How Hillary Clinton’s Acceptance Speech Carries the Weight of History

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In becoming the first woman to lead a major U.S. political party, Hillary Clinton’s task Thursday night was not just to claim the Democratic nomination but to serve as a vessel for American women during a monumental moment in their history.

She and a parade of speakers before her did it by keeping the emphasis on its significance for future generations. “I’m so happy this day has come,” she said. “When any barrier falls in America, for anyone, it clears the way for everyone,” said Clinton.

Her address came on the heels of a rousing speech by President Obama Wednesday night, and the challenges were clear. They boiled down to how effectively she could make a closing argument to American voters after four days devoted to combating questions about her trustworthiness.

In addition to stressing the need for “steady leadership,” Clinton shared more about her personal history. “Some people just don’t know what to make of me,” she said, before explaining how she grew up, describing her grandfather who worked in a Scranton lace mill and her mother, Dorothy, who was abandoned by her parents and ended up working as a house maid at age 14.

She also stressed the importance of her Methodist faith, as well as her early work going door-to-door on behalf of children with disabilities in Massachusetts.

“No one gets through life alone. We have to look out for each other and lift each other up,” she said.

From India’s Indira Gandhi to Germany’s Angela Merkel, many other nations have elevated women to their highest office. Yet the United States has been slow to do the same, with Clinton’s nomination coming 100 years after Jeannette Rankin became the first woman elected to Congress.

House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, who is among those who blazed the trail for Clinton as the first female House speaker, called the moment “transformational” because of the nation’s status as the world’s leading superpower. While “we are admiring” of other global female leaders, “there’s nothing to compare it with,” said Pelosi, a California congresswoman, of the moment when Clinton accepted the nomination.

The program Thursday night also aimed to paint a portrait of a devoted daughter, mother and grandmother.

Chelsea Clinton gave a highly personal account of Clinton as a mother, saying “every single memory I have of my mom is that, regardless of what was happening in her life, she was always, always there for me.”

Hillary Clinton sought to demonstrate that her passion for issues — like helping children and people with disabilities — can be traced from her earliest days of adulthood to her current bid for the presidency.

“It’s a culmination of her work over a lifetime,” said campaign manager Robby Mook.

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Source: USA Today | Heidi M. Przybyla