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Secretary of State Hillary Clinton & Julia Roberts on Clean Cookstoves

May 8, 2011

Excerpt from their Op-Ed:

This Mother’s Day weekend, most of us will enjoy a home-cooked meal — maybe even breakfast in bed. We’ll probably take it for granted that the meal was prepared in a clean kitchen, where the air is safe to breathe. But for nearly half of the world’s population, cooking at home is a deeply dangerous act. In fact, it poses one of the most serious health risks in the developing world, and it’s a major threat to the environment.

The reason? Smoke from dirty stoves or open flames. Some 3 billion people live in homes where food is cooked on stoves or over fires burning fuels like wood, dung, charcoal, or agricultural waste. These fuels produce toxic fumes, and in poorly ventilated homes, the mix of chemicals can reach 200 times the level that the EPA considers safe to breathe. It can cause lung cancer, pneumonia, cataracts, low birth weight, even death. According to the World Health Organization, smoke from dirty stoves and fires kills almost 2 million people each year, most of them women and children. It kills more than twice as many people as malaria.

Impact on climate

The impact goes beyond people’s health. Burning these fuels produces carbon dioxide, methane, and black carbon, which contribute to climate change. And cutting down trees for fuel causes natural habitats to dry up, forests to disappear, and soil to erode.

On average, women and girls in developing countries spend up to 20 hours a week searching for fuel — time they could spend going to school, running a business, or raising their families. And if they live in areas of conflict, leaving home to search for fuel puts them at great risk of assault or rape.

All of this presents a major challenge — but it can be solved. If we can get cleaner, more efficient cookstoves in wider use throughout the developing world, we can save lives, cut back on carbon emissions, and create new economic opportunities for millions of women.

Fortunately, the technology for clean cookstoves already exists. Several companies are already producing them, and countries like India, China, and Mexico have begun to introduce them in national programs. But the uptake has been slow, because there hasn’t been a widescale effort to coordinate these efforts, or to make the stoves affordable in the developing world.

Multiple supporters

That’s why we are excited about the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, a partnership led by the United Nations Foundation that brings together governments, multilateral, private sector, and non-profit organizations. The Alliance will drive research and development efforts to make new stoves that are more durable, affordable, and tailored to the cooking needs of specific cultures. It will help bring down costs, trade barriers, and other obstacles that have prevented cookstoves from being used widely. And it will promote the benefits of clean stoves, to encourage more families to start using them. A major goal for the Alliance is for 100 million households to take up clean cookstoves by 2020.

Reaching this goal will save lives and reduce pollution. It will also give people, especially women and girls, a new tool to create new economic opportunities for themselves. With the right training and a small upfront investment, women can start new businesses selling, repairing and distributing clean stoves.

And here is the full transcript of an interview Secretary Clinton did for the Oprah Winfrey Network (Julia Roberts is doing the interviewing)- I’m still trying to find a video of the interview, if one exists:

QUESTION: All right. Thank you, Madam Secretary.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you so much.

QUESTION: I’m so excited and nervous, and I’m going to channel my inner Kay Graham today.


QUESTION: And I’m going to start off with a quote of yours that I read that was, as a mom and a working mom, very meaningful to me that I loved that said, “Our lives are a mixture of different roles. Most of us are doing the best we can to do whatever is the right balance. For me, that balance is family, work, and service.” And I love those words.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Yeah, thanks. Well, that is how I feel, and it’s certainly how I felt when my daughter was the age of your children now, just starting out in life and you feel so invested and you want to do the very best job you can. And your balance about family, work, and service changes as you change what happens in your life every day.

So I was just saying before the cameras started that I work really hard in this job, but I never could have done this job when my daughter was a little girl because I just wouldn’t have wanted to miss the time or to take away from what my responsibilities were for her.

QUESTION: Well, let’s talk about your mom because —


QUESTION: — I read your book, which is fabulous —


QUESTION: — and very open-handed — you share so beautifully about your life and your family, and particularly I was touched about your mom because, born in 1919, this is a major moment in America. And she had you and your dad, a Republican.


