Joy-Filled Members Celebrate Hillary Clinton’s Historic Nomination
By Susan Youngwood
It started with a single Facebook post, on April 12, 2015, the day Hillary Clinton announced her candidacy for president of the United States.
Dawn Evans Greenberg invited her friends in Chappaqua to join her for a drink to celebrate. A small group gathered, and decided they wanted to help the campaign. The group mushroomed, and now has 750 members ages 16 to 69. A satellite group in Rivertown has 200 participants.
Fifteen months later, after hours of making phone calls, knocking on doors and registering voters, ten members of Chappaqua Friends of Hill and Tim (the name officially changed last week) attended the Democratic National Convention to watch Clinton accept the nomination.
“Our enthusiasm carries us along,” said Greenberg.
At the crack of dawn on Wednesday, the group set off to Philadelphia. Their first stop was a Women for Hillary Meet and Greet in the Philadelphia convention center, where they gathered buttons and encouragement. After getting their credentials (posing for a photo in front of the enormous Hillary button in the lobby) and checking into their accommodations, they headed to the Wells Fargo Center.
Settled into their seats by 3:30, they were in for a long night.
They were all pumped. This was their first political convention. “I’m still pinching myself,” said Kristen Lore, “I can’t believe I’m here.
The members discussed their efforts and motivations while waiting for the program to begin. Iris Lauchaud listed all the states they called during the primaries: Indiana, California, Colorado, Connecticut, New Jersey, West Virginia.
Randee Glazer, who worked on Wall Street but is now retired, found time to do it all — phone banking, canvassing, visibility, voter registration. “I like canvassing — I like speaking to people, telling them what I admire about Hillary. I think it really makes a difference,” she said.
Jolted by 911, Glazer was motivated to volunteer after John Kerry’s loss in 2004. “After ‘04, I realized that I can not only vote — I have to do something.” She worked on the Obama campaign in 2008 and 2012. But this campaign has a more personal touch for her.
“I met Hillary for the first time in 2005, at someone’s home for a fundraiser,” she said. “She was amazing.” Glazer’s daughter was applying to colleges, and Clinton gave her advice from her own experience with Chelsea. It was clear from that conversation, Glazer said, “how Hillary listens and how she cares. … She’s brilliant, capable and qualified.”
Julie Gaughran fondly remembers her phone calls to southern states. “They had such lovely accents,” she said. Her first volunteer gig for a political campaign was in 1980, for Teddy Kennedy. “I’ve always been politically active,” she said.
“I fell in love with Hillary when she was First Lady,” said Lore, a psychotherapist who specializes in eating disorders. Clinton is both “gutsy” and “really caring” — but most important, Lore said, “she fights for the kinds of values that are important to me.”
One thing that motivated them was the impressive skill set of the participants. They are “results-oriented” said one; this is not a group of ladies who lunch.
Beth Sauerhaft, who works in environmental and social sustainability, said Hillary’s strengths — her “amazing breadth and depth and … experience” inspired similarly situated people to volunteer. “We’re all a group of people with expert credentials,” she said.
“If we go to lunch,” she laughed, “we discuss this.”
“This is the greatest group,” said Gaughran. “They are warm-hearted, extremely smart, unpretentious, and funny as hell. We are doing something great and having fun as well.”
While all the members put in hours of hard work, they acknowledge their founder’s contribution. “Dawn is a force of nature,” said Gaughran.
Eventually the convention began. There was a procession of speakers, both politicians and celebrities, some well known (New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Star Jones), some not as well known. Audience members flicked through their Facebook feeds, took photos, explored the convention center.
The mood shifted at 8 p.m., when gun violence took center stage. The audience quieted down. Phones turned dark. All eyes turned to the stage as Christine Leinonen, the mother of a victim of the June 12 Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, took the microphone.
Leinonen said that when she went into labor with her son, she was a Michigan state trooper and the hospital stored her gun in a safe.
“I’m glad common-sense gun policy was in place the day Christopher was born, but where was that common sense the day he died?” Leinonen asked. “I never want you to ask that question about your child. That’s why I support Hillary Clinton.”
Glazer rested her cheek on her hand, transfixed. All around, eyes twinkled with tears.
Next up was Erika Smegielski, whose mother was killed in the Newtown, Conn., shooting. As she proclaimed, “What we need is another mother, who will make this right,” Greenberg whispered, “These women are awesome.” She shook her head. “I can’t even imagine.”
Emotions flitted up and down. Joy when Broadway performers sang “What the World Needs Now.” Enthusiasm as favorite politicians took the microphone (chanting “Jerry, Jerry, Jerry” for California Gov. Jerry Brown; “Joe, Joe, Joe” for Vice President Joe Biden). Laughter when former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg eviscerated Republican nominee Donald Trump (“I’m a New Yorker, I know a con when I see one.”)
The Chappaqua ten waved signs, booed when Trump’s name was mentioned, chanted “Love trumps hate.”
But no words could really capture their feelings when Obama took the stage.
“One of the single greatest moments of my life,” wrote Greenberg on Facebook. “The place seems almost levitating with love and hope for the future.”
Witnessing this live was indescribably different from seeing it on television.
“You just feel the hum in the air,” said Sauerhaft.
“You could feel the hope in the air,” said Greenberg.
“This is an historic event,” said Glazer. “We’re not just living it. We’ve been part of it.”