Just Short of Breaking Highest Glass Ceiling

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton took her time in bringing her campaign for the White House to an end. But when she did on Saturday, she did it with rare élan. It was singularly stellar as the former first lady stood for 28 full minutes all alone on a stage in Washington’s historic National Building Museum giving a rousing farewell to thousands of supporters and an emotional and unequivocal call for her voters to get behind Senator Barack Obama, the man who beat her to the Democratic nomination. Very personal but pregnant with a potent political message, it was truly a Hillary moment.

While nothing will detract from Obama’s landmark achievement in the unexpectedly long Democratic primary that had riveted the whole world, the irony will not be lost that Obama finally broke the barrier by crushing the hopes of the most plausible woman candidate for the presidency in the country’s history. And on Saturday, Clinton while rallying supporters behind Obama, spoke rather eloquently about the extent to which her campaign was a milestone for women. ‘. . . from now on, it will be unremarkable for a woman to win primary state victories, unremarkable to have a woman in a close race to be our nominee, unremarkable to think that a woman can be the president of the United States,’ she said.

Throughout the campaign, Clinton steered away from presenting her candidacy in historic terms or in the context of feminism. But not on Saturday. The theme was emphasized almost from the word go to the gripping parting tableau, when she raised the hands of her daughter, Chelsea, and her mother, Dorothy Rodham. In fact, she first mentioned Obama seven minutes into her speech. But when she did, she swept away any doubt — created by her speech on Tuesday night. Yet the most intense and passionate moments of the speech came when Clinton was talking about breaking barriers and the historic role that both she and Obama have played in an election that was a competition between an African-American and a woman and that is almost certain to end in August with the nomination of the first African-American by a major party for the White House. Saturday’s was an expertly crafted speech with one eye on the immediate future – an audition for the vice-presidency – while aiming for a long-term place in the history books whether or not Obama offers to make her his running mate. And the day clearly belonged to her.

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