QUESTION: And I just find it interesting, the way that you describe her and your relationship.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, my mom, who is now 91 and living with us here in Washington, is one of my personal inspirations. I mean, people do say that about their mothers, and that’s a great thing to hear when you invest so much in your child. And for me, obviously, I loved her because she was my mom, but as I got older and I realized what a difficult childhood she had and how she overcame all of these obstacles – she had really young parents and they couldn’t take care of her and they sent her and her little sister across the country alone on a train. I mean, it just – when I was a mom and I had my own daughter and I thought, “You put her on a train at the age of eight, in charge of her four-year-old sister and send her off to live with her grandparents,” it was just beyond my comprehension.

And so my mother really went to work at the age of 13 in somebody else’s home and had to become very self-sufficient. So when she became a mother, it was just the greatest blessing that she could imagine, that she’d have her own home and her own children. And she was just great. I mean, she was a mom who you could play baseball with or sew with, who was really impressing on you the importance of service and responsibility and going to church and feeling like you were part of a larger community, but also telling you to stand up for yourself and take responsibility for yourself and be self-sufficient.

So it was just the best combination of all these experiences and messages, which I’ve tried to do in my own life.

QUESTION: Well, it’s amazing. It’s – I find it fascinating, and as a parent and as a friend, I feel like to be able to learn from a negative example and make it so positive – she was obviously such a beautiful mother to you and your brothers. And it’s extraordinary, because a lot of people follow in those negative patterns, and that she really just turned it on its head.

SECRETARY CLINTON: I’m so glad you said that, Julia, because we both know people who have really hard times in life. And it’s so painful when you see somebody give up or become embittered or angry or unable to move forward; they’re mired in the past. And it’s not that my mother doesn’t think, because I think she thinks every day about being abandoned by her own mother and feeling really left out of lots of things in life when she was a young girl. But she keeps her focus on what she can do in her own family and with other people.

And it’s a great lesson because she gave me, along with my dad, just such a stable upbringing. And we each have our own problems; everybody does. But I was so grateful for that, and I often think, would I have had the – sort of the intestinal fortitude, the personal strength to get up off my back and keep going and to try to be a good mom and not live out all the disappointments and the demons that are inside of us all. So I’m very, very grateful to her. I thank her all the time when I see her and she goes, “Oh, stop it.” (Laughter.)

QUESTION: She reminds me of my mom when you tell the story in your book about being at school at Wellesley and saying that you called and said, “I don’t know if I should be here, maybe don’t think I’m smart enough to be here.”


QUESTION: And your dad said, “Well, come on home.” And your mom said, “Don’t be a quitter.”

SECRETARY CLINTON: (Laughter.) That’s right, exactly.

QUESTION: I called my mom from New York City at 17-and-a-half and said, “I think I’m going to come home.” She said, “Nope, you’re there. Stay there.”

SECRETARY CLINTON: Yeah, that’s right. Yeah, you got to stick it out.

QUESTION: And so it shapes you. It really does shape you. So then let’s talk about the mom that you’ve become with your lovely Chelsea —


QUESTION: — who you said – and I think all moms feel this way – that her birth was the most miraculous and awe-inspiring event in my life, is what you said.


QUESTION: And I think we all feel that way.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, and then second was her wedding. (Laughter.) I mean, the whole experience of being her mother from infancy now through adulthood and through her own choices and beginning her own life with her husband – I mean, what a miracle that is, what a gift. And I really learned so much from my mother. And I made my own mistakes, and obviously, my daughter was a different person than I was. And so learning how to parent somebody teaches you a lot about yourself.

And my daughter has probably been one of my greatest teachers, just every challenge and every question that just raising her and trying to do the best job I could raised for me. And I think about it a lot because I don’t remember reading too much about how becoming a mother would be this enormously challenging and educational experience. I remember when Chelsea was just literally an infant, having brought her home from the hospital shortly after that and she just wouldn’t stop crying, and she was crying and crying and crying. And you feel so overwhelmed by it and I remember saying to her, “Look, you’ve never been a baby before and I’ve never been a mother before. We’re going to have to work this out together.” (Laughter.) And that’s kind of the way it was. It’s like, “Okay, I’m helping you. You need to help me so we can help each other.”

