Lessons in Strength

Two nights ago, Hillary Clinton spoke at the Children’s Defense Fund’s, “Beat the Odds” Gala.

She naturally touched on her days since her election defeat, but quickly turned to reflect on her mother and the impact she has had on her life.

As was recounted in a CNN piece about Clinton’s remarks (and which I expand on here for deeper context), Clinton’s mother, Dorothy Rodham, was put on a train (at 8 years old) to California with only her younger sister to live with her grandparents. Based on what I’ve learned of Dorothy’s experiences with those grandparents, the parental horror I feel about her train ride was actually the easy part of her journey. To say the grandparents treated the sisters abusively would be an understatement by any measure of the definition. The treatment led Rodham to move out, remaining in California for a period of time, before moving back to her hometown of Chicago.

During Clinton’s speech on Wednesday night she reflected on what she’d say to her mother on that train if she had the chance:

“I dream of going up to her, and sitting next to her and taking her in my arms and saying, ‘Look, look at me and listen. You will survive. You will have a family of your own: three children. And as hard as it might be to imagine, your daughter will grow up to be a United States senator, represent our country as secretary of state, and win more than 62 million votes for president of the United States.”

Those are 79 powerful words. Whether you are a champion of social justice, social causes, humanity, or anything that is good or can be good in this world, those words can teach and remind us of much. Here’s what I took from them:

  1. Her words are evidence that we all need to use what we have, when we have it, to do what we can. In the end, there’s no telling the impact that perseverance can have. Work hard, or harder, if you have to in order to embrace your role and do all that you can to make a difference now and for the future.
  1. Leaders of purpose-driven organizations are needed in more ways than can ever be expressed in spoken or written words. Their knowledge of systems, subjects, people, language, relationships—yes, relationships—are the tools to carry missions forward. Believe in them. Trust them. Use them for good.
  1. Imagine the world you wish to live in and then imagine it even greater, because of something you did. There’s no time to settle for status quo or regression. Finding our passions and joining with others who share them can lead to amazing outcomes not only for ourselves but for our communities.