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LOUD WHISPERS: Hilary Clinton And The Democratic National Convention: Seven Takeaways

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Sunday, August 7th, 2016

Last week I stayed up four nights in a row, literally. From 8pm our local time till 5am, I watched the proceedings of the Democratic National Convention (DNC) which took place in Philadelphia. I did not miss one single minute of the broadcasts on CNN. Since a love of political analysis is something my husband and I have in common, he too came home early from work all week and passed on any evening meetings. The previous week I stayed up to watch the Republican National Convention (RNC) that took place in Cleveland too, but not every night of it. I watched the RNC ‘roll call’ which is when all the States formally pledge the votes of their delegates, and I watched Donald Trump’s acceptance speech. I cannot vote in the US, but I have always had a keen interest in their electoral process (the same applies to the UK where I can vote) because with their flaws and all, it is still a comfort to observe political systems  that are not bedeviled by dysfunction. If I were a US voter I would of course be a Democrat and in the UK, my support has always been for the Labour Party. I have always admired Hilary Rodham Clinton. The first time I saw her was on television in 1992 during Bill Clinton’s presidential campaign when she resolutely stood by her brilliant but undisciplined husband when he was accused of adultery.  Through her years as a First Lady and all the trials, humiliation and triumphs it entailed, from when I sat in the plenary session at the NGO Forum in Huairou at the Beijing conference for women in 1995 to listen to her, her time as a two-term Senator, her unsuccessful Presidential bid, her stint as Secretary of State and now nominee of the Democratic Party, I have been with her.

I have a lot to say about Hilary Clinton, but my observations for the purposes of this article will be mostly about the just concluded Democratic National Convention and lessons we can all learn from this event.

  1. The importance of a clear and uplifting leadership vision

The Democrats shared a vision of America that is diverse, inclusive, just and full of promise. There was an acknowledgement of serious problems and imbalances, especially in the areas of dealing with income inequality,  racial injustice and security.  However their solution is one of collective action, and Hillary Clinton’s rallying call in accepting the nomination was ‘Stronger Together’. This was in stark contrast to the RNC candidate Donald Trump who is running as the ‘Law and Order’ candidate, saying ‘I alone can fix it’. He also has a rather disturbing view of who should be recognized as an American  and who should be kept out as ’others’. Even traditional Republicans right up to the party leadership have found this message deeply problematic. This is a challenge for our own political leaders across Africa. What is their compelling vision for our countries? How can we all own this vision?

  1. Everyone should have a voice

The RNC was fairly well organized, but the DNC was on another level. Perhaps coming a week after gave the Democrats an advantage so they could plug whatever loopholes the RNC left unaddressed. There were however clear indications that the DNC out-planned, out-classed and out-thought the RNC. There was an array of ‘Category A’ political heavyweights ranging from Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and Michelle Obama to Bill Clinton, Tom Kaine and Barack Obama. There were ‘A’ list celebrities performing and speaking – Meryl Streep, Eva Longoria, Alicia Keys and Katy Perry as well as a parade of speakers drawn from all kinds of constituencies – African-American, immigrants, LGBT, service chiefs, veterans, Black Lives Matter, young people, Muslim, Christian, people living with disabilities, the elderly, you name it – they had a voice. They even had ‘Republicans in Exile’! The key message here – if you claim to be a party that represents diverse interests you ought to be able to give everyone a voice.

