Early in 1999, speculation was growing that I would enter the U.S. Senate race in New York. In fact, reading the newspaper or watching television, it seemed that the only person in the world not convinced I would run was me.
But there were so many things to consider. And so many obstacles. No First Lady had ever before sought public office. And I had never run for office myself. Sure, I'd campaigned all over the country, for my husband and for other candidates. But I was used to getting onstage and talking about the virtues of someone else. Would I be able to earn the trust of New Yorkers? Would I make a good candidate? Did I have what it takes?
It was an incredibly difficult decision, and I needed a push. Fortunately, I got one. In March of that year, I went to New York City to join Billie Jean King at an event promoting a documentary about Title IX and women in sports. (Lucky for me, athletic ability was not required for entry to the event.) We gathered at a local school, joined by dozens of young women athletes, all of us assembled on a stage beneath a giant banner that read dare to compete, the title of the film. A young woman named Sofia Totti, the captain of the girls' basketball team at the school, introduced me.
And then something unexpected happened. As I approached the microphone to say a few words about the importance of giving girls every opportunity to grow and reach their potential, Sofia grabbed my hand and whispered in my ear: "Dare to compete, Mrs. Clinton," she said. "Dare to compete."
I was stunned—genuinely caught off guard. Late into that night, I was still thinking about what she'd said. I started to ask myself questions that had been lurking in the back of my mind for a long time. How can I give in to my fears and fail to do something I have urged countless other women to do? Why am I so hesitant about taking on this challenge? Why aren't I thinking more seriously about it?
All of us struggle to be the best we can be. All of us wonder at times whether what lies ahead is too difficult or too challenging. In truth, sometimes our most fearsome competitor is ourself, as we face our own doubts and fears on the way to reaching our potential.
Daring to compete isn't always easy. But Sofia, in her optimism and enthusiasm, in her spirit and drive, reminded me why it's so important. Soon after her challenge, I decided to risk being the best I could be and entered the race. Now, as a senator representing New York and fighting in Congress on the issues I care about, I can look back and say that the Aha! moment Sofia inspired was one of the most important of my life. Maybe next I'll dare to work on my jump shot.