Guest post from Miyoko Hikiji, Iowa State Senate Candidate in District 20, Author of All I Could Be: My Story as a Woman Warrior in Iraq, Army & Iowa National Guard Veteran 1995-2004.
Ninety-six years ago today, the 19th Amendment to the Constitution was certified as law, guaranteeing women the right to vote for the first time in our nation’s history. Nearly a century later, we are on the brink of electing a woman President of the United States. Hillary Clinton’s example is inspiring to women across our country. Right here in Iowa we have the chance to elect more women to office than we ever have before. It’s an exciting time for our state and our country — and not just because I have the chance to be one of those Iowa women who makes history. This November, our ballots will show how far we’ve come.
Each and every female candidate on the ballot this year stands on the shoulders of women who transformed our democracy and the lives of women in this country for generations to come by demanding they be counted. Women Like Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Carrie Chapman Catt, Mary Jane Coggeshall, Amelia Bloomer, and countless others won the right to vote with courage, grit, and determination. It wasn’t easy and it didn’t happen overnight. When the suffragists were knocked down, they got back up. When they encountered a barrier, they broke it down. I see that same tenacity in so many of my fellow Democratic candidates today, and perhaps most of all in Hillary Clinton.
The reason I support Hillary Clinton goes beyond policy and politics. I identify with Hillary’s unrelenting commitment to helping others—from a story she shared last July at the Iowa Democratic Party Hall of Fame event in Cedar Rapids—my hometown. I learned that her mother, who as a little girl was abandoned by her parents, relied on the kindness of strangers to get by. And that by the age of fourteen, Hillary’s mother worked as a housekeeper while she finished high school, and when she grew up, she wanted to give her daughter the things she never had – a stable life and a quality education.
Those aren’t just the dreams of one little girl, they are the dreams we all share as Americans. When I showed my own two daughters, Grace and Noelle, video clips from that event in Cedar Rapids, they saw their Mom, an Army veteran wearing my beret, holding the American flag at the corner the stage. To my left stood the five democratic presidential candidates, all the men wearing dark suits and Hillary in a vibrant red jacket. “I want the girl to win!” my daughters shrieked. “Me too,” I told them, because I believe what I want is what we all want— the opportunity to work hard and have that hard work rewarded. We all want an economy that works for everyone, not just those at the top. We all want to be able to afford gas and groceries and have a little bit left over. And our children deserve an America where quality child care and a college education are affordable for all families, not out of reach for working families.
Those are dreams worth fighting for—dreams worth putting on an Army uniform for nine years for, dreams worth fighting for an Iowa Senate seat for, and dreams worth fighting to elect Hillary.
It is hard to fathom that the same year Iowa has more women running for office than ever before, we have a candidate running for president whose ideas about women were out-of-date a century ago.
And it struck me, there on that stage with Hillary that with daughters only four and five years old, I have been preparing myself as a mother for that day when they came home crying, their dreams of achieving something struck down by a person who told them it had never been done by a woman—yet! For me, that tiny word yet helped uphold my hope for military women like me to be acknowledged for our service in Iraq, and slowly the “yet”s are becoming “now”’s. And now is the time for Hillary to become the first woman president of our already great nation.
Hillary’s example of inspiration and tenacity are in stark contrast to Trump, and for that matter, my opponent Brad Zaun—one of Trump’s loud and early backers.
Trump has called women “fat pigs” and “disgusting.” How can I tell my daughters they are empowered if their president objectifies and belittles them? Trump has said “I think putting a wife to work is a very dangerous thing,” and “For a man to be successful he needs support at home … not someone who is always griping and b*******.” How do I tell my daughters they can be anything they want to be, when their president tells them they can’t? What about their own State Senator Zaun, does he believe that too? If not, how can he support him so enthusiastically?
The only sliver of equality Donald Trump voices is his across the board hatred of what seems to be anyone but himself. He has attacked immigrants, people with disabilities, a Gold Star Family and service-members who have bravely defended our country. It should go without saying that comparing the “sacrifices” he made as a businessman to those of parents whose son was killed in war is despicable. And while a purple heart medal can be gifted to him, the blood and sacrifice given to earn it cannot. Donald Trump to me is anything but a patriot.
This election, the choice voters face is stark and we can use our votes to show how far we’ve come or take our children back to darker days of fewer freedoms and less opportunity. We can build on that progress we’ve made — and pull together to take on the challenges of the future — or we can let Donald Trump tear us apart. So let’s make use of the rights generations of women before us fought for and cast a vote for all we can be. One day soon, I want to show my daughters another video clip of Hillary Clinton and say “See, the girl won. And you can too. You can be anything you want to be.”
by Miyoko Hikiji