QUESTION: Logic from the beginning; that’s the way I am with my kids. You said – I remember my best girlfriend who has three children; she had two of her kids shortly after college. And when I had my kids, I said, “Okay, what’s the one piece of advice you can give me as a mom?” And she said, “Well, just know at some point, you will misplace them.”


QUESTION: “You will lose your child at least once in your life for maybe 10 minutes and it’ll seem like an eternity.” And I thought, “What?” But you lost Chelsea once.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, yeah. Well, I think it does happen. It usually happens in department stores or —


SECRETARY CLINTON: — supermarkets or amusement parks. And you have that absolute feeling of panic because you’ve just turned away for a second.


SECRETARY CLINTON: And then all of a sudden, where is she? And it’s that moment that I reflected back on so often. It’s just like that absolute sense of total despair. And thankfully, it doesn’t last for long —


SECRETARY CLINTON: — if you’re lucky. But when I’ve had friends who had their child seriously injured or seriously ill or even die, and that sense that they’ve shared with me about how they feel, I have so much gratitude for our good luck. Because so much about parenting – you can do the very best, you can pray a lot, you could study a lot, but at the end of the day, there’s a big element of luck in it.

QUESTION: I agree. I agree. I bring that up just because it comforted me to think, “Even Hillary Clinton – ”


QUESTION: “ – can lose her child for just a second.” When I talked to some of my friends about having a conversation with you and asked what some of their questions might be, a question that came up a lot – and you talk about when Chelsea was born, that you took four months off of work.


QUESTION: I took time off when my kids were born and a lot of moms can.


QUESTION: And here, we’re in that age of do it all, have it all, it can be done. And yet it really does create a lot of conflict and a lot of feelings of guilt – am I serving all the masters properly, am I really fulfilling my obligations to myself and to my family and to my career. I mean, you’re someone who I think we all admire and you really do look like you can do it all and accomplish it all, and that there are enough hours in the day. How do you address that for young moms who are really making that effort and feeling like they’re maybe not coming up with all the right answers?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, I have this conversation so often because a lot of young women work for me and I know a lot of my daughter’s friends, and it’s the most common conversation. I mean, it usually starts off like, “Well, I think I really love him, but if I get married, will I be myself? I mean, how do I continue what I’ve started?” I mean, all of those questions of identity, career, education that come up. And I think all of those are workable. I think that if you’re marrying the right person, you can work out that partnership.

When children come into it, I’m just absolutely convinced that you cannot continue to do everything the way you did it before. You have to make some adjustments. It’s not compromises or concessions because now, you have something really new and wonderful in your life. So you just have to acknowledge. And for me, I did – I went back to work, but I was much more efficient in doing my work and much more able to say no to things that were not that important. I tried to balance a social life. It became a lower priority. And probably the one thing that my friends and I have talked about that was put on a back burner was really those friendships that you have to nurture a lot and spend time with. You just – you were taking – I was taking Chelsea to ballet or I was taking her shopping for something or I was taking to the park or I was taking her to the endless birthday parties that kids that age have. (Laughter.) You just have to balance it. And it – balance is like one of my favorite words, and it’s a real guidance for me.

But you shouldn’t feel bad about that. And you – too many young woman – and I can say this now because I’m out of that stage of my life – end up being so hard on themselves. And because they’re not doing everything perfectly, the most important things are your relationships. The most important things are the people in your life – more important than your house, more important than your job, more important than your social life. It just has to be put on the highest priority list, and there’s just nothing else that even comes close, and just to let up on yourself a little bit. Not to make excuses for yourself because you still should set high standards and you should still believe that you want to lead a sort of well-rounded life, but there’s some things that just don’t have to be nagging at you all the time.

And I really try to convey that because so many young women today are so torn about what to do and when to do it and how to sequence it, and sometimes you just have to do it.



QUESTION: I love that. (Laughter.) Yea, I can go home and lots of good things to share.

