Four years ago, I was a senior at Wellesley College, a private women’s liberal arts school located just 15 miles west of Boston. Wellesley is known for the excellence of its education, the uniqueness of its campus culture, and of course, its notable alumni made up of numerous glass-ceiling breakers such as Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright; newscaster Diane Sawyer; the first lady of the Republic of China, Soong Mayling aka Madame Chiang Kai-shek; and, American poet and author of “America the Beautiful”, Katharine Lee Bates.
On Election Night in 2016, over 2,500 students, faculty, staff and members of the larger Wellesley community around the word came together on campus, ready to celebrate the election of one of our most famous alumni from the Class of 1969: Former Secretary of State and Presidential Candidate, Hillary Rodham Clinton.
It was an exciting time. For many of us, it was our first time voting in a presidential election, but on top of that, it was incredibly rewarding to see a Wellesley alumna as a national candidate for a party – rewarding to see, as current Wellesley students, the power of a Wellesley education.
Decked out in pantsuits and activist t-shirts with feminist slogans and large Hillary-headshot cutouts in hand, we all came together to celebrate what could have been a historic moment. Some of us gathered at the KSC Fieldhouse for the Community Watch Party and others closely gathered around live feeds of the event in our residence halls as the election results started coming in. We eagerly watched as the electoral map changed on TV screens with red and blue.
But as the hours rolled by and the map filled more and more with red, people started to cry, holding one another in disbelief and wondering what the next four years would be like. Our newly inaugurated College President, Paula A. Johnson, took the stage at the Watch Party then and delivered words of encouragement to all those watching and listening in:
“Whatever the result, we stand for justice.
We stand for equality for everyone, no matter your gender, your race, your sexual orientation or your religion, no matter what country you’re from or what your immigration status is… We must be a part of the momentum that takes us forward from here.
We will be together in the morning.”
President Johnson’s words pulled us through that last hour when Donald Trump was elected as President of the United States and pulled us through the aftermath of the Election that week. On the very next day, male students from Babson College nearby came to our campus to disturb the peace. They drove through campus in pickup trucks adorned with large Trump flags, parked themselves outside of the Harambee House and Acorns House – spaces designated for students of African, Asian, and Latinx descent – and ridiculed and spit at students.
This experience represented much of what we had feared with Trump’s candidacy: an unabashed confidence from supporters to act in a hateful, racist, and xenophobic manner. But we raised our chins, squared off our shoulders, and pushed forward.
A few months later, Former Secretary Clinton accepted President Johnson’s invitation to serve as our commencement speaker for the graduating class of 2017 and inspired us further to imagine new possibilities for the future, to go out into the world to realize our ambitions, and to find the courage to make the impossible, possible.
I look back on these lessons from Wellesley for this 2020 Election, and remember that no matter the result, we will find a way to move forward. We will be together in the morning.