Writing Hillary Clinton’s Convention Speech

Fri, August 22, 2008

Women in Politics


In just a few days, the long national nightmare for some Barack Obama supporters will be over. Hillary Clinton will have taken her final bow at the 2008 Democratic National Convention as she gives her speech on Tuesday night.

Clinton’s name will be placed into nomination in a gesture by Obama to honor her historic race as the “first viable woman presidential candidate” in American history. After that speech, even with her high level status as Senator and former First Lady, Hillary will fade into the political background — at least for a while.

So what should Clinton say in the 40 or so minutes allotted for her 2008 swan song? There’s no getting around the fact that she’ll have to say something about the 18 million cracks in the glass ceiling. But Tuesday night is an opportunity Hillary shouldn’t waste. It’s a chance to make a new start on the political stage. A chance to re-frame herself (again) in who she wants to be going forward as a doyenne of the Democratic party.

Dailypatricia “tweeted” that she hopes Hillary will talk about what it was like personally for her, as a woman, to run for president, saying “girls like me” want to hear about that. Even girls like my eight-year-old daughter understand the powerful moment Hillary presented about what they truly can be as adults.

But BlogHer’s Morra Aarons-Mele, writing at The Guardian, is holding her breath for fear that Hillary will try to morph from the candidate whose campaign focused on white, working-class voters to one that was mainly about her gender:

[W]hile it’s a good thing that language about sexism has made it into the Democratic arty platform, if Clinton uses her moment in the sun to thank the millions of American women who helped her get here, I’m going to throw something at the TV.

Chloe Kamarck at Men’s Daily Vogue blog points out the need for Hillary to address a significant anniversary in her convention address:

[S]ince it’s scheduled to coincide with the anniversary of women’s suffrage, you can expect her to hit hard on the women’s empowerment message, thus further riling up her supporters.

But Hillary Clinton won’t be the only woman on stage at the convention on Tuesday to bolster the empowerment argument. Lilly Ledbetter will be speaking, as well. In case you’ve forgotten, Ledbetter lost a Supreme Court battle this year over pay discrimination.

The Supreme Court decided Lily hadn’t found out about the pay discrimination soon enough and it would have been unfair to her employer, Goodyear, to be responsible for years of pay discrimination that Ledbetter hadn’t known about. So if women’s empowerment is a theme that Clinton touches on, I hope she spends some time shaming her fellow lawmakers into passing the Lily Ledbetter Act (we know McCain won’t), which would keep that from happening to other women, and men, notwithstanding what the Supreme Court said.

Or Hillary could choose to go the “women’s rights are human rights” route, that she talked about 13 years ago in China:

By gathering [here], we are focusing world attention on issues that matter most in the lives of women and their families” access to education, health care, jobs and credit, the chance to enjoy basic legal and human rights and participate fully in the political life of their countries.
There are some who wonder whether the lives of women and girls matter to economic and political progress around the globe. What we are learning around the world is that if women are healthy and educated, their families will flourish. If women are free from violence, their families will flourish. If women have the chance to work and earn as full and equal partners in society, their families will flourish.
And when families flourish, communities and nations will flourish.
Or, as Ilana Goldman, president of the Women’s Campaign Forum suggests, Hillary needs to focus on her earlier commitment to “campaign her heart out” for Obama, and say whatever needs to be said to really seal the deal for the Democratic party with those who voted for her.

That’s a lot to try to get into one speech. Or she could take another route. Unless Barack Obama plans a really big V.P. surprise, no matter what Hillary says, after Tuesday, she’ll be able to kick back and think about the Senate and, who knows, maybe even Disney World.

Cross-posted from BlogHer, where PunditMom is a Contributing Editor for Politics & News.

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6 Responses to “Writing Hillary Clinton’s Convention Speech”

  1. Daisy Says:

    She’s going to be heavily criticized no matter what she says. Her candidacy is historic largely because of her gender; it’s OKAY if the speech focuses on that. 18 million cracks in the glass ceiling – it won’t take many more before that ceiling falls.

  2. Shonda Little Says:

    Tuesday is my birthday, also on Women’s Suffrage Day, so I am excited to see what she says. I’ve never heard a Hillary speech that didn’t make my eyes well up a few times, so she’ll do great.

  3. Sharon Says:

    I, too, will be watching Hillary on Tuesday night. She knows there is a lot riding on what she says, so I expect to be wow’d. It feels to me like her speech will make the transition from ‘before the nomination’ to ‘we’ve got to get out there and win this election.’
    And happy birthday, Shonda.

  4. Kel-Bell Says:

    Thanks for a well thought out post. I will think of your essay when I watch the speech.

  5. judy in ky Says:

    I don’t really know why, but I am almost afraid to watch.
    But you must realize, I am old enough to remember the Chicago convention in 1968!

  6. Tracee Says:

    I hung her poster and her quote, “18 million cracks in the glass ceiling” on the wall in my office.

    I’m about fed up with people telling me it’s cliche or passe to want to be represented in my own flipping government.

    Or that women’s issues aren’t “the most important issues” in this election. Sure, if you have a penis there not. But, I don’t.

    Some guy told me “the economy” was the most important thing. Well for women the economy IS a women’s issue.


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