All right, now, the other thing that came up, time and time again, are people saying you have raised – and you say you like the word “balance” – you have raised the most balanced daughter. People are so impressed with your daughter. She has so much poise and composure and she’s beautiful and eloquent. How on earth – it’s like a magic trick. How did you do it, especially in the White House —


QUESTION: — especially just protecting her from that media spotlight —


QUESTION: — and guiding her the way that you and your husband did. It really looks like a modern-day magic trick.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, it took a lot of effort. It wasn’t done easily. And I think both Bill and I, because we were in no way prepared for or had been raised in any comparable environment like the ones that we found ourselves in when he ran for and was elected president. But even before that, when he was governor of Arkansas, what we tried to do was to have a routine and have a set of expectations and a consistency of discipline and instilling of respect and empathy. And so, for example, we would every – even when she was just a little girl, every Christmas we’d do like the secret Santas and we would do things for kids who lived in homeless shelters or who were otherwise not going to have a really nice Christmas. And from the very earliest of her consciousness, we told her how lucky she was and how blessed she was, but that meant she had to do more for other people. We tried hard to give her chores and to make her have to do things around the house so that it wasn’t just all these adults that would come and make her bed and clean up after her in the – in our case, it was the Arkansas Governor’s Mansion, but it could be any house of privilege where people have somebody there to help you. I mean, it’s wonderful to have the help, but you don’t want your little children thinking that that’s the way everybody lives.

And I remember one time – Chelsea was about three years old and we had this wonderful – we had a huge crew of people who worked in the governor’s mansion – and one of the women was sitting at the piano in one of the formal rooms and kind of playing it even though she didn’t know how to play the piano. And I said, “Well, what are you doing?” And she goes, “Well, Chelsea wanted me to play the piano.” And I said, “I always want you to remember, you’re the adult; she’s the child and she should show respect for you.”

And we just kept – and luckily it was pushing on an open door because she was naturally a respectful child and somebody who was very sensitive to how other people felt. But I also worked really hard to keep her out of the press and to keep her having as normal life as possible. Because it’s like with your children, you just want them to make their own way in life. You want to give them values. You want to get them well equipped and off to a good start. But you don’t want them sort of being turned into public property. It’s hard enough when you’re an adult and you have the degree of success that you have or I have. You just – you know how hard that is. But we had an upbringing that wasn’t like that and could get you grounded before you were thrown into the maelstrom of media coverage.

But Chelsea really is – Bill and I say – the best of both of us. I mean, she’s a very accomplished person. She’s a very kind person. She’s a very giving person. And so she’s really the person who keeps an eye out for how others are feeling and wants to make sure that nobody’s being left out. But she’s also somebody who sets really high standards and tries to live up to them.

QUESTION: Now how did you make the decision, which I would imagine at the age that she was – it was a decision that the two of you made together, when she started traveling with you and really representing the young women of the world in her presence —


QUESTION: — as you traveled as First Lady, which was so impressive, and I thought incredibly encouraging and empowering for young women for you to do that? For you to make that statement was so beautiful.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, thank you, because I really wanted her to have that experience, but with certain ground rules. So she was off-limits to the press. She was there because she was our daughter, and just as anybody in any kind of position of privilege, you get to travel, see the world, you want to share it with children, but they couldn’t be interviewing her or anything like that. And it worked pretty well. I mean, people in the press, I think, were convinced we meant it.

Sometimes people in the public arena say, “Oh, don’t use my children.” But then when they want to use their children, they put their children out there. And so we were very consistent as were the Bushes and now as are the Obamas, because we really did kind of create a model about having the children of presidents be given some protective zone because otherwise it’s just so unfair. And I remember – I thought that Amy Carter really had a challenging time the way that she was treated by the press when she went to school and they staked her school out and so many things that were really unfortunate for a child to have to experience.

So since we were there with young children, and then the Bushes and then the Obamas, I think there’s now a better understanding. It still is hard. I mean, it’s hard for you in your business. It’s hard still in the public sphere that I’m in. But you just have to be very determined to do that because you don’t your children – you don’t want to put them in a locked room somewhere. You want them to travel with you and —

QUESTION: You want to be able to share your life with them.

SECRETARY CLINTON: You do. You do. I mean, I think read somewhere, when you were doing “Eat, Pray, Love”, which I loved.

