I think we can agree that 2016 has been… challenging. Whether you’re holding your breath for this year to be over or not, I hope you’ll agree with me that there have been some rays of light that shone brightly, many of which were televised.
There are three moments in 2016 when I felt like I was seeing something so new and revolutionary on television that I cried, and the second* was retired four-star general John Allen’s speech about Hillary Clinton at the Democratic National Convention.
You might be thinking, “Leona! You are a feminist! Why would a white military guy’s speech be one of the things you found revolutionary this year? That seems counter-intuitive!” Here’s why:
Have you ever had a moment of profound awakening where you didn’t even know you’d been missing something until you found it? Like falling in love and wondering how you even existed without this person in your life. Like having a child come into your family, filling a void you didn’t know was there. I imagine people who are born deaf and get implants that allow them to hear for the first time would experience something like this. It’s the sensation of having your mind sincerely blown. Have you ever felt that?
That is how I felt when General John Allen talked about what Hillary Clinton would be like as commander-in-chief of our military if she were elected president.
Among other things, he said:
With her as our commander-in-chief, America will continue to lead in this volatile world.
We will oppose and resist tyranny as we will defeat evil.
America will defeat ISIS and protect the homeland…
Our armed forces will be stronger. They will have the finest weapons, the greatest equipment…
I think that’s about the point when I realized I had never heard anyone talk about a woman as the top military leader in my country before, and that this general was doing it without softening anything because of her gender. He was not apologizing for her being a woman, and he was not implying in anything he said that she would have the help of big strong men like him to make up for the military deficiencies innate in her womanhood. He represented her as the right person for the job so straightforwardly that I began to sob.
In this moment, my mind was blown.
We don’t get to know yet what a female commander-in-chief would do for America’s military, but after this moment during the DNC, I actively want to. I hope there were other women watching and thinking about how to advance through the ranks of the military to the top positions that make the decisions and plot the strategies. I hope there are women running for office in every election in the country from now on, ready to lead without apology or softening and ready to carry “big sticks” when the time comes.
They say that if you can see it, you can be it. What I saw during this speech was that a woman can be respected as a military leader by an unapologetic man in uniform, and I wasn’t the only one watching.
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