The gift of ‘Yes, you can’

Dear Sadie and Amelia,

I apologize that this gift has taken so long to reach you, but it took a while to convince the country that it was time.

This morning, America got a beautiful gift when Senator Kamala Harris was named Vice President-Elect of the United States.

I cried. Finally, some of the work of thousands of women over the last century has begun to pay off. 2020 is the 100th anniversary of women being granted the right to vote. That’s one really long wait.

White men have had the right to vote for 224 years; Black men gained the right 92 years later in 1868, but women – who were equally important in the development and growth of our country – didn’t get to vote until 1920. Susan B. Anthony was arrested when she attempted to vote in the 1872 presidential election. It took another 48 year for the 19th Amendment to pass, guaranteeing women equal status in the voting booth.

Sadie, your mom says that I am the Grammy who is in charge of Female Empowerment and I’m good with that. It comes from something my mother impressed upon me, that women can do anything they want and should challenge the system when they’re discouraged. I believed her and went on to break a couple of small glass ceilings when I worked with the Fremont Police Department as the first female Explorer and LAPD, alongside male trainees and officers as the first female Cadet, proving that women were just as capable as men.

I gladly accept the responsibility of providing you both with information, books, conversations and meet-and-greets with powerful women to help you realize your opportunities. I did it for Sadie’s mama and aunt and, despite the distance, will do the same to make sure Amelia knows that Rock women are Forces of Nature to be reckoned with.

Vice President-Elect Harris bears a tremendous weight upon her shoulders as the First. She will be watched closely, but I am confident that she will prevail. But I need to warn you that there are still people out there who will criticize any mistake she makes, any misunderstanding or misstep she takes – solely because she is a woman. The most cruel critics might even be other women. But don’t listen to their rhetoric. See that Kamala is standing on the shoulders of the thousands of women who went before her and stand strong.

We may have the vote, but we’re still working on the equality.

Fortunately, you are growing up in a society with more equitable opportunities across the board. Despite the challenges, don’t ever tie down your dreams, – let them soar beyond your wildest expectations. And if those dreams include public service, get in there and gain experience. Volunteer to help run nonprofit groups, serve on citizen boards and commissions, and run for office because there is just as much room on the dais for you as there is for men. My wish is that during your lifetimes, you enjoy the freedom to be voted in or appointed to offices simply because you are the best candidate.

Kamala is taking a historic first step for America, but it’s a step she’s worked on and waited patiently for. Patience and hope go hand in hand. Just ask my friend Eileen. She’s 102 and when she was born, women couldn’t vote. Her mother was an activist involved in the women’s movement and marches in Iowa. By the time Eileen turned 21 (the former voting age, getting the vote to 18-year olds is a whole different blog post), she proudly voted and has voted in every election since. She is one of the most confident people I know and absolutely thrilled to see a woman headed for the White House in her lifetime. May you have her determination and pluck.

And when you’re looking at property on Pennsylvania Avenue in DC in the future, know that those keys are within your reach, thanks to a woman who was born in the same city as your Grammy.

Carol Rock is a writer based in the Los Angeles area. She is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years’ experience covering all areas of news and features. She works as a freelance public relations and media consultant, with writing remaining her strong suit. Her tattoo, if it were real, would read “Don’t Die Wondering.”

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