We may be ready for Hillary, but are we ready for a Filipina-American President?

By Tiara Camille Teruel

I watched as she sang me lullabies and chased the monsters from under my bed. She was my biggest supporter and yet my strongest critic. My morals were valued and my character was shaped with her unconditional love by my side. She was and always will be, the biggest influence in my life. Selflessly kind, extremely intelligent, and even more impressive: strong. This was my mother, Thelma Lim Teruel.

Mom’s strength was beyond keeping her children safe and being our nurturing pillar. Her strength was also in her innate ability for bringing out the best in us and for helping us recognize our own strengths.

As her death anniversary has come and gone again, it made me reflect on the phenomenon of being a strong woman. The beauty of being able to balance a life of nurturing and the responsibility of leadership. It made me nostalgic at my past and made me look to the future of our gender and how far we’ve come.

What does it really mean to be a strong woman? In our world today, women are showing more and more leadership and a vast array of shades of strength.

A most exciting progress we are making as far as women in leadership is concerned is in the United States presidential campaign of 2016. There is a lot of talk about it being our year for a woman as president of the United States. I am ecstatic at the thought of a Woman President. The concept is absolutely thrilling and close to becoming a reality.

We finally have a believable chance of having a woman president in the White House. This should not be much of a surprise though, as women, with the right qualifications, have long been capable of running countries and empires.

We saw this in the UK with Margaret Thatcher and Corazon Aquino in the Philippines. We see it now in Julia Gillard, Prime Minister of Australia, and Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany. In 2011 alone, there were 22 countries with women holding the highest positions in their government. It’s finally our turn in the United States. It’s our time. I truly believe we are ready now and it looks like I’m not the only one who thinks so.

Thelma Lim Teruel: The author's mother and role model for what a strong Filipina should be

Thelma Lim Teruel: The author’s mother and role model for what a strong Filipina should be

At the Democratic National Committee Women’s Leadership Conference on September 19, Hillary Clinton spoke to a mostly female crowd and among the issues she addressed was the underlying suggestion that she will be running for the 2016 presidential election.

She has not officially announced her run, but there are buttons, stickers, and t-shirts sold through different support sites saying: “We are ready, Hillary 2016.”

It’s not just Hillary Clinton. There are plenty of serious contenders and strong female influence in U.S. politics today.

Other names, like, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Governor Susana Martinez (R-NM), Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA5), Attorney General Kamala Harris (CA), Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Governor Nikki Haley (R-SC), Governor Maggie Hassan (D-MA), Governor Mary Fallin (R-OK), Former Governor Jennifer Granholm (R-MI), Former Governor Sarah Palin (R-AK), Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Former Governor Christine Gregoire (D-WA), Representative Michele Bachmann (R-MN6), Congresswoman Kristi Noem (R-SD) and Attorney General Pam Bondi (FL) would also be strong contenders if they ran. It’s very enlightening to know there are plenty of capable women contenders who would each be able to bring their own experiences and unique insights in dealing with issues that confront society.

What does this all mean for our community and especially Filipino women in the United States? Well, a more progressive intent to improve the political representation of women, goes hand in hand with correcting the under-representation of ethnic minorities. Especially female ethnic minorities.

We, Filipino-Americans, despite being the second largest Asian group in the U.S., have been surprisingly quiet in the political halls of power. We have not had a Filipino-American in state legislature in California, one of the top states with a significant Filipino population, until Rob Bonta assumed office in 2012.

Only a few members of Congress have some Filipino lineage. The only person with claims of Filipino-American descent in Congress is Robert C. Scott (D-VA3). This is of course unless Hawaii’s current State Senate President, Filipino-American, Donna Mercado Kim (D-HI) wins the CD1 congressional seat in the upcoming Midterm Elections and joins him in Congress.

I would like to see a change in this and desire a more visible presence for us Filipino-Americans in U.S. politics, especially Female Filipino Americans.

Even with our considerable progress as minorities in U.S. politics, for female ethnic minorities, there is still a long way to go. It is true that the obstacles women face across the western democratic political systems, have been greatly reduced in the last few years, but the opposition is still there and more prevalent in high level political positions. It is my perception that a woman as commander-in-chief will greatly change that and can pave the way for more women to step up for high-level political office.

The challenges are very real for women, most especially for us female ethnic minorities. However, with our strengths highlighted, alongside the promise of a woman president in 2016, there is hope that these will diminish and we will be one step closer to showing what it really means to be a strong woman.

Tiara Camille Teruel is a talent agent at NTA Talent Agency, a leading entertainment agency in California. She was born in Manila, and is now bicoastal between Los Angeles and New York City. Aside from entertainment, she has an interest in politics and is active in philanthropy. Send comments to the author at theredtiaraemail@gmail.com.

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