  1. There is no weapon like the truth

At political gatherings, politicians do their thing – they make great speeches and play to the gallery. It is all part of the game. As inspirational as the DNC political speakers were, they were doing their job as politicians. There was however one particular speaker who brought the house down and left many in tears. He was not a politician. He was not a heavy weight of any kind. He was the grieving father of a fallen soldier, Captain Humayun Khan. A Muslim soldier who gave his life in service to his country, America. A country that Donald Trump wants to lead and ban Muslims from entering if he wins.  Mr Khizr Khan challenged Mr Trump to visit Arlington Cemetery in Virginia and take note of all the bodies interred there – the men and women of all ethnicities and faiths who all gave their lives for their country. Donald Trump once said Africans should be recolonized, and we are only good at ‘eating, drinking and lovemaking’. That was last year when the very  idea of Donald Trump as a presidential candidate was a joke. It is no longer funny, he is the Republican nominee. Even though the Republican party elite do not like him, he has a massive support base because he appeals to base  instincts that have been repressed for many years, but are now finding an outlet through someone who is presenting himself as a political outsider and best placed to correct all America’s problems. Even though it would have been nice to hear the voice of one of the many Africans who toil to make America great as Doctors, Nurses, College Professors, Scientists, Artistes and so on, Mr Khan was able to voice a bitter truth. America is not great because of who it has excluded. America has been made great by people from all over the world who call it home.

  1. Your family is a referendum on you

At the RNC, the children of Donald Trump took center stage. His wife Melania also spoke although her speech was mired in controversy because it turned out that huge chunks of it had been plagiarized from a 2008 speech given by Michelle Obama. One of the biggest mysteries around Donald Trump is how a man who can be so mean and distasteful   managed to produce well balanced, successful children. They continue to be one of his few redeeming factors. At the DNC, Michelle Obama gave such an enthralling performance that  commentators kept speculating over whether any other speech at the convention could top that. She gave her proud husband President Obama a good run for his money. Chelsea Clinton, just like Ivanka Trump successfully did for her father at the RNC, introduced her mother. Through the eyes of Chelsea, a mother of two herself, people got  to know a bit more about Hillary – the loving mother, the professional who managed to balance her family’s needs with her other obligations, the role model and the doting grandmother. It is of course not fair to judge people by how their children turn out, or how well or not their spouses perform, but that is the reality of politics. Everything gets put on the table. This is a lesson for our politicians – if you leave your family behind on your way up the political ladder, it might catch up with you one day.

  1. Live to fight another day

In 2008, in spite of her intimidating stature in the Democratic party, Hillary Clinton lost the nomination to Barack Obama. It was a bitter and painful loss, and she and her supporters would have been devastated. She had the choice of sulking and storming away, inciting her numerous supporters against the party’s choice. Hillary chose the path of wisdom and patience. People might argue that she did not have a choice. Maybe. Yet, we cannot forget images of her being the one leading the New York delegates in 2008 ( I stayed up all night to watch that too!) giving their votes to Barack Obama. Those images were played over and over again this year when Bernie Sanders did the same thing for her. Survival in politics requires the capacity to think and plan long term and to be prepared to lose some battles while you strategise  to win the war. The ‘here today gone tomorrow’ politicians around here should take note.

  1. It is alright to celebrate history

The nomination of Hillary Clinton as the flag bearer of the Democratic Party is of profound historical significance. This is the first time that a woman has been nominated as the Presidential Candidate of a major party in the US. Sadly, there are quite a number of young people who do not care about the significance of this, and in the words of Michelle Obama, ‘they take it for granted that a woman can become President of the United States’. The DNC celebrated this unique moment in history, they did not play it down. There was Jerry Emmett, the 102 year old delegate from Arizona. She was born at a time when women in the US did not have the right to vote. And there she was, as one of the leaders of the Arizona delegation, nominating one for President! There have been several female Heads of State around the world, but every time it happens, we should celebrate. Sexism and misogyny still thrives, and it is always gratifying to see the glass ceiling being shattered every now and then. Hillary’s emergence at the DNC through a screen of shattered glass on Tuesday night was amazing.

  1. The only story you can truly tell is your own

One of the many disadvantages of being in the public eye is that everyone has an opinion of you. Sometimes it is positive and many times, it is negative. Having an opinion is one thing, but people then go out of their way to weave their opinions of you into facts. People are entitled to their own opinions, not their own facts. For Hillary Clinton who has been in the public eye for over forty years, she has received brutal treatment. She is not without flaws, no one is. She has made mistakes like everyone else. I have admitted to my bias and my admiration, it does not mean I am unaware that she is hated by a lot of people for so many reasons. What strikes me as strange in all this is that many of the people who do not like Hillary take that position simply because ‘She has been around for so long’. Since when did that become a crime in politics? Some say she is riding on the coat tails of her husband. Really?

