It’s taken me a few days to figure out what I want to say in this post. All week, when my friends have asked me what it was like to see Hillary Clinton, I’ve told them it was “amazing”. In fact, I even posted this Instagram picture and caption:
And seeing Secretary Clinton was amazing – in that it was very cool to see a woman whom I’ve admired and supported for so long in the flesh. It was awe-inspiring to be in the presence of someone who has traveled so much and represented the U.S. on such a massive scale, who has weathered a world of scandal thanks to her husband and come out on top, and who, somehow, still managed to seem like someone’s wonderful grandma.
But in terms of an event, or a chance to get to know your candidate, it was disappointing. The event was three hours long but Hillary was on stage fore barely half an hour of it. Most of the time it felt like we were at a strange concert where DJ Cassidy was playing great music but most people felt too awkward to really dance. Olivia Wilde came out to introduce Hillary, which was awesome in theory (House, M.D. is my all-time favorite show), but again felt stunted and “campaign-y” – she could have been acting out a role.
When Hillary finally came out, I did love everything she had to say. She talked about issues that are very much in the national spotlight, but also highlighted issues that aren’t talked about enough. That’s what I liked about her in the last run for presidency too – she doesn’t only speak about the “hot-ticket” items. She talked about having universal pre-kindergarten, which would make a such a long-term difference in the development of this country and its people. She spoke about how excited she was to meet her granddaughter, Charlotte, but she felt that, “you should not have to be the granddaughter of a former president or a former secretary to have opportunities.” She talked about the need for mental health issues to fall into the realm of open dialogue – for the crazy healthcare system surrounding it to be cleaned up and simplified, and for the stigma to be wiped away. She spoke about how people often feel embarrassed asking for help so she said, “So during this campaign I’m going to talk about substance abuse. I’m going to talk about mental health.” She spoke about how this country is built upon basic bargains – like if you work hard you’ll have opportunities. The themes of the Clinton Global Initiative (making long-term commitments) and her own book/phrase (“It Takes a Village“) rang through her message without her overtly mentioning them. “At the end of the day, what really matters is how we treat each other. I’m going to try to remember that, I want you to remember that.” That was my favorite thing she said, because it’s such a simple a true message, and not the kind of thing you’d necessarily expect to be the message of a campaign speech today.
So if Hillary was so great, why was I disappointed?
It’s because as much as I wanted to hear and did agree with Hillary’s campaign platforms, I didn’t want to just see “campaign Hillary”. Attending the event felt like I went to a sad concert and then watched Hillary Clinton give a speech on TV. I had thought that for $100, on the night of the first fiscal deadline, I would get at least a longer speech from her, or at least more speeches from her supporters. Everyone who spoke kept mentioning that Zach Braff and Uzo Aduba were in the audience – why didn’t they speak themselves? Why didn’t we hear more from the volunteers who work in her campaign headquarters, especially given that it’s based in New York?
I understand that in today’s world, political advisors (and politicians themselves, in turn) are extremely wary of doing anything where they can’t control the outcome. Any situation can be spun. But what I feel like they (and a lot of people trying to use today’s instant, Internet-driven culture to their advantage) fail to understand is that its authenticity and honesty that works. An example from the fashion/beauty world – sure those air-brushed models get a lot of admirers, but look at how the untouched, un-photoshopped pictures that occasionally come out are celebrated!
This is not to say that Secretary Clinton came off at all as artificial. Just… tailored. I kept feeling like there was so much more she could have said on any given point and so many questions the audience could have asked her that would go deeper than any interview she’ll give in the coming months. Now I’m not sure if this blog post will ever reach the right eyes or if the political pundit behind those eyes would even care, but here is my challenge to Secretary Clinton and to all the candidates running for office in 2016:
Give the people a chance to actually talk to their candidates. Let them interact. Let them ask questions. The beauty of today’s world is that the lay person has the ability to talk to anybody in the world, regardless of whether they are famous or powerful. People love that. Take advantage of that. I realize it’s scary – what if someone asks a question you don’t have a perfectly scripted answer for? What if someone says something awkward or embarrassing? It’s the world of the internet – every video clip lasts forever! But you’re running to be the leader of a great nation. You’re running to represent this country on a global scale and you will (and have) faced unexpected questions from world leaders and swarthy media-people – much more intimidating, I would think, than your average constituent. I’m sure any question I could ask you would be easier than what Brianna Keilar will present you with tomorrow. Don’t just talk to the people, speak with them. Have real conversations, in person. Don’t try to play the internet game – just be real and the internet will automatically love you for it.
Readers, please let me know what you think in the comments below. If you agree and would like this election to be about real dialogue and not just constructed sound-bites, please share this post on your own social media and with the candidates you want to have dialogue with. I think it applies no matter what your political leaning. Thanks!