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Hillary in Hillsborough

How could she not open her speech by talking about the weather on a day like yesterday? I could see across the Bay from this amazing property in Hillsborough – Redwood trees, gazebo and terraced gardens overlooked a tented lawn and the most perfect pool setting I’ve seen outside of Italy. Hillary Clinton, hopeful first woman president of the U.S. (applause please, everyone always applauds when this is mentioned and she’s in the room), came to speak to 200 people. She sparkled as she came out into the sun before entering the tent.

This was my second time to see Hillary Clinton in person – my first was in the spring at a much greater distance. This time she was 10 feet from me, close enough to see the expressions on her face and notice the details in her jewelry. As she spoke – about the economy, energy policy, healthcare, education, innovation and terrorism – I felt both humbled at the opportunity and awed by how one woman, her voice hoarse from speaking around the country, can persevere through so much to achieve this simple but incredible goal of leadership.

Although most people in the group I’d peg as moderate Democrats, we had a significant share of Republicans at the event, which made the discussions during and after the event a little different than when I saw Senator Clinton last in San Francisco. There was more talk about bipartisanship and incentives for businesses, more discussion about making college affordable for everyone, and encouraging innovation while simultaneously bringing down prices in the healthcare and energy sector.

Senator Clinton spoke at length about her top priorities both now as a senator and for the future as president. She emphasized the need for a new energy policy “for our security, our environment and our economy.” She jabbed at George Bush – “you cannot be a leader if no one is following.” She discussed how in order to make the sweeping changes that are necessary, we will have to “reform the government.”

When asked about how she would proceed in the “war on terror,” she had a 3 point plan beginning with regaining the “moral authority that we’ve lost.” “We’re now seeing the results ofthe deterioration in Pakistan,” she said. She thinks it’s the most dangerous place in the world right now, and she thinks they have nukes. “We’ve got to be vigilant – not fearful bit vigilant.”

On the environment, she said “it’s not going to be easy (major environmental progress) but we are making some positive changes,” talking about the time we have before the election. She lauded former Vice President Gore for his Nobel prize and for his efforts, but she said “I think Al would be happier with a policy than a prize,” knowing there is much work that needs to be done on her part in order to make the necessary changes.

About healthcare, Hillary brought out her vast knowledge of that area and cited several related statistics. “We can’t continue to spend more than anyone else in the world and not cover everyone.” She also advocated on behalf of electronic medical records, saying it would save us $44Billion/year. That figure I find staggering, but I’ve often wondered at the disorganized fashion of most medical records as a technologist. This could build and expand businesses too, from what I know of the industry. She talked about creating new jobs and coming to agreements with everyone in biotech, insurance, “big pharma” and the rest of us and how it’s unlikely the first step will be much more than a lot of compromise for everyone, but she indicated that may be the only way we can get everyone covered.

Senator Clinton spoke at great length about the challenges we have in education. She wants to provide pre-Kindergarten in 50 states. Because there’s a huge drop-out rate by the third grade. Third grade! It makes me sick to think about it. She thinks it’s deplorable what’s happening with the cost of college education. “A lot of people in mortgage crisis are there because they took out second mortgages to send their kids to college,” she said. She told stories about some of the people she’s met in that situation. She also said that the U.S. is declining in the percentage of people who are going to college now, compared to many other countries.

The senator and former first lady spoke for over an hour and took Q&A for at least 30 minutes more before being whisked away to catch a flight to her next event. Hosted by Cynthia Shuman and Dan Banks and Chaired by former California State Senator Jackie Speier, the lunch event lasted longer than I expected. Jackie Speier, as always, was radiant in her introduction and shared personal stories that illustrate why she’s supporting (and speaking on behalf of) Senator Clinton. There was some buzz as well about when Jackie will run for office next. Everyone in the room, of course, will be rooting for Jackie in her next race.

My mom, who happened to be in town this week, kindly sponsored my attendance to the event, since intimate political fundraisers (yes, 200 people is “intimate”) tend to cost a pretty penny. She came along with me, and I was able to find one friend at short notice who came as well. She’s one of the registered Republicans and she was impressed by Hillary’s knowledge of the issues, but she’s a tough sell (in this case because she knew one of the Republican candidates personally).

There’s still a lot of talk among women and men about whether Hillary’s electable – I thought that was past – but I guess not. The truth is we’ll never know until it happens. Polling results say it’s possible. I keep pointing-out to people that several of the first milestones in women’s political history were in cases where women took offices their husbands previously occupied, so there’s actually a strong precedent for this. People talk about her baggage, the smear campaigns against her, etc. and all I can say is it’s sad how much of our tax money has been wasted to turn the American public against one woman – a smart, dedicated, driven, amazing person – who can and is making a monumental difference in the state of our world.

These are not simple problems Senator Hillary Clinton faces and they don’t have simple solutions, nor is her list of adversaries small, but as I study her – through the debates, seeing her in person, reading what she writes, learning about her character from those who know her – I just can’t help but feel that we would be in good hands if and when she becomes president. She’s not sugar-coating what needs to be done and she’s not making promises she can’t keep. It’s refreshing to me both to see a woman and someone who presents a realistic perspective on our situation as a nation, but who brings people together in a problem-solving fashion to address these issues in a proactive, insightful way. At one point during her speech, she rebuked Bush’s choices as president and rhetorically asked, “how about appointing qualified people [to their posts in our government]?” Let’s start by electing one.

Also posted on the Silicon Valley Moms Blog.