I write to you, Madame Secretary and former First Lady, to pay my respects to all of the fine work that you have done for our country. I saw you speak at my high school when you were first lady, speaking about outreach programs and education. I was in awe and very proud to be in your presence, even in an overcrowded auditorium. It has taken me several weeks to write this letter, as every time I begin it, I become very emotional and had to stop. I feel sincere pain that despite the election results, in which you won the popular vote, you will not be inaugurated this coming week. It pains me because I believed that you were the better choice for our country, for our future. It pains me because I thought that 2017 was the year that we would finally have a female president in the White House. It has been long overdue.
Many countries in various parts of the worlds have had female leaders, from India and Pakistan (the countries from which most of my ancestry hails), to England (some of my other ancestors), to Germany, Liberia and Argentina. It has been long overdue in the United States, as we claim to be the leaders of the free world, and yet we have not had a female head of state. As you well know, we are also behind on rights for women in terms of reproductive health, equal pay, and childcare being provided for us all.
I am afraid, as with this incoming administration that many of the things that we have fought for will be pushed back, such as marriage equality, affordable health-care, and ending foreign wars. I am afraid as more evidence points towards voter fraud and the heavy influence of the Russian government in our elections that there will be a continuation of more illegal, unethical and even treasonous things committed in our political system. It is frightening to see these things going on, and worrying for the welfare of our country. I am afraid that so much of the rhetoric that got the president-elect is hate speech, and appealing to fear, anger and hatred that is directed at other Americans: people of color, women, Muslims, Jews, and pretty much anyone who is not a white, heterosexual male. We will see what happens, and in the meantime, I have been protesting at every available opportunity!
In my sorrow about the election results, I cried every day for a week, and felt depressed for a month. I realized that I like many Americans, are grieving, and I needed to let myself feel my feelings. Most everyone I know stayed in for New Year’s Eve, saying goodbye to a tough year, and aware that we may be facing an even tougher year ahead. Despite my sadness, the day after election, I wiped my face and walked into my local LGBT Center, saying that I wanted to volunteer and help. I was raised Muslim and have an eclectic spiritual practice (like the typical Californian and do yoga) and am an interfaith chaplain, counselor and psychology professor. I decided that it is important to not only empower the communities that we belong to, but be allies as well to other groups and organize across color, cultural, and religious lines. People need to look out for each other, and we need to work together to help further equality- if any of us is oppressed then none of us is truly free.
You did your best to help improve the lives of Americans, helping women and children, being pro-union, creating smoother relationships with other countries, helping to end wars, create jobs and leave this country in better shape than in which you found it. I think you deserve a lot more credit than what you have received, first as an attorney, a governor’s wife, as first lady, as senator, and as Secretary of State. You have done brilliant work in your long and lucrative career, and made an impact on the lives of so many people.
Women all over our country (and our planet) can appreciate your work, your idealism, your strength and your intelligence. It is not easy, in any part of the world, for a woman to come into a position of power, let alone sustain it. Women leaders have been treated with harsher criticism, and easily blamed and scapegoated, such as Margaret Thatcher, Queen Elizabeth I, and now Angela Merkel, as well as yourself, to name just a few. However, to show grace under fire has shown maturity and good character, and we have seen you do it very well. The hearings about your emails were an attempt to demonize you, as you well know, especially before the election. You were impressive in keeping your composure through these hearings and the debates. I could see the fire in your eyes when you were demeaned publically and called a “nasty woman.” I will be wearing a T-Shirt that I ordered after that debate with Rosie the Riveter on it that says “Nasty women make history.” I will be wearing it during the women’s march on January 21st, and will have continued opportunities to wear it these next few years, I’m sure!
Many women of all ages have looked up to you, and are proud of who you are and what you have done for us. Too many of us share the experiences of being ridiculed, degraded, and disrespected for the bodies we live in and the gender identities that we hold. I had high hopes that we would have more changes towards equality with you as our president, but that is not our reality. For now, many of us will be fighting to keep some of the freedoms we have, let alone establish new ones. But you have shown us what a female leader looks like, and we will not forget. Your face is the cover of my “Women in the workplace” lecture for my psychology of women class that I teach, and you are featured in a documentary that I show called “Miss Representation”, which is a very appropriate title for a film on how women are under-represented in the media and positions of power. I will teach my students, daughters and sons about you, and use you as an exemplar of female leadership.
Please do not drop out of the public eye, we need you! Even if you are not the president elect, you are the president that we needed. Our country needs you still, fighting beside us as we work towards building a stronger, just and equitable America! I hope to see you continue to work for equal rights and better opportunities for the American people, and not disappear. I still believe that we can have incredible female leaders, and you have broached the glass ceiling all the more. It has paved the way for the rest of us to become one step closer to making dreams of equality a reality.
Thank you for all that you have done. Your legacy lives on in the American men and women that wish for a better tomorrow for all Americans! May you have good health and live a long life, and be an exemplar for all of us!
With warmth and many blessings,
Sarah Astarte, Ph.D.