QUESTION: Thank you.

SECRETARY CLINTON: And you looked like you were having so much fun doing it. And every time I want to laugh, I think about that turkey scene. I just find that hilarious. But I think you took your kids with you to what fabulous places to be able to expose them to. You should have a right to do that. You and your husband, as their parents, should be able to do that without creating all of these challenges. Because when your kids are really little they don’t know difference. But when they get into school age and, particularly when they’re teenagers, it can be very damaging to them for them to feel that somehow they’re public property.

QUESTION: Yeah. Did you ever have a conversation – I heard that you did, but people hear a lot of things – (laughter) – that you ever had a conversation with Jackie Kennedy about her experience being in the White House and her kids, because she was very —

SECRETARY CLINTON: She was very protective.

QUESTION: — very protective and very specific about all of that.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Yeah. I did. And she was a wonderful help to me. When Bill was running for office, way back in ’92 and then when he was elected, I had a couple of really long heart-to-hearts with her.

QUESTION: Oh, how great.

SECRETARY CLINTON: She was unbelievable. She was so down to earth. I mean, so beautiful and so stylish and so fun. I mean, she had a great sense of humor and she’d say little asides that would really make you either think or laugh. And we talked a lot about raising children in that setting, and she gave me a lot of good advice about how to protect your children and what she had tried to do. And then she, of course, had to continue it, because after President Kennedy was killed and she had to go into the outside world, and yet wanted to have a normal life. And she told me one time about how John was riding a bike in Central Park and the Secret Service, who were obviously concerned about their job to protect him, were kind of hovering around. And she told them, she said, “No, you have to let him have his own experiences.”

And one time a kid pushed him down on the bike and everybody – all these men with guns nearby wanted to rush in, and she said, “No, you have to let him be a boy.” And she really fought for the rights of her kids to have normal experiences. And she stressed that with me, and it went – it really went into my heart. Because talking to somebody who’d been through so much, who understood what it’s like to be in this verified atmosphere, gave me some courage and confidence to do it the way that I wanted to.

And one of my few regrets, and it is a regret, is she called me and asked me in late – I think it was ’93 or ’94, but it was shortly before she got sick. And she asked me if Chelsea and I would fly down to New York to go to the ballet with her, because she knew Chelsea loved the ballet. And being extra dutiful – we were talking about this before we went on camera – I didn’t want Chelsea to miss school because I didn’t want her to get a reputation as somebody who took advantage of her position. And the idea of having to go during the school week to go to New York, to go to the ballet and miss school —

QUESTION: With Jackie Kennedy. (Laughter.)

SECRETARY CLINTON: — with Jackie Kennedy. So I said, oh, no, let’s plan it for a weekend some time. And I never got to do it. So that was one of my regrets.

QUESTION: But you got to spend time with her.


QUESTION: I was once in an elevator with her, and I stared at her.

SECRETARY CLINTON: (Laughter.) Well, she was really an amazing person.

QUESTION: All right. I want to shift gears a little bit because I really want to talk to you about Beijing.


QUESTION: Which I just think – I mean, I get goose bumps thinking about it. And I can’t even – I just want to hear you talk about it a little bit and then I’ll ask all my questions, because I find it so inspiring and remarkable and beautiful and a moment that really, in my mind’s eye – and part of how you talk about it in the book so clearly – you can just feel the tension building. It was really a make-or-break moment for you.


QUESTION: And you really just – such a homerun for all of us.


QUESTION: Talk about that a little bit.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I was born after World War II. And my mother was of the generation, the kind of Betty Friedan Feminine Mystique generation. Although my mother was very independent, still there was a sense that roles were set – sort of like on Mad Men – (laughter) – is what I think the world of the 21st century is seeing kind of life in the ‘60s – pretty rigid sexual stereotypes and ways of relating between men and women and all of that. But our mothers raised us, the sort of baby boomer daughters, to really question authority and to question a girl’s place – like why can’t I be on that team, why can’t I play that sport. And I was just before the time that – when I went to college there were a lot of colleges still that were all male or all female for that matter. There were scholarships you couldn’t get.

