A fourteen year old me (and incoming high school Freshman) enters the hallowed halls of the local Walmart to shop for school clothes. Before you roll your eyes, I was a poor kid. My family couldn't afford the Arizona jeans, Levi's and No Fear shirts that were in vogue at that time, and when you were in my station in life, you took what you could get.
So, onward through the maze of old lady clothes in Wally World I went. You know how in the Wayne's World movie when Wayne sees the 64 Fender Stratocaster (in classic white with single triple coil pickups and a whammy bar) in the music store window and he has that "it will be mine" moment? I experienced that very same feeling. Tucked on a rack next to an assortment of purple windbreakers was THE GREATEST SHIRT ON EARTH.
The shirt in question was a plain white tee with a screenprint of Margaret from the Dennis the Menace comics with the caption "Someday a woman will be President!" above her outstretched arms.
I absolutely HAD to have that shirt, because even then it was something my fourteen year old equal opportunity and budding Pro-Fem mindset firmly believed in.
...Before it was cool.
...Before it was "acceptable".
...Before it was P.C. (Politically correct)
I carried it over to the buggy, and tried to sneak it in without my family looking, because at fourteen years old, I still had to gain familial approval of all body covering.
"What's this?" my dad says. He pulls the shirt from the buggy, takes one look at my dreams hanging on that rack and then...
Being the excellent teenage whiner I had become by 1995, I shoot George, (my nickname for my Grandmother), the champion of my childhood wants and most awesome woman on the planet, my best rendition of puppy dog eyes and soon I hear "Cecil Junior, let her get the damn shirt."
George: One --- Dad: Zip.
I went home a very happy girl, and Dad went home complaining and teasing that there was no point wearing that shirt because it was dumb, and there would never
be a female President.
Fast Forward to a week before school starts.
I saw a minute tidbit on the news about a shirt that Walmart had taken off the shelves because Family Values groups were protesting the message it sent out to young girls. The impossible message that someday a woman would be President. ...MY SHIRT!
I was more than determined to wear it now. After arguments with my Dad about wearing a banned shirt that had no business being worn to school, I wore it on the first day. Even more, I was the only person who owned that shirt.
...And I caught hell for it from my classmates, predominantly male. Jeers abound. I ignore.
It seemed like in 1995 in the heart of Appalachia, my Dad was a voice of popular opinion in the male crowd. But I persevered. I wore that shirt like a banner of girl power emblazoned across my chest. I was sure that a woman would be President someday, and girls like me needed a dream, inspiration to lead.
That shirt really inspired me to achieve.
Thanks to the wonders of modern technology, we have a photograph of myself celebrating one of my first educational triumphs of my high school years:
Yes, that's me (...during my awkward phase), wearing the greatest shirt on Earth, bashfully accepting a trophy for placement(in Language Arts, if I'm not mistaken)at a Regional Governor's Cup Competition. That trophy was only one small dream realized, a tiny stepping stone in a path of many through my years.
That simple construction of cloth inspired me to stand up for what I believe in, become an achiever, and soon after, a student leader. Over a decade down the road and I'm still doing my part to inspire a new generation to dream, believe, and achieve.
So, twelve years ago I was a rebel. (I still am)
I had my own belief, and it shaped who I am today.
That same belief is now a very real possibility for someone else who was once a young girl.
38 years ago, another young girl had aspirations of doing her part to make this world a better place. That young girl became a young woman who spoke eloquently and true to her own beliefs, in defiance of a senator's address during her own college commencement speech at Wellesley college.
That girl grew up to become Hillary Clinton, the first major female candidate to run for the position of President of the United States. She is a role model for young women everywhere. Twelve years ago in my world, the thought was ludicrous.
The message on that t-shirt from 1995 doesn't seem so impossible now, does it? We've come a long way as a society, haven't we?
Yet, Walmart still refuses to sell it.
But thanks again to the wonders of modern technology, you can buy it here
, from the woman who created it.
Support the foundation that supports the dreams of millions of little girls all over the nation. Someday your own daughter might dream to be someone who makes a difference.
Labels: Appalachian life, dreams, feminism, goals, hillary clinton, memories, nonfiction, president, teens, true story, tshirt, walmart