Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton has been a staple in our political world for so long it’s easy to think we know her.
Many people have already decided what kind of Democrat she is based on her husband’s policies and her votes as New York Senator. She ran for president in 2008 and yet we didn’t quite get to know the Hillary we are seeing now. This is sort of Hillary unleashed, and it’s powerful.
“Like many of you, I was so overcome, how to turn grief, confusion into purpose and action,” Clinton said, “But that’s what we have to do.”
Here she is speaking at the 2015 U.S. Conference of Mayors:
I can’t quote the whole speech, but you should watch it the whole speech. Clinton addressed racism and gun violence. But I’m focusing on how she addressed our national grief and offered a light at the end of the tunnel. A way to turn despair into action:
As a mother, a grandmother, a human being, just as a fellow human being, my heart is bursting for them, for these victims and their families, for a wounded community and a wounded church, for our country struggling once again to make sense of violence that is fundamentally senseless, and history we desperately want to leave behind.
History and faith:
Yesterday was Juneteenth, a day of liberation and deliverance. One-hundred and fifty years ago, as news of President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation spread from town to town across the South, free men and women lifted their voices in song and prayer.
Congregations long forced to worship underground, like the first Christians, joyfully resurrected their churches.
In Charleston, the African Methodist Episcopal Church took a new name: Emanuel. “God is with us.”
Faith has always seen this community through, and I know it will again.
A refusal to be bound by the same hate and fear as our history enacted against black people:
Just as earlier generations threw off the chains of slavery and then segregation and Jim Crow, this generation will not be shackled by fear and hate.
On Friday, one by one, grieving parents and siblings stood up in court and looked at that young man, who had taken so much from them, and said: “I forgive you.”
In its way, their act of mercy was as stunning as his act of cruelty.
It reminded me of watching Nelson Mandela embrace his former jailors because, he said, he didn’t want to be imprisoned twice, once by steel and concrete, once by anger and bitterness.
“In these moments of tragedy, many of us struggle with how to process the rush of emotions,” Clinton related.
Her own shock:
I’d been in Charleston that day. I’d gone to a technical school, Trident Tech. I had seen the joy, the confidence and optimism of young people who were now serving apprenticeships with local businesses, black, white, Hispanic, Asian, every background. I listened to their stories, I shook their hands, I saw the hope and the pride.
And then by the time I got to Las Vegas, I read the news.
And her resolution to urge us all to turn grief into action, “Like many of you, I was so overcome, how to turn grief, confusion into purpose and action. But that’s what we have to do.”
What action? Gun safety legislation action.
For me and many others, one immediate response was to ask how it could be possible that we as a nation still allow guns to fall into the hands of people whose hearts are filled with hate.
You can’t watch massacre after massacre and not come to the conclusion that, as President Obama said, we must tackle this challenge with urgency and conviction.
Clinton explained that gun safety legislation isn’t intended to attack law-abiding and responsible gun owners:
Now, I lived in Arkansas and I represented Upstate New York. I know that gun ownership is part of the fabric of a lot of law-abiding communities.
But I also know that we can have common sense gun reforms that keep weapons out of the hands of criminals and the violently unstable, while respecting responsible gun owners.
And the time for legislation has come, we must all agree that we want to keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers and terrorists:
What I hope with all of my heart is that we work together to make this debate less polarized, less inflamed by ideology, more informed by evidence, so we can sit down across the table, across the aisle from one another, and find ways to keep our communities safe while protecting constitutional rights.
It makes no sense that bipartisan legislation to require universal background checks would fail in Congress, despite overwhelming public support.
It makes no sense that we wouldn’t come together to keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers, or people suffering from mental illnesses, even people on the terrorist watch list. That doesn’t make sense, and it is a rebuke to this nation we love and care about.
Clinton vowed that she is not afraid of the gun lobby and she will fight for common sense reforms:
The President is right, the politics on this issue have been poisoned. But we can’t give up. The stakes are too high. The costs are too dear.
And I am not and will not be afraid to keep fighting for common sense reforms, and along with you achieve those on behalf of all who have been lost because of this senseless gun violence in our country.
This was a speech to a bipartisan group, and it is reflected in her speech as she hit on the moral reasons why we must act on gun safety — reasons that everyone who is sane can agree upon.
This Hillary Clinton, fired up and fiercely committed to the right thing, is a bit of a revelation. She has always been both of these things, but somehow now it’s as if we are seeing a more personal side. In the past she’s been buttoned up. We haven’t gotten to know her in this same way, to know the things that move her and drive her.
Hillary Clinton knows, as only a minority really can, the cost of hate and as a mother she knows the value of life and importance of family. Her voice added something unique to the discussion surrounding the Charleston terrorist attacks, and she lifted us up, pointing the way to the light at the end of the tunnel as a leader should.
There is something about being a mother that resonates at times of brutal death, and it matters. Imagine if the world were ran by more mothers — people who understand mortality and the miraculous gift of our lives.
Ms. Jones is the editor-in-chief of PoliticusUSA.
Sarah hosts Politicus News and co-hosts Politicus Radio. Her analysis has been featured on several national radio, television news programs and talk shows, and print outlets including Stateside with David Shuster, as well as The Washington Post, The Atlantic Wire, CNN, MSNBC, The Week, The Hollywood Reporter, and more.
Sarah has won two Telly Awards and is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.