88 years ago — before this very day, and in the lifetime of women many of us have known — women in the United States did not have the right to vote. The 19th Amendment to the Constitution reads, “The right of the citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.”
88 years later — to the day — the first woman who was ever a serious presidential candidate will address her party’s convention. Hillary Clinton will speak this evening at the Democratic National Convention. Having lost the hard-fought primary election, she will call the party to unity behind Barack Obama.
But some Clinton supporters still feel quite strongly that her loss was fueled, in part, by sexism, by the ongoing struggle of women to gain true political equality in this nation. Some of those Clinton supporters say that they are so bitter that they will vote for John McCain out of spite. (See Susan Faludi’s New York Times Op-Ed, “Second Place Citizens,” August 26, 2008)
Spite is a terrible reason to cast a vote one way or the other. Women did not get the right to vote to be spiteful! Use that vote well! Vote for whomever you believe in, but vote for the right reasons! Vote in favor of the candidate with the best platform, the one most likely to be able to lead our nation in this difficult time. Do not vote against anyone — vote for whomever you think is the right person to be president.
Whatever we may privately think of Clinton or Obama or McCain, we know this: this election season has already shattered glass and marble and stone ceilings into thousands of shards, changing forever the opportunities available for women, for African Americans, for older Americans, for people from all walks of life. Because of this remarkable political season, the chances that a future president will be Black or Female are great — if not now, then maybe next time. Constructing our political lives is an ongoing American preoccupation, so let’s stop treating election results like they are forever — in their wisdom, our Founders set up four-year intervals for the people to affirm or overturn their electoral decisions. There’s always a next election!
Speaking of women’s rights and women’s political advancement, have you seen our Trinity Alumnae rockin’ and rollin’ at this convention? Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi ’62 starred last night as the Democratic Convention co-chair. Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius ’70 was on Face the Nation on Sunday and also had several interviews during the convention coverage on Monday, and on Tuesday night she addressed the convention.
Whether famous national politicians or convention delegates, whether local school board members or town leaders, whether campaign activists or private citizens, whether Democrats or Republicans or Independents, for 88 years Trinity Women have used their right to vote to create the change they want to see in their communities and in our nation.