A Letter to My Daughters

(This has been languishing in my drafts folder.I decided to publish it today in honor of Elizabeth Warren being silenced by her male colleagues, but I’m backdating it to election week when I wrote it.


Dear Daughters,  

It’s been a rough few days – a rough 18 months if I’m being completely honest, but you already know that. You’ve seen me yell and swear at the radio and TV more than usual. You’ve seen me cry.

I am no “snowflake.” I am a patriotic American who is seriously concerned about our great nation. I’ve never seen a campaign like this. It made me feel sick and I was so looking forward to putting it behind us on Tuesday and moving on. And then this happened: a sock-in-the-gut outcome few predicted, but many feared.

I have a lump in my stomach and one in my throat, similar to the ones I had when Grandpa died. This election doesn’t feel like a normal campaign loss. It’s different. It feels more like a death, and a whole lot of us are grieving right now. Sure, I’ve felt stung by elections before, but never, ever have I felt like our very Democracy was at stake.

This time is different.

An exceptionally qualified woman lost to an exceptionally unqualified man whose campaign rhetoric was worse than a playground bully. He is dangerously unprepared for the presidency and seems unwilling to learn. His erratic temperament exacerbates the danger and we don’t even know yet how he plans to divest himself of his business interests so he can govern in our best interests rather than his. God help us, let’s hope he can change and rise to the immense challenge before him.

I don’t know how to explain all the disgusting things you heard and saw this past year. I don’t know how to explain how that kind of ugliness won. It’s going to take a while to sort out how something like this happened, but here’s what I know right now:

  1. Love still trumps hate.
  2. A woman will become president one day. The path is just going to be even longer and more difficult than we thought. Strong women have been cutting that path for for a long, long time. It will soon be your turn.
  3. Your generation is the most diverse, the most educated and most tolerant one ever. If we adults can’t fix this mess we made, your generation most certainly will. No, that’s not fair, but I promise you, we adults will start now so you don’t have so much ground to make up.

Here’s the best mom advice I can muster right now, for myself and for you – for this difficult time, and for others that will follow in your life.

  1. Give yourself time to grieve if and when you need it. Obviously, I need it right now. A good cry is cleansing. So is screaming when you’re alone in the car. Go ahead. No one can hear you and it’ll make you feel better.
  2. hillary-walk-in-woodsFind your place of stillness and calm – your happy place – and visit as often as you can. For me, it’s walking in the woods with Bella, poetry, yoga and escaping into weighty novel. For dad, it’s music, mountain biking and kayaking. Some of these might be the same for you. Or it might be dance, art or hiking. Look, this is exactly what Hillary Clinton is doing right now.
  3. Find your safe people: friends or family to hug, to talk to, to hold you up through difficulties and sorrow, and to cheer your successes. It may even be people you do not know. In the days before the election and in its aftermath, I turned to a like-minded, immensely positive and supportive group, called Pantsuit Nation, on Facebook. This group helped affirm my faith that I was not alone, and has given me hope. It’s a safe place to share without being trolled and bullied.

    “anything or anyone that does not bring you alive is too small for you.”
    Sweet Darkness by David Whyte

  4. Rise up. Democracy does not work without participation. We have work to do on the issues we care about. Every little bit counts.

    “Do not be daunted to the enormity of the world’s grief. Do justly, now. Love mercy, now. Walk humbly, now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.” –The Talmud

  5. Listen to, and read the work of, people smarter than you. As damn smart as you are, there will always be people who know more. Consult the subject matter experts who’ve devoted years of focused learning and practice in their field. Learn from them, think analytically about what they have to say, and then combine it with your own experience, to guide your choices.
  6. Become a subject matter expert in a field of your choice.
  7. Never stop learning. Be curious about everything. Ask questions.
  8. Don’t believe everything you read. Get your news from credible news organizations that hire professionally trained, ethical journalists. How do you know who to trust? Credible news outlets adhere to these standards:
    • They fact check before publishing and if they make a mistake, they own up to their mistake and run a correction.
    • They ask tough questions and hold elected officials accountable.
    • They cite multiple credible sources, not just one.
    • They cover diverse views, but call out lies, inconsistencies, historical distortions, and abnormalities.
    • They steer clear of sensationalism.
    • I trust NPR, The New York Times, The Washington Post, BBC World News and PBS NewsHour for a start.

A free and responsible press is an essential part of a healthy democracy. That’s why freedom of the press is protected under the FIRST Amendment.

9. Do not share information unless you have verified it. An article with the headline “The Pope Endorsed Trump,” was shared a million times on Facebook. It’s false. It originated from a fake news site. Do not participate in the spreading of misinformation and propaganda (on the left or right), no matter how tempting it may be.

10. If it is safe for you, stand up for others who are being mistreated. It’s not always easy. See a bully? Defend the bullied. Strike up a conversation with her/him, ignore the bully, and offer to accompany them where they are going. Here’s one example of how it might be done.


11. Take a self-defense class. I don’t want to scare you, but I want to prepare you. Knowing how to defend yourself has always been a good idea. I’ll take the class with you.

12. Find your cause. We supported Hillary’s campaign because her values aligned with ours: equal rights for all, trusting women to make their own decisions about their body, expanded and affordable access to health care, climate action based on science, gun reforms, fully supporting our Veterans, lower tuition, making the wealthy pay their share, allowing immigrants a pathway to citizenship, and ensuring a fair and balanced criminal justice system. What issues are the ones you’d most like to work on, in a small or big way?

13. Challenge yourself. Fail. Get back up and try again. If Hillary taught us anything, it’s that she never quits. When she gets knocked down, she gets back up – every single time. I’ve been watching her since I was in college and her husband, Bill Clinton, was campaigning for president. She inspired me then, and she inspires me now.

“To all the little girls watching…never doubt that you are valuable and powerful and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world.”
–Hillary Rodham Clinton

Read these:

A Letter to Young Women About How We Will All Move Forward Now

Aaron Sorkin’s Letter to his Daughter


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