Sunday, April 12, 2015

Why I'm Supporting Hillary Clinton for President of the United States

Today Hillary Clinton announces her second run for president of the United States and there are personal and professional reasons why I am enthusiastically supporting Secretary Clinton's historical bid to lay claim to the most powerful office in not only America, but arguably in the world.

As a woman, one has to prepare and train to be a marathon runner in this life as we break ground into the second decade of the 21st century.  No one personifies the 'marathon runner' like Hillary Clinton who catapulted onto the world stage as a leading voice for women's rights in 1995 when she delivered a riveting speech at the UN Beijing Fourth Conference for Women, uttering the refrain that had been coined by international women's groups: "women rights are human rights and human rights are women's rights." Since that moment and even before, she has worked tirelessly to advance equal rights for women and girls, both here and abroad.  In America today, women face violence everyday by those closest to them and continue to face pervasive salary and wage discrimination, despite women superceding men in enrollment and attainment of all university degrees.  To elect Hillary Clinton the 45th president of the United States would advance these issues in unprecedented terms and no doubt would electrify the world.

This is the number one reason why I am supporting Hillary Clinton.

Hillary's personal story and her life and prodigious work ethic illustrated by her significant over achievement -- from making national news as a college graduation speaker to becoming the most qualified candidate for president in the modern era of American politics.  She has done it all -- graduated from some of the best universities in America; worked as a lawyer in Congress, pounded out more than 40 years of public policy work, became a First Lady who effectively participated in substantial public policy debates nationally and internationally; became the first First Lady to hold elective office as a U.S. Senator who forged a number of bi-partisan initiatives; became the first woman candidate for president who garnered 18 million votes during the primaries in 2008 and came close to defeating Barack Obama, the eventual winner.  Hillary demonstrated her classiness and higher calling as citizen, when she was asked by President Obama to serve as Secretary of State, which has not been done since William Seward served in Abraham Lincoln's administration  nearly 150 years ago after losing the election to Lincoln, having been considered the favored candidate prior to the convention.

The most recent example of how it usually plays out recalls Edward Kennedy's challenge to sitting President Jimmy Carter,  who, although he lost to Carter, refused to shake Carter's hand at the Democratic Convention.  Kennedy did very little to support Carter during the campaign, who went onto to lose to Ronald Reagan in 1980.

These instances of unselfishness rarely have occurred in American history -- to not only set aside your ego after a bruising defeat, but to rise above it all and serve your country and the president who defeated you reveals Clinton's solid character and humility.

Above all, she cares about people and issues -- people's lives and the public policies that can improve every American's life has animated her life's work, even when she could have chosen an easier path as a private citizen.  Nothing more exemplifies her sense of duty and commitment to the values of the Democratic Party as when she accompanied Barack Obama to Unity, New Hampshire on June 22, 2008 following her defeat and joined him in solidarity before voters.  She went on to appear for him more than 70 times, helping him make history as the first black man to serve in the highest office of the land.

Hillary's sense of duty, dedication and lack of selfishness is the second reason I am supporting her candidacy for the Democratic Party's nomination.  

On International Human Rights day, December 10, 2010, Hillary Clinton delivered the first speech by a sitting U.S. Secretary of State on behalf of LGBT human rights, articulating the U.S. government's policy addressing LGBT human rights.  It was a profound and insightful speech and as I listened spellbound, I noted the historical moment.  I did weep, as did many people I know, not only from America, but also from around the world.  

Hillary understood the speech's historical significance and chose to deliver this speech in Geneva, the home of the UN Human Rights Council on a deeply symbolic day, declaring a familiar refrain when she said:  "Being LGBT does not make you less human and that is why gay rights are human rights and human rights are gay rights..."  No doubt Hillary Clinton came to embrace LGBT human rights later in her political career, but when she steps up to the task, she has studied the issues and listened to wise advisors and acts, as she did so in Geneva on that special day.  

Hillary's comprehensive support of LGBT human rights is the third reason I am supporting her candidacy for the Democratic Party's nomination.

What strikes me as a consistent theme throughout Hillary's life is her intellectual curiosity and penchant to learn, study the issues, absorb the data and subsequently apply this new knowledge to public policy.  This became self evident when she was Secretary of State she articulated "that which is measured is what matters." Every USAID officer had to be prepared to brief Secretary Clinton on a country's data ranging from childhood and maternal morbidity, epidemiology of diseases, crop yields to educational attainment.  From a lifelong study of preschool education and childhood development policies, women's rights, healthcare, including the national Children's Health Insurance Program which was adopted by President Clinton, following Hillary's failed attempt to advance national health care for all Americans. The grass does not grow under Hillary Clinton's feet. She continues to learn.  Since leaving government, she has launched Clinton Foundation initiatives such as "Too Small to Fail," "The No Ceilings Full Participation Project," and one of my favorites is the Clinton Global Initiative commitment project to "Stop Poaching and Trafficking of Ivory," which she launched with daughter Chelsea that has established the connections between poaching of elephants and funding of terrorism in Africa.

Our country desperately needs continued leadership that calls on a wise and knowledgeable leader who embraces ideas, is not afraid of studying the data, particularly now in the face of the Republican party's embrace of full-on ignorance, the rejection of science and its gross disregard for verified facts through social science and scientific research.

Hillary's embrace of lifelong learning, her continued thirst for knowledge and how it can be applied to improve people's lives is the fourth reason why I support her candidacy for president of the United States.

On June 22, 2008 after Hillary appeared in Unity, New Hampshire with Barack Obama, holding their hands together in a joint march to victory in November 2008, she slipped away, flying back to New York City where she appeared before the first graduating class at the Eagle Academy, a charter high school  she helped establish for young black men in New York City.  The ceremony was held at Columbia University and she kept a promise made to a member of the class that she would speak at his graduation (I was present at the ceremony in my former communications role at Columbia).  The ceremony was quite emotional.  She discussed the day's events in Unity and told the life story of Barack Obama and the importance of electing him to the presidency before a majority black audience.  It was heart felt talk on a day of great importance to the families of the graduates.

After she concluded her remarks,  the school's leadership physically encircled her and with great praise and gratitude as the board chair presented a gift to her, he said:  "Hillary Clinton, God has plans for you and your work is not yet done."

On this day a new campaign is to be launched.  Hillary Clinton, the marathon runner, the principled moral leader on human rights, the life long learner has one more job to undertake.  She will take this campaign to the American people and listen to our fellow citizens and ask for their support and their votes.  She will fight for the average American, who only wants a decent quality of life by working in a good paying job with fair benefits;  who can raise a family and send their children to school without succumbing to numbing debt.  She has the strength of principle and compassion, coupled with the knowledge and wisdom to move our country forward to be able to meet the challenges of the 21st century.  

Tanya Domi is an adjunct professor of international and public affairs at Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs, where she teaches human rights at the Harriman Institute.