BY ASHLEY LUND '17
For as long as I can recall, voting in my first presidential election has been an occasion I have anticipated more than any other milestone. Nov. 8, 2016, the date of this year’s historic election, became the first time Americans would have the chance to elect a woman to our nation’s highest office. Also on Nov. 8 was the 179th anniversary of the first continuing women’s college — Mount Holyoke — opening its doors. As we gathered in celebration around Mary Lyon’s grave to honor her and the history of our revolutionary school, the significance of the moment was intensified by stickers bearing the words “I Voted” worn proudly on those among us. Casting my first presidential ballot for the first woman candidate for president of the United States while simultaneously studying at one of the Seven Sisters instilled within me immense pride and the belief that we had reached a turning point in our society where women could truly accomplish anything.
Hillary Clinton, to me, has never been just any woman. It was Hillary and her passion to help marginalized communities that first inspired me to become involved in politics and activism as a young girl. During her tenure as a U.S. Senator, Hillary’s commitment to female empowerment was demonstrated when she took the time to personally meet with my fellow New Moon Magazine Girls’ Editorial Board member and me during our Washington, D.C. trip to lobby Congress regarding issues pertaining to girls. I watched as she tirelessly stood up against a sea of hostility in order to push for policy initiatives, like the Children’s Health Insurance Program, that have improved the lives of so many disadvantaged Americans. Even throughout this grueling campaign cycle, Hillary has never faltered in her advocacy for women and girls, imploring our society to encourage, validate, and respect us to the same extent as men and boys.
Having watched Hillary Clinton weather the constant attacks over the years - attacks most often gendered in nature — it crushes me to see the electorate reward a candidate like Donald Trump for amplifying that same misogyny. If anyone had doubts about the relevance of feminism in the 21st century, this election certainly proved its necessity. Considering the many sacrifices made by those before us in order to secure rights for women and other marginalized communities, it terrifies me to see all of this progress threatened by our president-elect. This fear has materialized as we witness key White House appointments being filled by alt-right figures like Stephen Bannon, a man who has referred to women of the Seven Sisters as a “bunch of dykes.” Heightened levels of violence have already been unleashed causing suffering that will plague us for years to come.
Not a day has gone by that I have not cried since the election. I long for a return of the hope I felt in traveling to New Hampshire to canvass with a car full of joyful, dedicated first years who have joined the ranks of Mount Holyoke College Democrats. Seeing their eyes well with tears as the election night results rolled in absolutely broke my heart, knowing we mourn not just the loss of an election, but the loss of dreams. However, we owe it to ourselves and to all those targeted by hate to rise up in the face of our grief and fight for the country we envision. We cannot allow cynicism to discourage and defeat us, for as the late Senator Paul Wellstone once proclaimed, “If we don’t fight hard enough for the things we stand for, at some point we have to recognize that we don’t really stand for them.” Mount Holyoke’s legacy has fostered grit and resilience within us. As our generation grabs the torch, we can heed Hillary’s words to “never doubt that you are valuable and powerful and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world to pursue and achieve your own dreams,” and remember, “There are more seasons to come. There is more work to do.” So let’s get started.