WATCHING WHAT HAPPENED LIVE
Last night I went on a pilgrimage of sorts, one many women are making across the country. I saw Hillary Clinton speak at The Auditorium Theater about the past 12 months, He Who Shall Not Be Named, and how it's affected both her personally and the country. Yeah, it’s technically the book tour for WHAT HAPPENED, but for me, it was a chance to see the woman who’s carried so much of our history on her shoulders. The night was a mixed bag—part crazy fun with Claire, my partner in crime throughout the whole Hillary saga, part letdown as I re-watched Hill hash out everything we already know. At the end of the night, though, it was a spectacular look into a “what if” she became President, and how different of a country we’d have now if the popular majority had ruled.
Hillary first got my attention when speaking at the L.A. hosted Democratic National convention in 2000, when Bill was doing his victory lap. She introduced him, and while I can’t remember the particulars of her speech, I was mesmerized. She wore a gorgeous blue pantsuit (natch), and it was the first time I saw promise in a female leader and, in turn, myself. Over the years that followed I just adored her—with her bucking the "First Lady as Accessory" trend, I was Team Hill in 2008 (but transferred to Team Obama when the time called for it). Her kick ass, take names approach as Secretary of State further cemented my loyalty. So last year as the debates got weirder and weirder, and polls ended up being so dramatically wrong, her loss felt woundingly personal. It was truly a death.
But I’m not telling you anything you Heauxs don’t already know. It’s time to get to the main event, Hillaryfest at The Auditorium. Arm in arm with Claire, my frequent debate watching/article texting/CNN junkie friend, we spent way too much money on tickets to make sure we could be as close to the action as possible. We got those fancy “Phantom of the Opera” box seats off to the side, and the Secret Service was standing behind our box. It was very cool and very intimidating. They didn’t quite know what to do with two bouncing, giggling women in their late 30s acting like we were 12-year-olds who had snuck away to a Bieber concert. I felt very fancy, as we were close enough that we could see the presence, or lack, of Botox of those on stage (Claire’s goal in choosing seats).
Not long after we sat down Cheryl Strayed, the author of WILD, came out to introduce Hillary and to serve as moderator. Which was…random. Nothing against Ms. Stayed, but she was a bit of a wet blanket as an emcee. To be fair, Claire and I only would have been satisfied if Michelle Obama had come out, so our expectations were ridiculously high.
Hillary soon came out to a thunderous standing ovation wearing an emerald green pantsuit and looking pretty fabulous. She soon began discussing all the things I expected she would: how Russia is a “clear and present danger,” how we need to embolden women to seek office when asked what she would be for Halloween, she said with a hearty laugh, “The President.” J.B. Pritzker, who is running for Illinois Governor, got a shout out and when he stood, I realized he was sitting right below us.
Side note: Another politician I love, Ameya Pawar, recently left the gubernatorial race due to lack of funds. This may have, allegedly, led me to write “TEAM PAWAR 4 EVA” on a piece of paper, squish it into a ball and shoot it down into the peanut gallery from my fancy seat on high toward Mr. Pritzker. I’m both displeased that my message did not reach its target, but at the same time thrilled that the Secret Service didn’t catch me launching projectiles at public figures. Let’s be honest, that wasn’t my wisest of life choices. Allegedly. But I digress. Back to Hill.
There were a lot of great quotes from the night about how representation matters, how she was dedicating her life to being an active citizen. My favorite was when she was talking about how we need to embrace radical empathy, and how that movement is going to help us turn the tide away from Trumpism. I think “Radical Empathy” is going to be my new superhero name.
While she didn’t go into anything too presently newsworthy such as Manafort Monday (c’mon, Hill, a bone would have been nice), what struck me about the entire event was how wicked smart this woman is. I don’t care if you agree with her politics or not, she is shockingly well read and knowledgeable about…pretty much everything thing you’d need to be the President of the United States. Hill spoke solo almost the entire time, to the point if Cheryl Strayed had gone off stage, made herself a sandwich and came back out I wouldn’t have blamed her. I still can’t believe that a human, regardless of gender or political allegiances, who was this qualified and prepared lost the Presidency. It’s mind-blowing to see in person. But lost she did. And we’re all here, 357 days later, making our way through a future that could have been avoided. But it wasn’t. So, what do you do?
Claire and I didn’t have the answers at the end of the night. At the end of her speech, armed with radical empathy and hand in hand, we hopped in a cab and set out to figure out what our next step is. Supporting our local electoral candidates in 2018 is a big one. Keeping our voices heard in Congress, using great apps like Resistbot and Countable. Making sure we demand representation for marginalized peoples in addition to issues that hit closer to home. And keep throwing spitballs at Pritzkers, natch. Because I’m a lady.