Mary Steenburgen and Hillary Clinton
#StillWithHer by Barbara Kinney
November 08, 2018 11:56 AM

On the two-year anniversary of Election 2016, Mary Steenburgen recalls the poignant solace she tried to offer her longtime friend Hillary Clinton after she lost that year’s bruising presidential race.

“As long as we’re privileged to draw breath, life is a grace and none of us know what’s around the bend,” Steenburgen, 65, told Clinton, according to an essay the Book Club actress wrote for #StillWithHer by former White House photographer Barbara Kinney. (The book, out Nov. 1, was produced in collaboration with PEOPLE’s Sandra Sobieraj Westfall.)

Steenburgen, a close personal friend of Hillary and Bill Clinton dating back to when they all lived in Arkansas, also reflects on the significance of Clinton’s presidential campaign.

Courtesy Barbara Kinney

In the book, she remembers the first time she thought that Hillary Clinton could be president. It was the late 1970s and Steenburgen and the Clintons were eating cookies in the kitchen of the Arkansas governors’ mansion. At some point, the then-Arkansas governor and his wife discussed ways to provide health insurance for children.

“They were on fire with this idea. It happened a lot with them,” Steenburgen writes. “And I loved the idea, too. But as I watched them try to figure out ways to change the world, I remember thinking, Wouldn’t it be amazing if Bill could be president someday?”

Courtesy #STILLWITHHER by Barbara Kinney

She continues, “Then I looked at [Hillary] and I gasped to myself. Oh, my god. What if she could be president?”

Steenburgen was enthused by the idea, but she quickly realized how unlikely the dream was. Until 2016. “That was the year I saw pure optimism come to life,” she writes.

The actress and her husband Ted Danson were part of Clinton’s campaign and even spoke at the Democratic National Convention.

Ted Danson and Mary Steenburgen
Kevin Mazur/Wireimage

“I’ve been blessed to call Hillary Clinton one of my closest friends since 1978,” Steenburgen said at the DNC in July 2016, according to the Boston Globe. “That is a whole lot of life. How would I describe her? Loves to laugh, especially at herself. World class listener. Quick to forgive. Sensitive. Empathetic. But like her mother, Dorothy, if she gets knocked down seven times, she will get up eight.”

So when Clinton lost the election to former reality star and billionaire Donald Trump exactly two years ago, on Nov. 8, 2016, Steenburgen was devastated. But her support of Clinton was unwavering.

#StillWithHer by Barbara Kinney

In #StillWithHer, Steenburgen remembers the first speech Clinton gave after the election, which was for the Children’s Defense Fund. There Clinton recalled her mother Dorothy Rodham’s traumatic childhood. Her mother had been abandoned by her parents when she was 8 years old.

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“I dream of going up to her and sitting next to her and taking her in my arms and saying, Look. Look at me and listen,” Clinton said in that speech. “You will survive. You will have a family of your own — three children. And as hard as it might be to imagine, your daughter will grow up to… win more than 62 millions votes for President of the United States.”

Courtesy Barbara Kinney/#StillWithHer

Steenburgen made sure to reflect this positivity back to Clinton.

“Hillary was telling that young girl that she should be excited about her future,” she writes. “And that’s what I told my dear friend: It’s okay to say that to yourself, too. Because as long as we’re privileged to draw breath, life is a grace and none of us know what’s around the bend.”

She continues, “I know that Hillary’s magnificent heart and extraordinary mind… still have so much to offer the world. It’s just like she said to her mom in her imagination: This story is not yet finished.”

Hillary Clinton seems to agree with this sentiment. Shortly after the midterm elections, she pinned a tweet she originally wrote on Nov. 9, 2016.

“To all the little girls watching…” she wrote, “never doubt that you are valuable and powerful & deserving of every chance & opportunity in the world.”

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