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I have known Hillary Clinton since she was pregnant with Chelsea. That may seem like a long time ago, now that she is about to become a grandmother for the second time, but believe it or not Hillary has been working on our behalf even longer than she has been a mother, even before she was First Lady of Arkansas. Hillary is one of the warmest, most thoughtful and caring people I have been fortunate enough to know. And she has never given up on us.
In fact, her dedication to us is one of the deepest and most personal commitments I have ever witnessed in a public person — or anyone for that matter.
Before she was running for president, Hillary held a televised question-and-answer session with a group of students from my local high school where our twin daughters attend. Hillary mentioned how many times over the years she had been to our town and how she worked with our people to create the first HIPPY (Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters) program for preschoolers in Arkansas. She spoke about all her work in our area for badly needed education reforms.
I thought about how many bright young people have moved to Arkansas because of teacher recruitment programs that she personally promoted for us while she lived here. I thought about the thousands of young mothers who've received scholarships through the Arkansas Single Parent Scholarship Fund, and the countless number of children whose rights have been protected by the Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families, which Hillary co-founded. I thought about how she knows many of our people here on a first-name basis, and I realized just how unique that is.
In Hillary's America we still matter. While other candidates talk about everything but those of us in Middle America, Hillary Clinton has lived among us and with us and been a champion for us all her life. She is no flash-in-the-pan who just shows up at election time when the TV lights turn on. She has done the thankless work, taken the cheap shots, struggled against those who fight progress, and she has let others take the credit if that meant making real change for a young child, a working parent trying to make ends meet, or for a retired senior with pharmacy bills larger than the grocery bill.
Hillary believes that America's basic bargain is that if you do your part, you ought to be able to get ahead and stay ahead. She recognizes that many aspects of the government are not doing that, that for too many Americans this promise is not being fulfilled. Hillary sees that those on top are getting breaks that the rest of America is not — and that when we only cut taxes for those on top, the wealth does not trickle down to the rest of us.
Hillary also understands that there are many barriers that still must be broken down for Americans to succeed. She has spent the past 40 years fighting for racial and social justice and is determined to do the same if elected. From traveling through Texas to register Latino voters, to fighting for comprehensive immigration reform on the Senate floor, she is the only candidate who has a consistent record of supporting immigrants. As a young lawyer, she went to South Carolina to work to stop teenagers from being incarcerated in adult prisons, and last week unveiled her plan for stopping the school-to-prison pipeline that affects too many communities.
No matter what the future holds, Hillary Clinton will continue to break down barriers and assure that America lives up to its basic bargain that if you work hard, you should be able to get ahead. So here we are nearing the March 1 primary in Arkansas, just a few years after that Q&A with our high school students, and my friend Hillary will be on my ballot. She needs our vote, but we need Hillary as our president even more.
Kevin Smith, of Helena, is a member of the Arkansas Travelers, a group of Arkansans who are traveling around the country to campaign on behalf of Hillary Clinton.