Madame President | Inquirer Opinion
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Madame President

I saw the refrigerator magnet last year at the airport of Washington, DC. The souvenir stall must have been owned by a Democratic sympathizer since I didn’t see any Donald Trump items, although come to think of it, Trump hadn’t yet reached the levels of prominence he has since scaled in the Republican party.

Anyway, occupying a prominent place on our home refrigerator these days is a magnet with Hillary Clinton’s image and the text “2016: Madame President Hillary.”

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You could say it was quite prescient of me, but it was no biggie, really. At that time, Hillary was the only star on the horizon in the Democrats’ firmament (Bernie Sanders had yet to emerge as a credible contestant), while the GOP was still mired in the intramurals of a confusing cast of wannabes, until The Donald emerged with his blend of bluster and braggadocio.

Indeed, the joke that went around my circle of family and friends went like this: Oh no! Du-dirty won!? Where do we go now? Let’s migrate to America! But wait, what if Trump wins? At which point my niece, who is based in Canada, interjects: Well, there’s Trudeau here in Canada!

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To this Pinay, the anticipated face-off between Hillary and The Donald brings me back to the still ongoing conflict (or contrast) between President-elect Rodrigo Duterte and Vice President-elect Leni Robredo. The latter has said she will “respect” the office of the President, despite his continued snub of her in deference to his “friend” Bongbong Marcos. But just by being themselves—the President-elect with his echoing of Trump’s bluster with the added spice of earthy expletives, the Vice President-elect keeping her counsel and not rising to Du30’s bait—they already serve as object lessons on how (or how not) to act statesmanlike, or at the very least, with decency, and set an example of civility for our youth to emulate.

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To go back to Hillary.

Without any false modesty, she told her supporters Tuesday that her virtual clinch of the Democratic nomination for president was a “milestone.” It was historic and significant not just for herself but also for all American women—and for women around the world—to become the first woman to win a nomination for president from a major political party in America. (Geraldine Ferraro was nominated by the Democrats for vice president in 1984 and lost, a fate repeated by Sarah Palin in 2008 for the Republicans.)

It will indeed be an earthshaking development should Hillary go on to win the US presidential election, especially against a man like Trump, who in his public statements has denigrated women, migrants, people on welfare, Muslims, and the population of Mexico.

But it was one woman in particular who was top of mind for Hillary at the moment of her sweet victory. She was thinking of her mother. “In remarks laden with the historical significance of her achievement,” said a CNN report, “exactly eight years after she conceded the Democratic primary to Barack Obama—[Clinton noted] that what she had once come so agonizingly close to was now reality.” She “noted her mother’s absence,” saying: “I wish she could see her daughter become the Democratic nominee.” Her mother, Dorothy Rodham, has turned 97.

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Hillary even took a swipe at The Donald while invoking her mother, saying “she taught me never to back down from a bully, which it turns out was pretty good advice.”

But not all Americans, not even all American women, are as enamored of Hillary as her ardent supporters are.

In a commentary published in the Washington Post, fresh college graduate (Harvard) Molly Roberts sought to explain “why millennials are yawning at the likely first female major-party nominee for president.”

With some dismay she notes that with Hillary’s clinch of the Democratic nomination, “no one seems to care—at least not many people in my millennial generation. Not even women, although they should.”

She searches for answers: “Maybe my cohort is caught up in the moment of Donald Trump: Millennial liberals may think it’s more vital to ward off an age of authoritarianism than to usher in a new era for feminism. Certainly, we’ve been distracted by Bernie Sanders: For idealistic young voters, a rabble-rousing revolutionary feels more alluring than a political pragmatist, even one with two X chromosomes.”

Roberts asks people her age to look back to recent history, to the times when, as a new first lady, Hillary tried to shake up the staid, safe confines of the role of presidential spouse.

“Many millennials find it easier to pillory Clinton for her mistakes than to praise her for her successes as first lady. But they fail to appreciate how striking those successes were for a first lady at the time. They also fail to understand why Clinton couldn’t go further—when it’s remarkable she got as far as she did at all.”

Certainly it’s been a long, arduous journey for Hillary Clinton since those days of coming under fire for being “too assertive” when she tried to be a truly equal partner to her husband in the White House, then enduring the backlash of the Monica Lewinsky affair, followed by years of establishing her own independent credentials as a senator and secretary of state.

It’s been a political career full of compromises and accommodations, requirements of holding office whether in the United States or the Philippines. But one thing Hillary has not abandoned or compromised on: women’s rights and women’s role in the world. For all of our sakes, I pray my refrigerator magnet is a harbinger of good news.

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TAGS: Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, US election
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