The glass ceiling that didn’t shatter

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By Jahnavi Rao, Staff Reporter

The night before the 2016 election, Secretary Hillary Clinton stood exhausted and hopeful in front of an audience of thousands in the heart of Philadelphia. The polls were prematurely announcing her expected victory and a sense of joy and relief resonated through the air. The war was over, and we were soon to see the first female president ascend to the highest position in the country. Secretary Clinton climbed the steps at Independence Mall and spoke to her supporters with a vibrant air, talking about the choice of tomorrow.  

“There is a clear choice in this election,” Clinton said to a raucous audience, the night before that momentous day. “A choice between division or unity, between an economy that works for everyone or only those at the top, between strong steady leadership or a loose cannon who could put everything at risk … The real question for us is: What kind of country do we want to be, and what kind of future do we want to build for our children?” 30,000 roared back in unison that the choice was clear, and history seemed to already be set in place.

Clinton’s historic candidacy reverberated with those of us looking for a future of opportunity for all, on the coattails of the election of the first black man for presidency. The time for the oppressed to stay silent was far behind us. The election of Secretary Clinton would be a momentous milestone for the history books, and one we were sure was going to happen.

“We know the painful chapters of our past, but the greatness of our country lies in the willingness and our ability to right these wrongs,” Clinton said. “I personally believe that we have come too far to turn back now.”

And America has come far. Before, there were slaves, disenfranchised women, diseases and world wars. That’s why “Make America Great Again” never made sense. Of course, every candidate has the vision to improve America, whether it be to stand “Stronger Together” or cause “Change We Can Believe In.” But the classic white-on-red text of “Again” is what causes me to pause. What state in time do we want to go back to, to reach for this ideal that has already been attained? Because it doesn’t seem like there was a time before now that was better. And it looked like Hillary would overcome this backlash of people wishing to return to the past in that cold November rally at Independence Mall.

“Let’s make history!” Clinton proclaimed, to the answering roar of 30,000 people, old and young, black and white, with hope and love. And history was made.

But not in the way we wanted it to.

The next day, those 30,000 effusive and joyous cheers at Independence Mall turned to heartbroken sobs, and the vision that millions had for the future were erased with a few states leaning a certain way. And suddenly, we were left looking at a very different future. History was being made, but there was no celebration for this.

We had not broken that highest and hardest glass ceiling. Instead, we learned that no matter how far we had come as a country or how much we had achieved, there was still half the population wishing to return to a past of oppression for few and freedom for some.

We can say that the polls didn’t take blue collar workers into account, that it was a vote for economics, or that she neglected uneducated white men. You can say all you want about her economic policies that were largely misunderstood, or the way she dealt with Trump by allowing his stream of false statements. And I know some fraction genuinely believed Trump was more fit to be president, but in the end it’s simple what the vote that won Trump the presidency was for. This was a vote for the people who were once on top feeling neglected. This was a vote with a tinge of white supremacy and a side of misogyny.

All that being said, I do not wish for Trump to fail; because if Trump fails, America fails. On the contrary, I pray and fervently hope he succeeds, truly Making America Great. But that doesn’t mean we will stand idly by if he does not achieve his goals.

And that’s the important thing to keep in mind for this Inauguration Day and these upcoming four years. Of course we should continue advocating for the causes we believe in. I’d go so far as to say it’s more important now than ever, with the government threatening to decelerate and possibly reverse the progress America has gone through socially. If no one is to speak up for what is right, who will?

In her heart-wrenching concession speech, heralded as possibly the most emotion she has shown, Clinton responded to the sorrow plaguing those who wished for the future she offered. “This loss hurts, but please never stop believing that fighting for what’s right is worth it,”  Clinton said.  “It is. It is worth it.”

I’m not going to downplay how I feel, and how fear for the fate of America wakes me in the middle of the night with the feeling of something stuck in my throat. Half the country didn’t want the progress Clinton offered. Instead, they chose the path well trodden, of misogyny and wealth creating power. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t hope.

I stood behind Hillary because she supported the causes I believed in, and because she was not Trump, yes. But I also supported her because she was a woman, and I wanted to see my gender, that has struggled for our constitutionally endowed rights for what seems like an eternity, succeed. But she didn’t win, the most qualified candidate ever to run against the least.

“Now, I know we have still not shattered that highest and hardest glass ceiling,” Clinton said. “But someday, someone will.”

And I will work every day to make this happen. I will accept this presidency and hope for the best, but I will also prepare for the worst. This is the time to come to battle, to put on your pins, take out your clipboards and lobby for the issues you believe are at risk. A woman wasn’t elected, and we will see someone who threatens many people’s beliefs ascend to the Oval Office, but one day, someone will shatter that glass ceiling. Keep your head high this inauguration, and don’t give up fighting for the causes you believe in. There are many more seasons to come and much work to do.

God bless America.


Jahnavi Rao can be reached at [email protected].