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If you told me six months ago that I would be planning to vote for Hillary Clinton in the upcoming election, I probably would have told you that you were insane. Don’t get me wrong, I think that everything that Hillary has done for women is incredibly inspiring. Yet as a native Vermonter I have been Pro-Bernie since I first learned about socialist democracy during the fourth grade (it probably wasn’t that early, but I do remember learning about Eugene V. Debs during elementary school). Throughout the past year, Bernie’s campaign for the democratic nomination had only strengthened my beliefs in his candidacy and I loved being able to watch millions of Americans falling in love with the politician that I had essentially grown up with. Alas, much to my disappointment, Bernie’s campaign came to an end and I was left feeling as if I was obliged to vote for Hillary, as a lesser of two evils alternative to Trump. I thought that I wasn’t going to vote in this election if Bernie didn’t have a strong chance of winning and at the time I didn’t feel confident in giving Hillary my vote. All of that changed when the first presidential debate was held at my university, Hofstra University, on September 26th of 2016.

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I went into debate day knowing that it was going to be extremely chaotic, however, I never anticipated myself becoming emotionally involved with the event itself. I was planning to participate in a non-partisan peace protest with my college’s feminist collective, but, I was unaware that we would be joined by a handful of other organizations in this peace march. I walked shoulder to shoulder with members of Hofstra’s Black Student Union, NAACP, Students Association for Safe Sex, and even the Sustainability Club, and I felt truly inspired by the diversity of intersectional perspectives being brought to the table. We began our march on the academic side of campus and then began loudly and proudly spreading the message of “no justice, no peace” through the crowded student center and then into the media circus that was assembled on the residential side of campus.

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In preparation for that evening's debate, every major news network, from Fox to CNN to MSNBC, had stationed themselves on Hofstra campus and were reporting on the heavily anticipated debate. Students crowded around the news platforms, each one vying for their chance to be captured on camera. Yet those of us who had joined forces weren’t just trying to get on TV the in hope that our friends and families would catch a glimpse of our faces, we wanted the issues that we were presenting to be vocalized throughout the local and global communities as well.

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But as we were making our way through campus, I was hit with an unsettling feeling while observing some of the other students watching the debate. I surprised to say that I was shocked that I could feel the tensions between the students protesting police brutality and those who were heckling and wearing Trump gear. I knew that I didn’t go to the most liberal college in the land and that many of my fellow classmates had conservative values, yet seeing the stark contrast in views presented by two groups within the same generation set my whole body on edge. I couldn’t even fathom how people that I considered my peers could openly mock a movement like Black Lives Matter and I realized that in order to keep Trump out of the White House, I had to swallow my pride and vote for a candidate that was on my side. Being so close and personal with this breed of millennials rekindled the fire that I had felt for Bernie’s campaign and made me realize that Hillary Clinton, a person that was fighting for the issues that I believed so strongly in, was someone that I should be fighting for.

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When we made our way back onto the academic side of campus, I felt alive with a passion for justice and in that moment, being aligned with all of these different groups made me realize the importance of joining forces with a candidate that has the power to promote positive change. And after actually watching Hillary slay (yes, she slayed in my book) in the actual debate, I knew that I wouldn't be helping the causes that I held so closely to my heart if I decided not to cast a vote in the election.

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Watching Hillary navigate the first presidential debate with grace and composure reaffirmed the need to have a woman assume this position of power and I was honestly so overcome with the way that she handled the disrespect being thrown her way during the debate. If Hillary can manage to keep her cool and deliver her message to an audience while someone like Trump is constantly interrupting and mansplaining her, I have no doubt that she is capable of handling other difficult issues. Up there on that stage, she reminded me of the women in history that have overcome extreme adversities, from the suffragettes of 1920 to second wave feminists of the civil rights era. She is someone who has been consistently told that she cannot succeed, however, she has persevered and showed young women that they have the potential to break through the highest glass ceiling. She may not be the perfect politician, although there really is no such thing as a perfect politician and it’s about time that we side with someone who is actually going to make America great.

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At this time in our lives, we need someone who has the political stamina and experience to lead a country towards a better tomorrow and I believe that Hillary can be that leader for America. She may not have been my first choice going into election season, however with election day hardly a month away, I can now stay that I Stand With Her.

Photos Courtesy of AJ Harris @_ajharris and Hayley Pudney @ha_ley

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