In the revelry of viewing some of the nations pre-eminent landmarks, Sequim eighth-grader Hillary Smith got a surprise in the mail a signed letter from former president Bill Clinton.
And though the note was a little late and from the wrong Clinton the words still resonate with the Sequim youth.
Smith, on a sort of vacation following the National History Day competition near Washington, D.C., was on the road to Gettysburg when she got a call from Todd Beuke, a Sequim Middle School teacher and Smiths History Day advisor, that a letter had come from the former president.
Weeks earlier, Smith and Beuke asked staff from Hillary Clintons campaign for a quote or comment germane to the young students History Day topic: Belva Lockwood, the first woman to appear on official election ballots when she ran for the office of president in 1884 and 1888.
Smith didnt get a comment from the Clintons until well after the finals June 15-19, and not from Hillary.
At first, I was like, Why is it Bill, not Hillary? Smith recalled. Then, I was like, Wow, I cant believe he read it (and) took the time to write the letter. He really analyzed my paper.
In a typed letter, Clinton extols Smiths paper (Taking on the Courts, and The Men: Belva Lockwoods Conflicts and Compromises in Law and Politics, which took third in the Junior Paper division) and Lockwoods place in history.
Although it is disheartening that Belva Lockwood never lived to see women win the right to vote, Bill Clinton wrote, we should be inspired by the fact that she sought change from within our legal system and often succeeded.
Clinton added: A century and a quarter later, there are 87 women in the U.S. Congress, eight women governors, women leaders in every sector of society, and a woman my wife, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton who garnered millions of votes in the primary of a major political party. They, and all Americans, owe a debt of gratitude to Belva Lockwood.
Added at the bottom of the letter is a hand-written note that reads: Great job. Thanks for doing the paper. I learned a lot. Bill Clinton.
As for the letter, Smith said shed likely frame it, and definitely save it for college applications. But first things first: one more year of middle school and another four of high school.
The letter came in a whirlwind of activity for Smith, who joined family on a tour through the Northeast following the History Day competition. Travels took the Smiths to Washington, D.C.s National Portrait Gallery, where Hillary got to see photos of Belva Lockwood that are not on regular display. They also traveled to Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania to view a collection of Lockwoods writings.
I saw her actual handwriting, Smith boasted.
Smith joined her sister Heather as one of just a few Sequim students to earn a spot at the National History Day final; Heather took second place in the Junior Historical Paper division at nationals in 2004, then qualified for nationals a second time in 2005.
The younger Smith said shes targeting author and abolitionist Harriet Beecher Stowe for next years History Day project, one that falls in line with the 2009 theme: An individual in history.
Ive learned a lot from our daughters about American history, Smiths father Henry said. Were all feminists here.
Hillary Smith is inexorably linked to the former first lady. Henry noted that he and his wife, Betsy, named their youngest daughter after Hillary Rodham Clinton while the family was living in a conservative and often Clinton-despising part of Texas.
But, as Henry Smith noted, his Hillary is her own person.
I liked Hillary … (but) I didnt think shed make the best president, Smith said.
Though impressed with the run the former first lady made for the presidency, Smith is quick to note: Belva Lockwood was first.
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