By Tom Allon
Novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald once famously said “There are no second acts in American life.” He was wrong, of course, because time and time again we have witnessed comebacks, late-in-life success, and numerous examples of redemption in the arts, politics, and the business world.
My old friend and mentor, Frank McCourt, a long-time high school English teacher, wrote a best-selling memoir and won a Pulitzer Prize in his mid-60s. What a second act he had.
Now we have perhaps the most fascinating individual in recent American history, Hillary Clinton, who is attempting to embark on what I would probably call her third or fourth act. In her long-running show, Hillary has been the object of admiration, hope, praise, derision, anger, petty criticism, and jealousy. She is the embodiment of the women’s empowerment movement in our still not-overly-progressive society. She serves as a prism through which many express their hopes for a fully egalitarian society.
But, of course, it is unfair to view Hillary as just the “Great Female Hope,” because she is so much more than that. She deserves to be judged by the content of her ideas, not the chromosomes of her DNA, to paraphrase the late Martin Luther King, Jr. She is a feminist icon, a mother and grandmother, the former First Lady of our country, the most-talked about woman in the world and all of these just tell half the story.
Hillary Clinton has been on the world stage since the early 1990s, before many of today’s Millennials were born, when a hard drive was a long trip. She was a different kind of First Lady, more Eleanor Roosevelt than Nancy Reagan, a trusted advisor and confidante to the most powerful leader in the world. She took a lot of heat for standing by her man. In retrospect, this was the most courageous path and allowed both of them to continue to be important leaders well beyond their two terms in Washington.
Her second act — her own political career — began in 2000 when she went on that famous “listening tour” before being elected senator from New York. All went according to plan until her smooth path back to the White House as a powerful feminist icon was eclipsed by the meteoric rise of Barack Obama.
Her third act came as international policy maker when Obama named her Secretary of State, a job she held for four years.
Now, it appears to finally be Hillary’s turn.
Many will lament that Clinton is not a fresh face in politics and ask why should we have another president with the surname of Clinton or Bush. But we should look at Hillary’s experience, her ideas, vision, and her temperament when evaluating her fitness to lead the world’s most powerful nation.
We all know her resume is impressive, but what about her ideas and vision? Well, we got a small glimpse of that in her two-minute campaign video Sunday: she wants to be the champion of middle-class Americans and all those who want a level playing field so they can get ahead.
But we’ll need to watch in the coming months as she articulates her vision of how she will achieve this goal. Will she try to raise taxes on the wealthy and implement a more progressive tax code? Will she push for significantly higher minimum wages and greater sick and maternity, and paternity leave?
We will want to hear what she would do in the Middle East to make sure that region doesn’t continue to degenerate and potentially drag the world into a war. We will need to hear how she will navigate climate change, the rapid spread of alternative energy sources, and how she plans to pay for the much-needed rebuilding of America’s infrastructure.
I am the father of two daughters and I am excited and concerned about their future. The prospect of Hillary Clinton becoming president would be an incredible inspiration to them and to millions of other young women in America. The glass ceiling to the highest office in this land might be shattered after 240 years.
I know this is not enough reason to vote for Hillary. But it certainly is a good reason for me to eagerly discuss this campaign with my two teenage daughters and to hope that our country, once and for all, treats Hillary like the incredibly talented and experienced candidate she is.
Tom Allon, president of City & State NY, was a Republican and Liberal Party-backed mayoral candidate in 2013 before he left to return to the private sector. Reach him at tallo