(First part of this post’s title is from here. )
The picture above was taken at the July, 2010, wedding of Chelsea. It’s such a beautiful picture. All three women look so happy, and you can just feel the love and connection between them. I’ve been searching my mind, and I believe this may have been the last photo I saw of Hillary’s mom.
Sadly, Dorothy Rodham passed away yesterday. From the Clintons’ statement:
Dorothy Howell Rodham was born in Chicago on June 4, 1919 and died shortly after midnight on November 1, 2011 in Washington, D.C., surrounded by her family. Her story was a quintessentially American one, largely because she wrote it herself. She overcame abandonment and hardship as a young girl to become the remarkable woman she was — a warm, generous and strong woman; an intellectual; a woman who told a great joke and always got the joke; an extraordinary friend and, most of all, a loving wife, mother and grandmother.
All of us are drawn here because of our respect and admiration for Hillary. It’s not uncommon to wonder:
- How did Hillary become so smart and wise?
- How did Hillary become so strong (if we didn’t already know she had it, we saw it during the primaries and primarily on May 31, 2008, the day democracy died)
- How did Hillary learn to work and often find common cause with people whose political ideas or cultural practices are so different than hers?
- How did Hillary become interested in helping women, children, and minorities as early as high school, an interest so salient to her that it remained with her for her entire life?
- How did Hillary become such a work horse?
- How did she learn to love our country so much that she would suffer slings and arrows to keep moving forward in her desire to keep helping our country (and world) and its inhabitants?
Well, I think it’s safe to say that Hillary primarily learned these character traits from her upbringing, from her mom (and then passed them on to her own daughter, Chelsea). Some excerpts from Hillary’s book, Living History:
1. My mother loved her home and her family, but she felt limited by the narrow choices of her life. It is easy to forget now, when women’s choices can be overwhelming, how few there were for my mother’s generation. She started taking college courses when we were older. She never graduated, but she amassed mountains of credits in subjects ranging from logic to child development…(p. 10)
2. I grew up between the push and tug of my parents’ values, and my own political beliefs reflect both. The gender gap started in families like mine. My mother was basically a Democrat, although she kept it quiet in Republican Park Ridge. My dad was a rock-ribbed, up-by-your-bootstraps, conservative Republican and proud of it. He was also tightfisted with money. He did not believe in credit and he ran his business on a strict pay-as-you-go policy. His ideology was based on self-reliance and personal initiative…(p11)
3. My dad was highly opinionated, to put it mildly…. In our family’s spirited, sometimes heated, discussions around the kitchen table, usually about politics or sports, I learned that more than one opinion could live under the same roof. By the time I was twelve, I had my own positions on many issues. I also learned that a person was not necessarily bad just because you did not agree with him (sic), and that if you believed in something, you had better be prepared to defend it…(p. 12)
4. In high school, one of my smartest girlriends dropped out of the accelerated courses because her boyfriend wasn’t in them. Another didn’t want to have her grades posted because she knew that she would get higher marks than the boy she was dating. These girls had picked up the subtle and not-so-subtle cultural signals urging them to conform to sexist stereotypes, to diminish their own accomplishments in order not to outperform the boys around them…. I simply could not imagine giving up a college education or a career to get married, as some of my friends were doing…. (p. 21)
5. I arrived at Wellesley carrying my father’s political beliefs and my mother’s dreams, and left with the beginning of my own… (p.27)
I think these excerpts show that The Superwoman who is Hillary started taking shape when she was very young. She came from a loving home, learned valuable lessons from a diversity of ideas, and melded them together to go forth with her own individualized ideas of her future goals, the means she would use to reach them, a strong work ethic, and a belief that she could reach for whatever stars pleased her. She also emerged with an incredible strength of character, which served her well, during the republican CDS of Bill’s presidency, and the democratic CDS of Hillary’s run for president.
As Hillary more succinctly put it:
During one debate in 2008, Mrs Clinton said: ‘I owe it to my mother, who never got a chance to go to college, who had a very difficult childhood, but who gave me a belief that I could do whatever I set my mind.’
Chelsea also addressed the issues of the strength and goodness of her grandmother Dorothy:
“My grandmother has had a remarkable life and overcame challenges when she was a child that I cannot even imagine,” Clinton said. “And her determination to build a better life for her children and then sort of that determination that my mother and my father then had to build a better life for me is something that I feel elevated by.”
So it seems clear that, whenever we honor Hillary, we also honor her mother, Dorothy. Hillary is an amazing woman, the likes we have possibly never seen before, an intelligent, hard-working, people-loving, strong woman who should have been our president. It takes a special woman to have raised such an incredible daughter. Dorothy was dealt a poor hand very early in life, but rather than becoming warped, or becoming a criminal, or demanding that someone else fix her life for her, she vowed to improve upon her own lot, and what’s more, to make the world better for others than it had been for herself. This deep open-hearted spirit is one of the most obvious shared characteristics between Dorothy and her daughter Hillary. It’s so very sad that Dorothy has now passed, but we’re thankful and so fortunate that she left us with Hillary, and with the other woman she helped shape, Chelsea. RIP Dorothy. Thanks for all you did. Your contribution to Hillary was a contribution to the entire world. And to Hillary: our heart-felt sympathies are with you and your family at this time of great loss.
Released by Dorothy’s family:
To honor Dorothy, her family will hold a private celebration of her life for family and friends. In lieu of flowers and in line with what Dorothy would have wanted, the family have asked that any one who would want to do so would make a donation in Dorothy’s memory to George Washington Hospital where she received excellent care and made terrific friends over many years; to the Heifer Project , her Christmas gift of choice in 2010 and an organization dear to her heart; or to a local organization meaningful to the giver that helps neglected and mistreated children, a blight Dorothy was determined to remedy until her last day because she knew too well the pain too many children suffer. Her family is and will be forever grateful for the gift of Dorothy’s life and for the memories they will treasure forever.
As we’ll remember them – looking toward the future, optimistic, with love for each other and love for their country.
And a song that reminds me of all of the Clinton clan – a love of life, a love of family, a love for service:
“Love is All Around” by Paul Williams
Mary Tyler Moore Show Lyrics
Who can turn the world on with her smile?
Who can take a nothing day, and suddenly make it all seem worthwhile?
Well it’s you girl, and you should know it
With each glance and every little movement you show it
Love is all around, no need to waste it
You can have a town, why don’t you take it
You’re gonna make it after all
You’re gonna make it after all
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