As Hillary Clinton delivered her victory speech Tuesday night marking a milestone for women, she looked to one woman in particular for inspiration: her late mother.
In remarks laden with the historical significance of her achievement as the first female presumptive presidential nominee of a major party, Clinton declared Tuesday night — exactly eight years after she conceded the Democratic primary to Barack Obama – that what she had once come so agonizingly close to was now reality.
While she was surrounded by family and supporters, Clinton noted her mother’s absence on one of the most important days of her political career. “I wish she could see her daughter become the Democratic nominee,” Clinton said of Dorothy Rodham, who would have recently turned 97.
Clinton harnessed the memory of her mother to take a jab at presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump. Clinton said of her mother: “She taught me never to back down from a bully, which it turns out was pretty good advice.”
Rodham was abandoned at 14 and never attended college. Clinton regularly told the story of Rodham and her struggles at the start of the 2016 campaign, but opted to leave her mother out of her stump speeches as the campaign dragged on.
But that changed recently, according to Clinton aides, as the former first lady moved closer to victory and began to reflect more on her mother. Ultimately, Clinton chose to turn a part of Tuesday’s victory speech into a tribute to her hero.
“I think she had her mother on her mind a lot today and she observed that in her remarks,” Brian Fallon, Clinton’s press secretary, said after the speech. “I think what you heard today was what has been on her mind of a long time.”
Tuesday’s speech offered a stark contrast to the public persona Clinton had displayed in her first White House campaign. Clinton was intent in 2008 on showing her preparedness to be commander-in-chief and project toughness — and even downplayed the historic nature of her candidacy.
But Clinton launched her second White House bid last year in a softer light. She spoke about her mother’s struggles, appeared to delight in discussing the experience of becoming a new grandmother and openly acknowledged her weaknesses as a candidate.
As with Clinton herself, Tuesday marked an occasion that was years in the making for some of the candidate’s most fervent supporters.
Lara Israel, a 71-year-old artist from New York City, said she had been fighting for women’s rights since the 1960s. There would be no bigger victory for women than Clinton’s election to the White House, Israel told CNN as she waited to enter Clinton’s rally in Brooklyn.
“Women have to work 10 times harder and be 10 times smarter than the men,” Israel said. “She’s going to understand women like nobody else. She has the heart and soul that only a woman can have.”
Kristen Blush, a 34-year-old photographer who lives in New York City, was disappointed by Clinton’s first failed campaign. Eight years later, Blush says she is “completely blown away with excitement” — and hopes Sanders and his supporters will rally behind Clinton.
“She could have done this eight years ago,” Blush said. “But better late than never.”
Clinton said she wished her mother were still alive to witness Tuesday’s celebration.
“I wish she could see what a wonderful mother Chelsea has become and could meet our beautiful granddaughter, Charlotte,” Clinton said. “And, of course, I wish she could see her daughter become the Democratic Party’s nominee.”