I’ve been inspired, uplifted, and downright awestruck by women with the grace and grit to run for office. None more than Hillary Clinton.
In 20 years working to put women in seats of power, I’ve helped elect 132 women in 30 states. I’m proud to have played a role in electing every sitting Democratic woman governor and U.S. senator, and dozens of congresswomen. I’m on a mission to add President Hillary Clinton to that list.
While I personally support women who share my values, my nonpartisan foundation has researched every woman’s race for governor since 1998. For nearly two decades, politicians, practitioners, and press have used Barbara Lee Family Foundation research to understand the obstacles and opportunities facing women running for office.
The lessons I’ve learned from campaigning come from seeing a woman put herself out there to do something bigger than her. They come from seeing women win, some lose, and each of them move the needle toward more inclusive government for everyone.
The lessons I’ve learned are the reasons I know Hillary Clinton has what it takes to resonate with the American people. Here are the top four:
She’s Really Listening
A person’s handshake can tell you a lot about them. So can their “How are you?” I’ve been around enough politicians to know that it’s rare for one to ask that question then actually listen to the answer.
Hillary is one of those rare people. When she hugs you or asks about your children, she means it. Those may seem like small things, but they are the biggest things. And they matter to voters.
I saw it firsthand when she stopped in Cambridge on her book tour, signing copies for the hundreds of young women lining the block. I heard about it after a recent event, where, surrounded by throngs of activists, Hillary saw a wide-eyed 7-year-old girl and made a beeline for her. It made Hillary’s day as much as it made that little girl’s to shake her hand and make her feel like the most important person in the room.
Hillary shines in these one-on-one interactions. It’s when she’s listening to Americans share their stories that people get to know her in a way that headlines don’t allow. It’s when she’s sharing stories about her mother’s tough childhood, her Methodist faith, and her Republican father that people relate to her roots, resilience, and ability to bridge divisions to get results.
Doesn’t that ability to dust herself off after setbacks resonate with all of us? The connections are real and remarkable — because while Hillary is unique, so much of her experience is universal.
That’s why starting her campaign with a listening tour is both smart and genuine. This relationship-building period is important for a candidate, and it’s particularly important for women running at every level, from congresswoman to CEO of the country, who need to show where men can tell.
Hillary has made clear that this race isn’t about her. Focusing on families’ priorities is an effective and authentic way to start.
She’s Running for the Right Reasons
Hillary announced her 2016 presidential bid with a video glimpse into what her campaign will be about: all of us.
She is running to be a champion for those who need one most, to fight for children, and to forge a better future for families. From her days going door to door for the Children’s Defense Fund to ensuring healthcare access for more than 8 million children to stepping up to address climate change, Hillary has always been unafraid to stand up for what she believes in.
Hillary is running for president for the right reasons. She will connect with voters because of them, too.
She’s Tapping Diverse Talent
In my experience, the most effective campaign teams are gender-balanced, drawing from 100 percent of the talent pool.
Just as it’s important to have women’s voices at the table, it’s important to have people who look like all Americans. That means a diversity of gender, age, race, and background. Voters, particularly young women, want to see that inclusivity in Congress and beyond.
A Hillary Clinton presidency will be about our collective future — and she’s starting with her campaign team.
She’s Shattering the Glass Ceiling
As we embark on another potentially history-making election, I’m reminded of Hillary’s own words. “Although we weren’t able to shatter that highest, hardest glass ceiling this time, thanks to you, it’s got about 18 million cracks in it,” she said in 2008. “And the light is shining through like never before, filling us all with the hope and the sure knowledge that the path will be a little easier next time.”
Here’s what the path looks like this time: Listen, connect, relate. It seems so ordinary, yet the results can be extraordinary.