So I just – it was at that time when things were beginning to change.

QUESTION: And you were a huge part of that change, if I can interject, in college and you were —


QUESTION: You were building up steam —

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I really came from a family that said everybody should stand on his or her own merits, and you have to do your best, and you shouldn’t accept anybody else’s limitations for your life. And when I went to law school, it was not that common and then when I practices law and taught law, et cetera. So I had personal experiences where I never have thought of myself as somebody coming with some baseball bat and knocking down barriers, but I had to maneuver through the obstacles that were still put in the way of young women.

And when I was – I remember when I was a law professor and I worked on a lot of the issues of young women facing rape or date rape and not feeling like they could talk about it and just a lot of things that were always there but never given a lot of attention.

So fast-forward, I get to have this extraordinary experience as First Lady of our country. And one of my passions has always been how we treat women and children. And I knew that this opportunity offered to me to go to Beijing and to address the UN Women’s Conference was one that I really had to accept and then try to figure out how best to communicate. There were a lot of people who didn’t want me to go, very vigorous debate inside our government, members of Congress. People thought it was not a good idea to go to Beijing and say anything. People were either for my not going because they didn’t want to offend anybody, or they were against my going because they thought by going, I was somehow giving some kind of seal of approval. So it was very complex to navigate through it.

But I really had done some travel by then and had seen the conditions that so many women and girls still face in the world who are – they’re the last fed, they’re denied healthcare, they’re treated like property, they have no rights. And when you’re a girl child in so many countries still today, let alone back in ’95 when I made the speech, it is still a matter of some regret to your family. Whereas, for me, having a healthy child was the best, and my husband and I were thrilled.

So I wanted to go and speak for those who could not speak for themselves, all of the millions and millions of voiceless girls and women. And I came up with that phrase that, “Women’s rights are human rights,” and it’s so obvious, but it was considered almost revolutionary at the time. And I was on a radio program shortly after that, and it was an international call-in program, and somebody called, actually, from Iran. And they said that they had heard my speech and they wanted to know what I meant by, “Women’s rights are human rights.” And I said, “Well, if you will just shut your eyes and think about the rights that you as a man have, those are the same rights – political and economic and social and cultural – to make the choices that are right for you, that are responsible choices, that I think women should have as well.”

And even still today, it’s one of my major causes that I see in conflict zones around the world where women are treated unequally, where they’re oppressed, where they’re denied their rights. It’s a much more unstable situation than if they are empowered and integrated. Now, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t different cultural expectations and experiences, because of course there are. But it does mean that within the legal system of your country, girls and women should have the same rights to go to school and be educated, to have healthcare, to get a job, to choose who they marry or if they marry – all of those rights that I think should be extended regardless of gender.

QUESTION: And do you feel now, 15 years later, that the idea of women’s rights are human’s rights – have you seen that put into play?


QUESTION: Have you seen that blossom in the 15 years since –


QUESTION: — you’ve said that?

SECRETARY CLINTON: I have. I mean, I still think there’s a long way to go, but we have kept up at it. One of the things I started when I was First Lady called Vital Voices still continues so that we help mentor other women, give them training and tools so that they can stand up for themselves in their own society. We worked for many years to support the women in Kuwait who wanted the right to vote, and we were thrilled when they got the right to vote. We worked in Central American countries to recognize domestic violence as a crime, not just as something that happens to you if you’re a wife and your husband decides to beat you. And we have seen changes in laws. We worked in African countries to change the inheritance laws so that girls as well as boys could have a chance to have access to property and credit.

And we’ve seen a lot of changes, but still there is such a disparity in the way girls and women are treated in so many parts of the world that we have a long way to go. But I often, as I travel, have people come up to me and they’ll ask me to sign a copy of my speech or a poster or something that has been written about it and tell me that it really meant a lot to them. And so I feel like words matter. Sometimes you get a little bit skeptical about whether what you say can make a difference, but if you are talking really from your heart and it pierces another heart, it can make a difference, it can change attitudes. And what we’re talking about now is how we have a campaign on behalf of increasing the value of the girl child.

