If I could still do a cartwheel, I would have done one on Thursday, October 27th. That day I stood for hours in a long line with my friends and thousands of others in anticipation of seeing and hearing two of the most admirable women of our lifetimes, Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama. I saw two young girls doing cartwheels and on a patch of green grass in the huge parking lot at Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum at Wake Forest University.
And I wanted to join them! I wanted to express in a burst of youthful vitality my joy, exuberance and enthusiasm at being there. I was invigorated and cheerful, and as I watched those two young girls, I recalled being that young and limber and uninhibited in just popping off a few cartwheels when I needed an outlet for my boundless energy. Decorum, plus the fear of real physical injury, kept me in line, though I was experiencing a flood of glee and youth and hopefulness that belied my 61 years.
I was excited to think that those young girls were going to hear two of the most significant women in history promise a future that would protect their reproductive rights and their right to choose. They would be encouraged to envision a future that would offer an affordable education, quality healthcare and the opportunity for equal pay for equal work.
A tender nostalgia crept over me, but it was rooted in more than just my desire to turn a cartwheel. I had lived with each and every one of those assurances during my college years and throughout my professional career, and I had built a stronger life as a result of believing in them. Looking at those girls, I realized I wanted them to have everything I’d had.
I came of age at the beginning of the Feminist Movement, and I embraced women’s new-found freedoms that were hard fought for and won by women like Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem. I graduated from high school in 1972, the same year that “I Am Woman,” the feminist anthem, was #1 on the charts. 1972 was the year in which it finally became legal for an unmarried woman to be prescribed birth control pills. That was followed by the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court ruling in 1973 that gave a woman the right to terminate a pregnancy for any reason she deemed important. Unlike generations of women before me, I could make love with the young man I dated throughout college without the fear of an unintended pregnancy that might derail my getting a degree. I knew I could then forge ahead into a meaningful, well-paying career. I knew I had choices.
I grew strong from the Feminist Movement because I was assured that I could do anything, be anything, and have anything I was capable of dreaming of and working for. It was about freedom of choice in so many areas of my life, and I took full advantage of those privileges and freedoms.
And now here I stood, 44 years later—a damn long time—excitedly waiting to hear the woman who will become the first woman president of the United States assure a crowd of 13,000 that rights so hard-won nearly half a century before, would be championed and strengthened under her presidency.
As inconceivable as it is that we are One Misogynistic Man away from losing freedoms, choices and hopes in 2016, it is a reality. The fiercest assault on Roe v. Wade since its inception is upon us. As Hillary said in the third debate, “We’ve come too far to have that turn back now.”
Sure, it’s discouraging that we are still fighting a battle that was seemingly long ago won. But the ghosts of those who would “make America great again” have never rested. They have continuously risen like goblins from a graveyard to haunt us. They try to scare us with their undertakings to subjugate women’s rights, to escalate racism, bigotry and hatred, and to put white men back in the role of dominance and superiority that they found so comforting in the 1950s.
Standing between those ghouls who would steal our diverse souls is a woman whose time has come. A woman who, at a most pivotal time, will become president of a country that was conceived in freedom and equality, but that has been weighted down with chains of bigotry and chauvinism for decades.
What I believe about the American Spirit is that it can only be pushed around, weighted down, trod upon and disrespected so long; but then, inevitably, that Spirit will emerge with a fierce roar, bellow “Enough!” and fight back with ferocity.
We are there now. We are ready for battle, and Hillary is our general, our collective voice. She, too, was in the thick of the Feminist Movement, and she used every advantage afforded women during that time to get a great education and use her formidable intellect and energy to make a better world for women and children.
Though she has been working tirelessly for decades, she is now coming into her ultimate power. She has, during this election cycle, lead the mother of all battles for strengthened rights and basic human dignity.
Some may say it is too late to establish a future that is even brighter than our past. But from the looks of hope, the voices of excitement and the charged emotions that infused the crowd, it was evident that there is a huge power surge behind the belief that we can, and will, be stronger than ever.
But as both Hillary and Michelle strongly emphasized, it happens with our votes. Michelle said, “Now we need to do our job, and get her elected president of the United States.” She reminded us that, “In this country, the Unites States of America, the voters decide our elections, they’ve always decided who wins and loses—period, end of story!”
Please, take that to heart, and take action. Vote!
I can’t remember feeling so inspired, so optimistic or as proud as I did listening to these two awesome and beautiful women! As they left the stage, I felt so invigorated that I did mental cartwheels, one after the other. That felt almost as good as the real thing.