Last Sunday at a rally in Bridgeport, Connecticut, inside the University of Bridgeport’s Harvey Hubbell Gymnasium, Hillary Clinton wasn’t shaking many hands, as she made her way around the security barrier. Most of the 1,200 Hillary die-hards in attendance who had a prime spot in the front row, along with me, had lined up outside the building 2 ½ – 3 hours before doors opened.
At 12:15, we entered the building after passing through airport-style metal detectors. Like me, these enthusiastic supporters had books for her to autograph, or cell phones for photographs with Hillary. I was determined to extend my hand to tell her how much I honored her, and luckily that moment arrived later, as she left the rally.
We drove 25 minutes to Bridgeport and marveled first at the Oceanside parkland in front of the University’s buildings. Twenty-eight people were ahead of us in line — meaning the four of us were certain to get a front row-standing spot along the security barrier. One Black 30-something year-old man in front of me was an educator who bemoaned one student who favored Bernie Sanders without any analytical ability to explain the enthusiasm. This teacher voted for Hillary in 2008 over Obama, explaining females have had particular difficulty at achieving the status they deserve in our cultural democracy. We talked about the Women’s Suffrage Movement that spanned more than 70 years before women won the right to vote. After 227 years of male Presidents in the United States, he, was emphatically voting for Hillary Clinton.
Inside the gymnasium, we waited more than an hour, listening to music before speakers arrived to welcome a boisterous, diverse crowd, packed as tight as sardines. Press were allowed inside the security barrier to sit an inch in front of me on the floor. A dozen Secret Service men stood around the circular area, actively surveying everyone’s move. Their eyes shifted constantly as they summed up the crowd.
Tension and drama built as Connecticut’s two popular Senators, Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal spoke on the elevated speaker’s platform, addressing the crowd. One stool was on that platform with a glass of water obviously intended for the guest of honor.
Blumenthal said that he has known both Hillary and Bill Clinton for 40 years, as they were all in the same class at Yale when Hillary and Bill first met. His affection for her was sweet and transparent. I’ve admired him for at least 25 years – meeting him as a jogger when he also ran for the state legislature in the 1980s. He’s a gifted politician, and was a brilliant Attorney General in Connecticut who called me on one occasion seeking help with an animal-related issue — saying how much he admired the non-profit animal advocacy group I lead.
Hillary was introduced by state Rep. Charlie Stallworth (D-Bridgeport), a local pastor who read his prepared remarks.
When Hillary entered the circular, secured area from the back of the room, the energy in the room soared. It’s impossible not to note the pretty ensembles she wears with accessories and jewelry. This day she wore an aquamarine coat and scarf over tan pants and looked stunning with low heels which allowed her to quickly maneuver and climb steps. When I watch her gracefulness, I see a yoga student.
“I’m going to do everything I can to make sure America’s best years are ahead of us,” she told supporters in the university’s gym. “You should feel that your country has your back. Our economy does better when we have a Democrat in the White House.” She hit all the high notes; the crowd’s enthusiasm exploded. For Hillary’s approximately 30 minute speech, she spoke without notes or a teleprompter. It was impossible for the audience to be distracted. One has the feeling she digs deep into her vast intellect to recall experiences, names of people and moments that cement relationships, and get you hooked on her extraordinary abilities.
Hillary made no mention of Sanders, saving her wrath for the GOP candidates. “The Republicans want to undermine and set back our rights,” she said, but deafening applause followed her commitment to tackle the NRA’s influence, gun violence, and champion both women’s rights and LGBT rights.
While Sanders appears to draw energy from the crowd, dependent on rowdy applause, Hillary doesn’t even wait for applause, or appear to savor it. She’s on a roll from the moment she arrives until she leaves the room, unscripted, unplugged: a regal force with which to be reckoned!
After her speech, as she made her way around the security barrier, Hillary stopped in front of me. I handed her my IPhone for a photo together, which her assistant took, and extended my hand so that I could finally tell her how much I honored her. I looked into her clear blue eyes and saw a split second of hesitation, but she shook it off, offering her hand and thanking me. What a powerful moment. I vowed to have her back. Like a few of my new-found-Hillary-adoring friends, we’ve felt every hit she has taken. We’re not only excited, we’re in this for the long haul. This is a women’s revolution, an effort I’ve treasured for a lifetime. Clear the decks. Hillary shall be our 45th President of the United States.