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Beyond history, Hillary Clinton must convince the nation

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, left, is greeted

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, left, is greeted by supporters as she arrives to a presidential primary election night rally, Tuesday, June 7, 2016, in New York. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez) Credit: AP

Our nation has been building to this moment for 240 years: A woman will be the presidential nominee of a major party.

But true moments in history are more than just unprecedented happenings. They also have significance and reverberations. And on that note, it’s a little more difficult to say what Hillary Clinton’s status as the Democratic Party’s presumptive nominee really means.

It’s a milestone and a catharsis for millions of American women who sought the same opportunities as men but ran into the hard reality of glass ceilings. But many younger women have a different view. Theirs is a generation raised by parents who told them they could do and be whatever they wanted. They have seen powerful activist women like Serena Williams, Angelina Jolie and Beyoncé succeed and take charge of their careers. Many countries have been led capably by women like Golda Meir of Israel, Margaret Thatcher of Great Britain and Angela Merkel of Germany.

And they’ve grown up with Clinton in their lives — a strong first lady, an effective senator from New York, a capable secretary of state negotiating on America’s behalf. The millennial generation never doubted a woman could be president.

Clinton, to her credit, understands the tightrope she must walk. She can revel in the victory — see her unbridled smile during Tuesday night’s celebration in the Brooklyn Navy Yard — but she cannot get caught up in the moment. Being the first to do something can only take you so far. We say that despite the fact that her opponent, Donald Trump, has been criticized for denigrating comments about women. And despite demeaning views of women still held by people like Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who declared last week that women who choose careers over motherhood are “deficient” and “half-persons.”

Clinton, a baby boomer who embraced the feminist wave, has been both a mother and a politician. Motherhood featured prominently in Tuesday’s speech, when she remembered that the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote was passed by Congress the day her mother was born, and when she praised her daughter, Chelsea, for the mom that she has become. And Clinton’s gender has informed her priorities, her philosophies and her policies.

They will be put to the test in the upcoming general election campaign. She does face challenges, ranging from her emails and the misguided use of a private server as secretary of state to the perception of her as untrustworthy to the family’s Clinton Foundation and contributions it received from foreign governments while she was head of the Department of State. We are sure she will give as hard as she takes in a campaign that we hope focuses on serious issues.

Eight years ago, when she fell short in her first presidential campaign, Clinton famously remarked that there were 18 million cracks in the glass ceiling, referring to the number of votes she’d received.

The most durable crack she could put in that ceiling now is to prove she should be president because she has what it takes to do the job.

— The editorial board