On the night the first woman ever secured enough delegates to win a major party’s nomination for president, Jennifer Rosen-Heinz watched her little girl jump around their living room in Madison, Wis., in celebration. Seven-year-old Lilly’s enthusiasm for Hillary Clinton’s success wasn’t motivated by ideology or party. Rather, the little girl saw on the television the promise of what she could someday be.
Like African American girls inspired by the success of black women athletes at the Rio Olympics, it’s affirming for children to see role models who are reflections of themselves. For Lilly, Clinton’s candidacy means that she can dream of becoming president. In fact, she asked her mom if she could change her name to “Lillary,” thinking it might help her chances for her eventual White House bid.
Rosen-Heinz, a Clinton supporter but unaffiliated with the campaign, was so moved by her daughter’s aspirations that she decided to share Lilly’s desired name change with the Clinton campaign. She went to the website, clicked the “Contact Us” link and filled out a standard online form.
“Thank you, Hillary … for shattering that glass ceiling for ALL girls and women in this country,” Rosen-Heinz wrote in closing. “Lilly dreams of making real change not despite being a girl, but BECAUSE she’s a girl, and she knows her possibilities are infinite.” She signed it casually, “Jennifer.”
“I didn’t expect it to be read,” Rosen-Heinz said in an interview. “But I wanted the message to get to someone that [Hillary’s campaign] is deeply moving and personal for this little girl and a lot of little girls out there.”
But someone did read it.
Last week, a thin envelope arrived in the mail with the Clinton campaign insignia on the top left corner. It was addressed not to Rosen-Heinz, but to Lilly. Inside was a letter. It was also casually signed: “Hillary.”
Rosen-Heinz scanned the page, assuming it was a form response, but when she saw the word, “Lillary,” she was shocked.
In the personal note to Lilly, Clinton encourages the second grader to always “make your voice heard.” She tells her to “proudly take credit for your ideas.” And to not “be afraid to carve out a space of your own.”
Rosen-Heinz shared the letter on her Facebook page, not as advocacy for Clinton, she said, but to encourage parents to read the words of encouragement to their own children.
“We hope we lead by example that children need to be respected,” she said. “Ultimately, we are Hillary supporters and it’s no small thing to us that she speaks with children in this way that is so respectful.”
On Monday afternoon after school, Lilly sat cross-legged on her parents’ bed, clutching her stuffed cat, Q-tip, and read the letter out loud. She said the letter makes her feel “happy and excited and strong.” She flexed her left bicep on the last word.
Her mother calls her a “budding feminist,” who doesn’t take kindly to being told she can’t do something that boys can do. She’s also an avid reader, swimmer, baker, pianist and gardener, she said. She’ll be going, appropriately, as Wonder Woman for Halloween.
“This piece of paper expresses so many of the values we have,” Rosen-Heinz said. “If we can’t come together and agree that these words are important, that all children need to hear these things, then we don’t have any humanity in common.”
As for Lilly’s strong support for Clinton?
“She’s the first girl president,” Lilly said, matter-of-factually. “And I would be the second.”
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