Dear Hillary Clinton,
My name is Elena, and I am 12 years old. I currently live in California, and am in the seventh grade. I have been a tremendous fan of yours since 2008 when you ran against President Obama in the Primary Election. My parents would gather the family, (then just my Mother, Father and I) and sit in front of a very old antenna TV to watch the Democratic debates and convention. I’d like to think that I, only 4 years old at the time, would speak with them intelligently about the political issues being addressed among the candidates, but it was not so. I barely understood what half your words meant, much less the importance of the event taking place on the screen. It all sounded awfully boring to four year old me, but I didn’t care. I liked to watch. Why? Because I thought you were great. Of course, I didn’t understand how great at the time, but pretty great. Great enough for me to sit at the table and draw detailed pictures of you in your orange pantsuit.
Now fast forward 8 years. My friend Paulina and I traveled to Reno, Nevada with my godmother to help get out the vote for both you and Catherine Cortez Masto. Being fluent Spanish speakers and the children of Mexican immigrants, we took on the task of going to latino neighborhoods, knocking on doors, telling people where to vote, handing out flyers, and making sure they had a ride to the polls. We walked the streets every day, reaching out to more than a hundred people in person and making dozens of phone calls. It was tough work, and emotional at times -- especially when we were confronted by an angry Trump supporter who had just attended his candidate’s rally. What was your first campaign experience? Who were your first political heroes?
But our most memorable encounter was one where we knocked on the door of a small, but festive looking house, where a latina woman greeted us and listened as we explained where her polling place was and how important it was for her to vote. The woman hesitated, evidently not speaking a word of English, so we started again, in Spanish. As we explained to her that we were with the Hillary campaign, her face lit up. She told us she could not vote, but that her husband could, and was a strong advocate of yours. Then she made a request: “Le dicen a Hillary que ponga luces por nuestra calle? Se pone muy oscuro por las noches y no se puede ver nada, y creo que Hillary nos podría ayudar.” Basically, she had asked us this-- “Can you ask Hillary if she can put lights on our street, because it gets very dark at night, and we can’t see very well.” Well, I here I am, keeping that promise and telling you. (My mother says we all need to be lights in a time of darkness.)
The day after the election left my family devastated. My parents are not yet citizens and can’t vote, but they tried to compensate by volunteering in your San Francisco campaign office. (My Mother applied for citizenship the morning after your inspiring acceptance speech at the convention.) My 7-year-old brother cried and screamed for hours on election night. He even printed out pictures of Trump, drew red crayon horns popping out of Trump’s head, and taped them to the walls of the bedroom we share. (We both have classmates whose parents could be deported under Trump and my brother wants them to come live with us, too.)
All of San Francisco has felt the loss. I cannot recall a single day since Tuesday where there has not been a huge protest against our president-elect in SF. The most emotional moment for me was on Wednesday during choir rehearsal. I belong to the Young Women’s Chorus of San Francisco, a group of middle/high school girls who sing around the SF Bay Area and the world, this summer in Austria, Slovenia, and Hungary. (I’m sure if you’re ever in SF we would love to sing for you)! At Wednesday night’s rehearsal the results of the election still weighed heavy in our hearts. A girl asked if we could sing “I Dream a World,” a song based on the poem by Langston Hughes, as the song reflected our hope for America. We all gathered in a circle holding hands in the center of the room and began to pour our hearts out into song. By the end of the song, there wasn’t a single person in that room who wasn’t in tears.
That moment, we were at our weakest. Now, we are starting to get stronger. I promise you that we will use our fear and anger as an asset, to continue to support you and the values we share. I, for one, have already promised to turn Arizona blue in 2020! (I even made that pledge on my blog!)
I will not let this disappointment hold me back. I will learn from this experience and from your example, and find ways to make a difference. Perhaps I’ll go to law school, like you did, and focus on civil rights, so I can uphold the laws that make America special (or develop new ones to move us forward). Your campaign sparked within me an interest in politics, both the action and science behind it all. I’m probably too shy and reserved to run for office myself, but could make a difference behind the scenes. Did you ever feel too shy to run for office? Maybe I’ll work in the White House like Sam Seaborn and Josh from The West Wing (they went to law school, too)!
Please do not feel as if you’ve let us down. If anything, we’ve let you down. We should have worked harder on the campaign trail, and not become complacent thinking you would win. And do not worry about your loss. You are the real winner. And I’m not talking technically (which you are-- you received more of America’s votes!) but at heart. You made history, and if the world wasn’t ready to see a woman in the White House, that’s their problem (and yes, also our loss). But we’re not giving up. We will get someone great in there, whether it be Kamala Harris, or Catherine Cortez Masto, and with your help and inspiration, we’ll be unstoppable.
I can’t wait to see what you’ll do next. Keep inspiring us. And I hope your silver lining is you get a little more time with your grandchildren, Charlotte and Aidan. My grandparents are all deceased, so I think grandchildren and grandparents should spend as much time together as possible. Charlotte and Aidan are lucky to have such an incredible role model as their grandmother.
Elena, age 12
PS. Here are my Godmother Celia, me, and my friend Paulina, watching you on Facebook Live the night before election day.
PPSS: The song we sang (the one that made us cry) is based on this poem by Langston Hughes.
I DREAM A WORLD
I dream a world where man
No other man will scorn,
Where love will bless the Earth
And peace its paths adorn
I dream a world where all
Will know sweet freedom’s way,
Where greed no longer saps the soul
Nor avarice blights our day
A world I dream where black and white
Whatever race you be,
Will share the bounties of the Earth
And every man is free,
Where wretchedness will hang its head
And joy, like a pearl,
Attends the needs of all mankind-
Of such I dream, my world!