My friend Hillary

I was just in Louisville, Kentucky for the once-every-four-event of Assembly for United Methodist Women, April 24 to 27. I was doing reporting for Response magazine. And I was thrilled to be there with 6,500 women of faith, including Hillary Clinton.

Now, many people who know me know I love Hillary Rodham Clinton. After all, we are both from Park Ridge, Illinois. We went to the same high school. At this point in the conversation, someone might ask me, “Did you know her?”

Puh-lease! She was a few years older than me! Still, I am her comrade and sister nonetheless.

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I was so proud and moved by her speech I was bawling.

I was first blown away by her concern for women and children when I heard her speak at the UN Conference of Women — what that 20 years ago? oh my god! — in Beijing, China. I was at this conference performing comedy near the technology tent with fellow stand-up Emmy Gay. It was at this conference Emmy and I first learned how to email! And look, now we know how to blog.

It was also at that UN conference that Hillary coined (or maybe coopted?) the phrase ‘women’s rights are human rights.’ And she and I are still going strong advocating for women and children. She’s involved in an effort to advance maternal health internationally. And I’m encouraging women to share their stories of transformation through writing. (shameless promotion: come to our writing workshop May 29 to June 1 Adridondack Writers’ Weekend)

Hillary knows the power of women of faith by her own experience in church, Sunday School and from her parents. A youth group leader took her from “lily white” Park Ridge into the beautifully diverse city to learn about the world.

This is one reason I love Methodism — their concern for neighbors outside of their own backyard. But when Hillary grew up, that was the radical ’60s (love, love, love). Since then, religion’s gotten a bad rap. Maybe, deservedly so. Maybe some religious leaders have chosen to played it safe — instead of loving neighbors outside of their church, they loved only those in their own church.

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The teleprompter says it all!

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Being a member of the press has its privileges. I schmoozed with fellow press. I learned that Hillary discouraged the Louisville Democratic Party and Democratic mayor from attending this United Methodist Women gathering, telling them, “This is not for you. It’s something I’m doing for my faith.”

Also, the press noted that she paid her own way and declined the honorarium – you know those United Methodist Women, good stewards of their funds, appreciated that show of frugality.

I have never met Hillary in person although my husband did. He met her backstage after a Broadway show, Democracy, that he was in. Hillary and Bill had come back to congratulate the actors.

“My wife is from Park Ridge, Illinois, too,” Chris told Hill.

“Really?” He said her eyes lit up — that she was excited to learn of the connection.

He told me later. “She’s really beautiful in person.”

“More beautiful than me?” I asked him.

“Yes,” he said. “She’s more beautiful than you.”

I’ve never let him forget that. I’ve never forgiven him either.

But we are all beautiful women, each in our way. This weekend, United Methodist Women and Hillary reminded me of that.

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Voting in New York City

by the people, for the people

Anti-government people, you must remember that government is by the people and for the people. So if you’re anti-government, you’re anti-people.

Democracy is a beautiful and messy thing. But it is our best mess, way better than a crappy monarchy. (I really can’t stand how infatuated the world is with the spoiled and inbred English monarchy. People, that’s why we revolted! In the U.S., no one is born superior or more royal. We are a country of equals.)

Waiting in line to vote.

Yesterday I stood in line for two hours and fifteen minutes to vote in a part of the country that pundits and politicians are quick to write off. I wasn’t alone. Millions voted. It was our right. And we made a difference.

What talking heads say on the perpetual news channels matters not one iota, compared to how simply and elegantly my single vote matters. Your vote matters. Every vote matters.

Tight quarters as we waited to vote in NYC, but the people in line with me were even-tempered.

Many voters in line with me were old and in wheelchairs. Many carried books. Some carried dogs or babies. One guy talked to another about Bikram yoga. I talked to the science teacher ahead of me about teaching middle school kids.

Another voter complimented our over-worked poll worker’s equanimity. Yes, there were some crabby people too, but they were a minority. And negative people, overall, lost to optimistic people last night.

In an age of increasing distrust and cynicism over big and traditional institutions, like banks, universities, political parties, religions, we have to return to trust and optimism in the value and ideals upon which this country is based, our simple, elegant, democratic truth: that all are created equal.

And as we treat one another equally and make a positive difference close to home, our small actions ripple to impact this vast country.

This election reminded me to love my neighbors, even the crabby ones, and to love my community and my country (and your country) − this messy and beautiful democracy.

the shining city upon a hill.

Remember Abraham Lincoln’s conclusion to the Gettysburg Address:

…that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.