After Bill Clinton gave a very heartwarming account of how he ‘met a girl’ in Law School  in 1971, some people started admitting that they did not know that Hillary Clinton had been working on social justice issues since she was a teenager. They do not know that the main reason why Hillary became passionate about the rights of children was because when her own mother, Dorothy Rodham was 14, she had been abandoned by her parents, was working as a maid, and  walking around on her own  to buy food with coupons. In her own words during her speech on Thursday night, Hillary said, ‘More than a few times I have had to pick myself up and get back in the game’. Do not let others define you. Tell your own story. Engage in actions that tell people who you are. Surround yourself with people who will give testimony for you and not those who will abandon you once they think your political light has been extinguished.

Well done Democratic National Convention. That was a wonderful four days. I wish Hillary Clinton all the luck in the world. Her road ahead, like the ones she  has travelled, will be hard and rough. Even though she is still perceived as untrustworthy and unlikeable by so many, I know there are enough men and women in the US who see her  differently – an experienced and qualified  leader,  a passionate public servant, a loving mother and grandmother, a loyal wife and an excellent role model. I am with her. May God be with her too.


 Bisi Adeleye-Fayemi is a Gender Specialist, Social Entrepreneur and Writer. She is the Founder of, an online community for women. She can be reached at


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13 Responses

  1. Hilary Clinton is a very courageous woman and I admire her a lot, she’s a woman of substance. I don’t care what people feel about her right now, all I know is that she’s someone to reckon with at any point in time.

  2. History in the making, I really hope she’ll win this time around, as this kind of change can bring about such in other countries like Nigeria. This is good really

  3. I was quite enthralled reading this piece; and challenged. I must admit Hillary Clinton is a force to reckon with. She’s an exemplary woman leader who apparently is more concerned with serving than just being in a top political position. I really hope Americans would look beyond their prejudices and vote for her.

  4. Wow! This is really an eye opener. I believe Hillary Clinton can make positive impacts in America given the chance. This is also a challenge to African nations to learn from the politics of countries as America. Politics should not be a do or die affair. Politicians should learn to be loyal, gracious and support the right candidates in their party, and not take to decamping each time they lose out to other party members.

  5. Seriously this write up is not all about Hillary Clinton nor Trump but is all about we the readers. The seven key points listed here is what we should all take note. The success and the failure of the two campaigners lies in these key points. Politically and in every areas of our lives we need to watch out for this.

  6. This article contains facts and nothing but the truth. We need to be watchful and also composed. Hillary Clinton is more matured than Trump politically.

  7. Let us all wait and see how it pans out. Still a great battle to fight. Hoping it goes smoothly.

  8. I will like to see Hillary Clinton win. I want to see how this will move the world in general, having a woman as the President of the Free World.

  9. Hillary Clinton is a leader with a vision. She got substances. I wish her the very best and may God be with her.

  10. Waoh… This article just said it all and it is not about the two people contesting but about everyone that wants to become a successful leader out there. I support your point @DSEED. I pray that Hillary Clinton wins the forth coming election. Hillary is a woman of substance and value, vision, intelligence,wisdom, knowledge, skills, etc. And she has a good leadership spirit.May God help and see her through.

  11. Like seriously, these are tips for reputable leaders. The US presidential election, we got lessons to learn from it. This writeup is mind blowing, you fail as a leader if you don’t posses these seven’s. Watchout for Hillary Clinton as U.S president.

  12. Excellent speech! Hillary Clinton is an example of what a politician should do in the face of defeat during the Democratic primaries with Obama. My loyalty and respect and respect for her has gone up a notch.

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