Today our nation chooses our next President, and today we end a campaign season that has felt very long, ugly, hate-filled, fact-challenged, and policy-lacking. On both sides. Regardless of who wins, a great many Americans will feel upset and angry, afraid for our country's future. Some will feel their votes didn't count and will say that our political and electoral system is broken. Perhaps it is, and perhaps we should all think long and hard about overhauling it.
But what I want to tell you before the votes are tallied is this:
Today America wins. No matter who gets sworn in on January 20th, America wins. Why?
Because this election reminds us that any American can become President of the United States. Man or woman, black or white, rich or poor, career public servant or career business person, policy wonk or celebrity, political outsider or Washington insider. Work hard, take initiative, be committed and determined in whatever you undertake. If you do those things, there's no limit to what you, your friends, or your classmates can achieve in this great nation of ours.
Because this election represents all that we have overcome. First, we overcame so much to elect a black President. Now, a woman has a realistic chance to become President. My grandmothers grew up in a time when women were expected to be homemakers, supporting their husbands' careers. My mother grew up in a time when women worked, but for lower wages than their male counterparts, and they were rarely able to reach leadership positions in companies and organizations. In my time, women have been fighting for equal pay and family-friendly employment opportunities, making slow and steady progress, and we've started climbing corporate ladders and increasing our presence in leadership roles. You, young ladies, grow up with the benefit of generations of trailblazing women before you who have pushed, challenged, persevered, and ultimately proven what women are capable of and how valuable our contributions can be. Along the way, those women have opened doors for you. You live in a time full of open doors, where a woman can do anything, where everywhere you look you will see successful women -- as CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, as cutting-edge research scientists, as lawyers and judges, as doctors, as astronauts, as senators and governors, as professional athletes, as entertainers. And, possibly, as President of the United States. President. A woman. You will never understand how big this possibility is, and that's a good thing -- for you, and the women who come after you, this will seem natural and normal.
Because this election has people thinking and talking about how women deserve to be treated. Never before have we seen such attention paid to unacceptable locker room conversation, to how people in positions of power can talk to and about women, to the objectification of women, to inappropriate and nonconsensual touching, to double standards, to the respect that we--as women--deserve and can, indeed should, demand. This dialogue is positive, and it will lead to a generation of stronger men, who will treat you with respect and stand up for you, just as you all stand up for yourselves and each other.
Because this election has shown us that, despite all the grumbling, people will participate in our democracy. More people watched the debates than ever in U.S. history. In my county, where there's little question where our electoral votes will go, well over 90% of eligible voters registered to vote, an all-time high. We broke the early voting record too, with over 51% of registered voters casting their ballots before Election Day. People may be complaining about the candidates and the process, but the fact is that Americans are engaged in the electoral process. That is because they care about your future and want to leave you with the best America possible.
Because you are the future. This great nation will ultimately be in your hands. And, because I know you and your friends, I can confidently say that no matter who wins the presidency, our country is in good hands. I've seen you and your friends in Girl Scouts, book club, camps, music, sports, and school, and you constantly amaze me. You dream big, you work hard, you help others, you have compassion and enthusiasm, you stand up for what is right and stand against what you know to be wrong. You are learning to be critical of sources and wary of unreliable information, you care more about solutions than labels, and you are resilient, determined to learn from each challenge and obstacle. There will be a lot to be done, to be sure, and fixing the mess that others leave for you will be no small task. But when women can become anything they can imagine, and when you and your friends start walking through the doors that older women have opened for you, America will be stronger and better for it.
Regardless of who emerges as the victor tonight (and I pray that we know tonight!), let's celebrate America's win. When people start talking about the beginning of America's downfall, as they surely will, let's focus on Purple rather than the red/blue divide and remember that we, as women, must be leaders and examples as we all look toward a future that, in your hands, is bright beyond measure.