By Sharon Bishop-Baldwin
COMMENTARY – July, 28, 2016 – Twenty-four years ago this month, I had the experience of a lifetime. As a college student, through a by-application-only class called Campaign Reporting, I and a group of my friends and classmates at the University of Oklahoma covered the 1992 Democratic National Convention in New York City for small-town newspapers across Oklahoma. Many of those towns had delegates attending the convention, and this was a great way for them to have local coverage. Another group of students covered the Republican National Convention in Houston a month later, and one friend, Holly Clanahan, and I were extremely fortunate and got to cover both. Living among and as a quasi-part of the national press corps for a week was thrilling and exhausting! We were writing stories about people and issues that the whole world was following. Our days were starting at 6 a.m. and ending at 2 a.m., and we didn’t care about or even notice — much — the lack of sleep. We were running on pure adrenaline. Heady, heady stuff. It was glorious.
And although we were there as journalists, we were also citizens. It was at the DNC — and in the classwork leading up to the convention — that I became a supporter and admirer of Bill and Hillary Clinton. Bill was the nominee then, of course, but as a young feminist, I was so in awe of Hillary! She was already setting about redefining the role of first lady, and she didn’t even have the job yet! It’s not about cookie recipes, she said. It’s about health care, especially for children. She was so strong; so smart; so involved.
On the Sunday before the convention officially began, the Oklahoma delegation was going to a Yankees game. Some of our student group were planning to attend a Woody Guthrie tribute concert instead, and although both of those sounded fun, Holly and I were eager to get to work. We learned that Hillary was going to be speaking at a breakfast for the Children’s Defense Fund, where she had worked for several years to better the lives of poor, minority and disabled children. We decided to go to the breakfast on the off chance that we could ask Hillary a question or two.
When we walked into the hotel ballroom, there was Hillary in a light-colored suit, sitting all by herself on the front row. Secret Service agents were nearby, but they didn’t seem bothered at all as we approached Hillary, who looked up at us and smiled expectantly. We introduced ourselves, explained what we were doing at the convention, and asked if we could ask her a couple of questions. “Oh, yes! Please, sit down!” she said, motioning to the seats on either side of her. So we did. And we chatted with her for the next five to 10 minutes. I don’t even remember our questions, but I’m certain that we neither stumped her nor caused her a moment’s consternation. We were so green! But she treated us as professionals and pretended not to notice the stars in our eyes. Later that day, Holly and I sat in our hotel room pecking out the story on what passed for laptop computers in those days. The papers we were writing for — mine was The Duncan Banner — wanted the story, and we later got word that The Daily Oklahoman wanted it.
Somehow, the Tulsa World heard about our interview and also wanted to run the story! From what we were told, it ran in papers across the state. I didn’t get a chance to call my parents that Sunday, so they had no warning. But when I called them on Monday, Dad said, “So, I see what you’ve been up to!” I think he was just a little bit proud.
I was ecstatic when Bill Clinton became our 42nd president. I was also so impressed with Hillary as the first lady. She made that largely ceremonial role into a real job, and it has stayed that way since. I wasn’t surprised when she became a senator, and I was thrilled when she ran for president in 2008. I was torn, though. I really liked Barack Obama, but … it was Hillary. I had been with her for a long, long time. I voted for her in the primary. When Obama won the nomination, I got over my brief disappointment and got behind him, and I have never been happier to have been wrong! I loved that he chose Hillary to be his secretary of state, following in the footsteps of another of my heroes, Madeleine Albright. And it was so satisfying to see Hillary run for president again.
I’ll admit to a degree of a blind spot where she is concerned. She has worked so hard and done so much for so many for so long that I give her a pass more than she might deserve. But her foibles are far, far outweighed in my mind by her vast achievements. I think Hillary Clinton will be a spectacular president. The fact that she will have broken the glass ceiling to get there is just icing on the cake. So go, Hillary, go! I only wish I could be there tonight to see the confetti and balloons fall and take in the enormous positive energy that will fill the convention hall. But even from my living room, I’m With Her. I’ve always been with her.
Sharon Bishop-Baldwin is a freelance writer and editor in the Tulsa area. She and her wife, Mary Bishop-Baldwin, were the lead plaintiffs in the Oklahoma marriage-equality lawsuit.
Note: All photos courtesy of Sharon Bishop-Baldwin.