Convention, you said, “America is great because America is good.” This quote has been historically attributed to Alexis de Tocqueville, the nineteenth century French observer of American life and author of Democracy in America. Googling the quote yields scores of articles debunking its link to Tocqueville—apparently people have been misattributing these words for decades. But I don’t quite understand the Internet’s obsession with who said it first. You spoke the words and Tocqueville is irrelevant to their meaning.
In the wake of this horrendous election, after a night of sleepless disbelief and a day of heartbroken tears, I’ve decided that I need this quote to be true. I need America to be good. Because you know what? You said it, Hillary. Greatness is goodness. Greatness is not racism, sexism, anti-Semitism, homophobia, xenophobia, or Islamophobia. That very suffix—phobia—is anti greatness. There is no room for fear in greatness, there is no room for hatred. We have a president-elect so horrifying that Americans fear for their safety. That’s the opposite of greatness.
I am trying to believe in America’s goodness right now. I do believe that we are stronger together, but I also know that our country is more divided than I, in my Barnard College bubble, understood before the early hours of November 9th. I truly thought that I was voting for the first female president. Seeing you concede the election to Donald Trump was an amazingly tragic lesson in grace, integrity, and poise. I don’t know how you do it, Hillary Clinton—just watching the news makes me hurt inside.
“Making America great again” is the wrong goal, as you know and as I thought more people would know. We should be moving forward, finishing what the Civil Rights movement and the women’s rights movement and the United States Constitution started. America cannot afford to do any of its past “again.”
This election has taught me that we cannot take for granted the right to vote, the right to choose, the right to walk down the street safely, the right to marry whomever we love, and the right to worship freely. Women must actively protect our right to education and workplace equality. And we must be vigilant in keeping our communities safe from violence, making it possible for everyone eligible to vote to do so, and holding our country accountable in the face of climate change.
Like you did, I attend a women’s college and I’m not interested in an MRS degree. I’m interested in a Bachelor of Arts in English, and I will use that degree to have a voice, to have power, and to have compassion. I don’t like baking cookies (although of course I respect people who do). I like writing and thinking and taking up space.
Thank you for running for President, thank you for your incredible career, and thank you for inspiring young women like me. #imwithher
Cary Chapman is a junior and a writer for Barnard Bite. She did actually send this to Hillary Clinton.