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Wednesday, July 27, 2016

A good time to be alive.

My grandmother- born July 26, 1892, 124 years and a day ago- was 27 years old before she could cast a vote for anything. It has taken 96 years for America to get from letting women vote to nominating one to be president.

When my mother was pregnant with me in 1955, she had to give up her teaching job. The economy and community lost her skills for eighteen years: forty percent of her working life.

I have two younger sisters who came up in the late '70s and early '80s when there were plenty of idot arguments thrown in their faces as they embarked on careers.

I went to graduate school as Oxford colleges finally opened their doors to both sexes, the oldest of them after half a millennium and more. I went to law school as the first great wave of women began graduating and joining the profession.

So I am excited tonight. I have, at best, only a theoretical, arms-length knowledge of what it was like for the generations of women in my life to see opportunities foreclosed and talent wasted.

After all, I am a white male, and the world was, from birth, truly my oyster. I never had to think about not being able to do pretty much anything in life I wanted to set my cap for.

But my life also demonstrated how irrational the rules were that kept women penned into certain roles and denied them opportunities in some ways. But there again, I was lucky: I had the luxury of keeping secret the one thing that would have disqualified me from most things. Women can't hide that they are women.

I think I have enough of an idea of how women felt, spending decades- even lifetimes- under glass ceilings: enough, I hope, to share the joy of the older women celebrating Mrs Clinton's nomination tonight, and younger ones who won't have to wait a few more decades because men aren't in the mood to play, "Daddy, May I?"

On the news tonight I saw an interview with Roz Wyman, now 85, who- as a young LA City Council member in 1960, got Robert Kennedy's ear and persuaded him to move his brother's presidential nomination acceptance speech to Memorial Coliseum, where 80,000 people packed in to hear it. She presided over the 1984 convention that nominated the first woman for vice president. She wondered if she'd live to see a tonight in her lifetime.

Part of what makes it such an important night, too, is that for every step forward by American women, there has been some jackass trying to oppose it. In 1993, Senator Jesse Helms had a major public meltdown over the nomination of Robert Achtenberg to be assistant housing secretary. It was bad enough that she was a feminist, Helms lisped, but on top of that, “she’s a damn lesbian." Later, to underscore his distaste, he added that she was "a militant, activist, mean lesbian.”

And just four years ago we had Foster Friess, Rick Santorum's campaign banker, making that crack about an aspirin between women's knees. We heard Mitt Romney talk about his bindersful of "qualified women"; not to mention the Todd Akins and Richard Mourdochs and their lunatic ravings.

Now we have Donald Trump bearing the Republican standard, a man whose children sang his praises as a father for a week without ever letting on they have three mothers/stepmothers. To hear them tell it, he's the world's best thrice-married single dad, and his gilded brood, the reality show reboot of the 60's series "Family Affair."

He views  women like the decor of his homes: something that needs to be replaced and refreshed every decade or two.

Granted, Adlai Stevenson used to joke, "In America, anyone can grow up to be president. Its's the chance we take." But after tonight, it's way closer to being 100% true than it was, and that makes me glad: glad for half the population made a little more equal; glad for America as an example of correcting our errors; glad to be alive.

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