Yesterday morning, I woke up at 3AM. I got ready as quickly as possible, slipped into the perfect pantsuit, and walked out my door by 4AM. I hailed a cab, got out at the Barnes and Noble in Union Square, and I sat in line (and sat in line, and sat in line, and sat in line). For the following seven hours, I was ushered through various lines and did a great deal of sitting, standing, chatting, and wishing I had chosen footwear other than kitten heels. But at the end of it all, I had the opportunity and honor of briefly meeting Hillary Rodham Clinton.
By briefly, I mean five seconds.
I shook her hand and told her what an inspiration she is and has always been for me. She asked me if I was still in college and which school I attend, and then she wished me the best of luck. I responded, “You too!” enthusiastically, was handed an autographed book, and left Barnes and Noble feeling absolutely giddy. Just outside, a reporter from CNN asked what time I had arrived and then inquired, “Well, was it worth it?” Without a moment of hesitancy, I answered, “Absolutely.”
I have never been one to obsess over celebrity culture. I have never attended a midnight movie premiere, and the only 'celebrities' I have met are all minor musicians, actors, and artists that have changed my life and perspective in one way or another. Even then, we simply met in the right place, at the right time. Standing in line next to Tiffany, a young lawyer living between Jamaica and New York, we mutually agreed that there is no other person either of us would have stood in line for at 4AM.
Was a five second interaction after standing for seven consecutive hours my ideal way to meet Hillary Clinton? Well, of course not. If you have to know, my ideal interaction would be an in-depth interview during which I would ask her what it has been like to be a woman of such influence and what advice she would give to equally ambitious young women, and maybe then Annie Leibovitz would photograph a spread of us hanging out in sharp Prada pantsuits, but hey, we’ve all got dreams.
I found myself trying to explain to my dad why it is that I was so eager to meet Ms. Clinton, and I realized that the only ‘celebrities’ or major public figures like Hillary that I would be eager to meet are women who have changed the industry they work in, who have made an impact, and who have changed my life in one way or another.
Growing up, I was always weirdly interested in politics. I wrote a letter to the President in first grade, watched the State of the Union address annually with my dad, and campaigned for student council with a PowerPoint presentation, briefcase, and pamphlets at age 10. The obsession carried itself through to high school, where I actively participated in debate, Youth in Government, Girls’ State, Diversity Council, etc. Ultimately, by the time I graduated high school, I decided to pursue my equal passion for photography and headed off to art school, but my interest in political science has followed me and continues to be a huge part of my life and art. Though my parents’ political alignments differ from my own, I remember watching Hillary Clinton while growing up and feeling so inspired and excited to see a woman so well-spoken, so driven to succeed.
I think in a sense, I wanted to meet Hillary for nothing more than that five second conversation during which I could express my gratitude and wish her the best of luck. Meeting public figures is a difficult thing, because it often feels so impersonal and meaningless to express how much they mean to you, especially considering how many times they hear similar sentiments throughout their career and the fact that you are ultimately a stranger who they probably won’t remember. And yet, it felt important. It felt genuine. It was something I had to do, because without women like Hillary Clinton, I don’t know that I would have had the courage to pursue the things I have. She is a role model for so many ambitious young people. Political opinion aside, Clinton has been working incredibly hard for years, and she has built herself a truly incredible resume.
After CNN asked me if standing in line for seven hours was worth it, they asked if I wanted Hillary to run for president. I thought about it for a moment, and I replied, “Of course, but I would also understand if she decided not to. She has been working nonstop for decades, and I would understand if she wanted a break.”
Whatever decision she makes, I will support her. Hillary, thank you for the five seconds, and above all else, thank you for being you.
Hillary's new memoir, Hard Choices, was published June 9th, kicking off her 2014 book tour. Make sure to grab a copy and perhaps you'll get your five seconds.
Images courtesy of CBS New York and the author's instagram.