“Hillary, Hillary,” chanted a crowd of women, and some men, in a chandeliered ballroom at the Hilton hotel in Midtown Manhattan as Hillary Clinton’s team of powerhouse women took the stage April 18. The presidential candidate was joined by New York senator Kirsten Gillibrand, former Arizona congresswoman Gabby Giffords, the head of Planned Parenthood Federation of America Cecile Richards, the city’s First Lady Chirlane McCray, among others.
The event was meant to rally women to vote Hillary the day before the New York primary. But like other Clinton events, this one was marked by a conspicuous lack of millennials in the audience. The crowd gathered at the Hilton included a number of mothers with small children, as well as many middle-aged and older women.
Clinton was joined by a number of her congressional friends long her stalwart supporters. “A vote for Hillary is a vote for yourself, for your city, for your country,” said one of New York’s US representatives Carolyn Maloney. Some of the women onstage were returning a favor to Clinton, who had helped them in their careers. “My strongest and best mentor has been Hillary Rodham Clinton,” said Gillibrand.
Letitia James, New York’s public advocate and the first woman of color to hold a citywide public office in New York, warmed up the crowd with a fiery speech. “I am of the firm belief that when you want anything done you should give it to a woman,” she said.
The crowd listened attentively as it was Giffords’ turn to speak. “In the White House she will stand up to the gun lobby, that’s why I’m voting for Hillary,” she said. Giffords had been shot in the head during an assassination attempt in 2011. “Speaking is hard for me but [in January] I want to say these two words ‘Madam President,’ ” she said, interrupted seconds later by a crying baby.
In her speech, Clinton argued that women’s issues are everyone’s issues. “When we take a right from someone… then we hurt everybody, not just those directly affected,” she said. Even though women make 79 cents on the dollar (and women of color make even less) compared to men, “there is no women’s discount when we check out at the supermarket,” she said. “A cashier never looked at me and said you can pay 79 cents,” she quipped.
To loud cheers from the crowd, she defended a woman’s right to have an abortion, saying that whether its forced abortion in China or forced childbearing in Romania, “we must not ever let governments and politicians make those decisions.” The idea that all are born equal, she said, “that is ultimately what this election is about.”