Published August 1, 2016
Mark Trahant / TrahantReports
Hillary Clinton’s acceptance of the Democratic Party’s nomination for president sent a message that traveled far beyond the convention hall in Philadelphia. It was a story told in hundreds of tweets from mothers and fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers, aunts and uncles, and those who make up a larger American family. So many beautiful tweets that showed a daughter watching television at the moment Clinton walked on stage.
One second, one idea, one moment, that said so much about what’s possible.
It was like that across my twitter feed. Many fathers in tears, crying about what their daughters might do. It meant so much, so many said, to see their daughter’s face and excitement for the first female presidential nominee. Emotional retweets.
“When there are no ceilings, the sky’s the limit,” Clinton said. A line we all knew to be true.
A family story that started with an introduction from her daughter, Chelsea. “I’m here as a proud American, a proud Democrat, a proud mother and, tonight in particular, a very, very proud daughter.” Later, Clinton paid a tribute to her mother. “My mother, Dorothy, was abandoned by her parents as a young girl. She ended up on her own at 14, working as a house maid. She was saved by the kindness of others.”
As the tweets rolled past: I thought about Wilma Mankiller. She was fond about telling a story about the first treaty negotiations between the Cherokee Tribe and the United States. One of the first questions: “Where are your women?”
Mankiller said it was common for Cherokee women to be included in ceremonies and negotiations and it was inconceivable that the United States would come to a negotiation alone. How can you negotiate anything with only half your people or half a way of thinking?
“Where are your women?” That question has a new meaning when 14 United States senators told their stories at the convention. One of those women, Sen. Barbara Mikulski,was the first woman elected to the Senate. Then she went on to be the first woman to chair the Senate Appropriations Committee. She was elected in 1986. The story of women in Congress parallels that of Native Americans running for and winning office across the country. First one person wins, then another, then another, and so on. “Where are your women?” is a question with a different answer every election. In state legislatures, Congress, and soon, possibly, the White House. Where are your women? Running governments.
A young man once asked Mankiller what he should call her. She was then principal chief of the Cherokee Nation, and twice elected as the leader of some 200,000 people. But this young man was uncomfortable with what he called a “male” term. “Should we address you as chieftainess?” he asked. Mankiller didn’t say a word. Then, after hearing the suggestion “chief ette,” she responded. “I told him to call me `Ms.-Chief’ or `misChief.’ ”
And so it goes for a would-be Madame President. Her acceptance speech included plenty of policy — and that will be the subject of many posts going forward. But first, we need to think about the barrier that was lifted. Indeed, one of the subtexts from the Democratic Convention was about protestors who dismissed Clinton as the status quo. Perhaps in some ways. But in other ways, no. Because there is so much mischief possible in a world without ceilings.
Mark Trahant is the Charles R. Johnson Endowed Professor of Journalism at the University of North Dakota. He is an independent journalist and a member of The Shoshone-Bannock Tribes. On Twitter @TrahantReports
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