Michelle Kwan is no stranger to the rigors of travel.
For almost 15 years, her figure skating prowess took her around the world from one competition to the next, often with a medal or podium finish to show for it.
In a way, her latest task still has that air of competition. But the arena is entirely different.
The two-time Olympic medalist was in Seattle on Friday, March 18, as the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign’s surrogate outreach coordinator, a role that has taken her across the country in recent weeks and brought her to Washington state in advance of next Saturday’s (March 26) Democratic caucuses.
Kwan, who returned to school after her skating career to pursue a degree in political science and international relations, previously worked in the U.S. State Department under Clinton. She said she saw firsthand the difference Clinton was making and the vision she has for the country.
“When she announced, I didn’t even flinch,” Kwan said. “I was ready even before she was ready.”
Breaking down barriers
Kwan’s day of appearances began with a “Breaking Down Barriers for Women” forum at the campaign’s office (1631 15th Ave. W., Suite 302) in Interbay, along with MomsRising executive director and CEO Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner and Clinton senior policy advisor Ann O’Leary.
In front of a standing-room-only crowd of about 80, the trio discussed what they believe are some of the biggest issues facing the nation’s women — and what they believe makes Clinton the best candidate to address them.
Among the main topics of conversation was the push across the country for paid family leave and affordable child care.
Rowe-Finkbeiner mentioned that in the last four years, 12 child care-related policies have been passed in Washington state and said paid leave wasn’t on the political agenda nationally in a big way until leaders like Clinton put it there.
“Red and blue states alike are moving these policies forward,” she said.
She also stressed that the power of mothers and women is economic and political and that power can be used in a bevy of ways to help enact change.
O’Leary noted Clinton’s advocacy on the Flint, Mich., water crisis, not only raising awareness but helping to coordinate outreach efforts.
“Hillary just makes things happen when she sees these types of injustices going on,” she said.
The policy advisor also discussed her discussions with the former U.S. secretary of state on issues like the spread of the Zika virus in South America and the potential implications for the United States, long before it became a widely known concern on the national stage.
“I do feel like, in order to be the leader of our country, you do have to be one step ahead of everybody,” she said.
The pair also touched on gun control, with Rowe-Finkbeiner noting the defeat of open-carry measures in Florida earlier this month. That was in no small part due to mothers threatening to avoid the state entirely for family vacations, an example of how parents can exert their financial — and political — muscle.
O’Leary cited Clinton’s 100-percent anti-National Rifle Association voting record and stressed the need to hold gun manufacturers liable in the same way tobacco companies are held liable for health-care issues.
After the forum, O’Leary told the Queen Anne & Magnolia News that Clinton brings a unique perspective to the presidential race, one that no one else has.
“We only have one candidate in this race who has really dedicated her entire career to breaking down barriers for women, for minorities, for people with disabilities,” O’Leary said, “and really making sure that everybody in our country is able to have the opportunities to live up to their God-given potential.”
More to come
Later in the day, Kwan also led a caucus-training event and participated in an LGBT happy hour in Capitol Hill.
The events on Friday were the first in a late push to drum up support for Clinton’s candidacy before the caucuses. Former Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis is scheduled to make a slate of appearances in Western Washington on Sunday, March 20, while former President Bill Clinton has a Monday event planned in Spokane and daughter Chelsea Clinton is scheduled for a pair of events in Tacoma on Tuesday.
Clinton herself is scheduled to hold a pair of public events on Tuesday in Seattle and Everett, the details of which have yet to be announced.
Even if they’re undecided, Kwan encouraged people to get out to caucus on Saturday morning.
“It’s so important that your vote is heard,” she said, “and it’s your right.”
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