Teen Vogue’s “21 Under 21” Nominees Discuss Equality & Feminism With Hillary Clinton

She may not have been able to crack that “highest, hardest glass ceiling” (despite winning the popular vote by close to 3 million votes, more than any other presidential candidate in history except for President Obama), but Hillary Clinton has certainly left her mark on American politics forever, and is inspiring so many other girls to follow in her footsteps.

In the wake of the 2016 Presidential election, an exciting movement has been happening across the country, and it is a thrilling moment to witness. It began with the Women’s March on January 21st, and has continued throughout the year with numerous marches, political activism, women running for office in record numbers, and who can ignore the current #MeToo movement which is finally bringing to light the abuse of power high-profile men have been allowed to wield for far too long.

In a nutshell, 2017 is the year women fought back against the bigotry and hatred of the Donald Trump messaging, and the patriarchy is starting to crumble in meaningful ways. The most exciting part of this wave of activism is seeing how energized the younger generation are, especially those who are not yet voting age. Because of digital technology and social media, young people are speaking out about issues such as climate change, racial justice and reproductive rights.

Teen Vogue’s “21 Under 21” list showcases a group of girls and femmes who are changing the world, and it reads like a “who’s who” list of tomorrow’s leaders. With the increase in conversation about the need for more women in positions of power and leadership in light of multiple sexual assault and harassment stories that are seeing men like Matt Lauer, Charlie Rose, Havery Weinstein and Bill O’Reilly fired from their jobs, this list is inspiring us to know the future is in good hands.

Five of the “21 under 21” world-changers sat down with Hillary Clinton to talk about politics, leadership, activism, and equality to get a sense of what the seasoned public servant has endured and how she wants to encourage others.

The five are Hunter Schafer, 18 – a trans model and activist who served as a plaintiff in a lawsuit against the discriminatory bathroom bill HB2 in her home state of North Carolina; Mari Copeny, 10 – names Little Miss Flint for her advocacy around the Flint Water Crisis, who also became the youngest Women’s March youth ambassador and the national youth ambassador for the People’s Climate March; Muzoon Almellehan, 19 – a Syrian refugee who fled her home country, spent 3 years in a Jordan camp, and is the youngest-ever goodwill ambassador as well as the first with official refugee status; Nadya Okamoto,19 – a Harvard sophomore working to change and normalize the conversation around menstruation who also ran for city council in Cambridge, Massachusetts; and Simone Askew, 20, who recently made history as the first African-American woman to be named first captain of the corps of cadets at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, the highest position in the cadet chain of command.

We’re sharing some of our highlights of the full conversation, which we highly encourage you to read over at Teen Vogue.

Nadya asked the former Secretary of State how women today can break through a male-dominated political environment, where the percentage of women in US Congress sits at less than 20%. Hillary points to a former Democratic Presidential nominee, the first black presidential nominee, Shirley Chisholm who today is still an inspiration for many women in politics.

“There’s that great line by Shirley Chisholm, who ran for president back in the 1970s: ‘If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair.’ And that can be in terms of activism, building a platform for yourself, or in public service, government, or running for office. And there’s no substitute for being prepared, knowing what you want to say, and being brave enough to say it. It can be groundbreaking, and you might receive backlash — as I know you have online — but you just have to keep persevering,” she said.

Hunter Schaefer asks about the protection of LGBTQ youth in schools which is a timely conversation, given the regressive, anti-LGBTQ Department of Education headed up by Betsy DeVos who is reversing many of Obama’s inclusive protections that were implemented during his administration.

“I want to address how public schools in America are continuing to struggle with accommodating the bathroom needs of gender-nonconforming and trans young people…How can we as a society and even on institutional levels ensure the safety and comfort of gender-nonconforming students and children as they continue to come out?” Hunter asks.

“It is an issue that really calls on people to be compassionate, kind, and understanding. We are at our best in our country when we treat people with respect as individuals and worry more about the content of our character, as Dr. King said, and have an open education system, an open society,” said the Secretary and former US Senator for the state of New York.

Hillary pointed to the executive order from the Trump admin which sought to expel all trans soldiers from the military. Thankfully it was blocked by a federal judge, but the fact that these kinds of discriminatory pieces of legislation and actions are being pushed (including NC’s HB2 which was also struck down) necessitates more diverse people running for office.

In the recent November 7 election which saw more than 200 seats around the country up for grabs, most notably in Virginia, we saw a wave of black women, young folks, immigrants and LGBTQ individuals win seats in record number. Virginia saw 33 year-old openly trans woman Danica Roem elected to the House of Delegates, and Andrea Jenkins, the first openly black trans woman winning a seat in the Minneapolis City Council. The best part about Danica’s win was that she beat an incumbent who sponsored anti-trans legislation. It was a figurative “slap in the face”, proving how even in a state like Virginia which is seen as more conservative, people want to see a new kind of leadership.

Although laws can’t explicitly change people’s minds about a potentially divisive issue, Hillary says it can be a start, but schools also have to do their part.

“You’ve got to have the institutional barriers like the legislation and regulation come down first. Then you begin to hope people will be more under-standing and compassionate. In schools [is] where all of this has to start,” she said.

Muzoon asked the Secretary what her advice would be to girls everywhere, something Hillary is definitely passionate about as she remarked in her concession speech a year ago, saying “To all of the little girls who are watching this, never doubt that you are valuable and powerful and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world to pursue and achieve your own dreams.” But not all young girls around the world necessarily have the same starting point, as Muzoon explains.

When I was in the refugee camps, I saw many refugees who had given up on their dreams and become so hopeless. I told them that when we think this is the end of our stories, maybe it is the beginning of our stories,” she said.

“Everyone has a story. And history is about our collective story. We need to make sure people are given the chance to tell their individual story. Through your work with UNICEF, [people] see you. They listen to you and think, I didn’t know that’s what a refugee would say or look like..So you being a voice for children who are living in refugee camps will make a big difference because people will see them as individuals, not just as numbers,” said Hillary.

Simone Askew asked about the importance of seeing minorities and women of color in leadership, as she is now stepping into that role as a barrier-breaker at West Point Academy. Hillary answered by summing up what we are seeing in our culture right now in light of the presidential election.

“I think it was clear to anybody in this past election: There are a lot of Americans who are uncomfortable with progress that’s made by African-Americans, women, the LGBTQ community, people with different ethnicities. We have to demonstrate that we’re better and bigger than that bigotry. Not by just talking, but by demonstrating,” she said.

Watch the video below to hear more from the Teen Vogue “21 Under 21” discussion with Hillary Clinton.



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