And to go back to one of your questions about traveling with Chelsea, there are a lot of male leaders in the world who have daughters who they cherish, who they want the best for, they want to see successful and happy and able to fulfill their own God-given potential. So we want male leaders with daughters from different cultures to talk about why they value their daughters. So I’m just hoping that we can get President Obama, former President Bush, my husband, but then people in Asia and Africa to do the same.

QUESTION: That’s amazing. I want to ask you what I was curious about with Beijing. It’s so fascinating and I just thought you chose such perfect words, and I do believe in the power of words very strongly. And how – when you stood up there – and I know you talk about the delay of translations – (laughter) – which can feel like an eternity. But when you first stand up there, I mean, are you scared? Do you feel empowered? I mean, I felt weak in the knees walking in here today and I’ve met you before. I know you’re sweet. (Laughter.)

I can’t imagine to face the world, especially under the political circumstances of what came with being there, and what a strong statement that was for you to make and to have your presence be a statement before you even say anything.


QUESTION: I mean, do you just think of – I don’t know – Eleanor Roosevelt? Do you think of your mom? Do you just pray that you get through, or — (laughter).

SECRETARY CLINTON: It’s all of the above. (Laughter.) When something is important to you – I mean, I talk publicly all the time, but a lot of it is pretty matter-of-fact. It’s not that it’s not important; it’s that it’s part of the job, it’s part of the day. But then there are those moments like this was in Beijing, and everything you’ve said is how you feel. You feel nervous and apprehensive. You feel a great weight of responsibility. You feel so hopeful that you can say effectively what you believe in. I mean, it’s everything.

And I used to kid people when I was First Lady that I’d have these imaginary dialogues with Eleanor Roosevelt. And the more I read about her, the more impressed I was, because, again, a woman who – her parents died when she was very young, she was sent off to a boarding school across the ocean by herself. I mean, just everything she did to sort of summon up this courage to become who she was meant to be and to chart this very independent course. And so I would say, “Okay. All right. How am I going to do this now?” (Laughter.) And people – and I used to tell people that. And I think the first time I told them, I meant it kind of jokingly, but I think they looked at me like, “Oh, she’s really gone off the deep end now.” (Laughter.)

But I actually – those interior dialogues are helpful, like, “What would your mother say, what would Eleanor Roosevelt say, what would the little girl that you met in the orphanage in New Delhi who had been left in a garbage pan say?” I mean, what would people say that you’re trying to reach? And – I mean, I have thought a lot about what we tried to do with that moment to figure out the best way to pierce either the fear or the indifference so that people could feel empowered and do something on their own and not wait for somebody else to tell them. And I think we were able, to a great extent, to do that. And I felt it the next day, because there was the formal conference and I’ve kidded my Chinese counterparts in the years since that they cut my speech off of Chinese TV. They would not broadcast it, because –

QUESTION: Oh, really?

SECRETARY CLINTON: — I said that you should not have forced reproduction and sterilization, and so I was very clear about a long list of things that I thought were not right for women to have to face.

And then the next day, we went out to a place called Huairou, which was where the informal, kind of, activist world was meeting. And it was pouring rain, it was mud up to your knees, it was really a sight and everybody was so happy and excited, and felt like that conference, not just what I said, but the whole idea of it and other people’s energy put into it really could mark a turning point. And I do think that the platform for action which came out of that has served as a good roadmap that we and other countries have tried to follow.

And it always hurts me when people dismiss concerns about women’s rights and women’s opportunities as somehow of lesser importance than war and peace. Well, who are the biggest victims of war? Women. Who are the biggest victims of human trafficking? Women. Who are most quickly abused with rape and other terrible abuses when there is any kind of violence going on? Women and their children. And so it’s not either/or. You have to talk about both of these areas of the big macro issues that make the headlines, but the trend lines about women’s lives. And I think if you go back and look at how, like, the 19th century, one of the overriding human causes was to end slavery, and in the 20th century, the fight against totalitarianism and communism to free the human spirit again. And I think the unfinished business of the 21st century is the empowerment and the rights of women.

So for me, it’s not, oh, something I’m interested in and isn’t that nice and kind of the metaphorical pat on the head, like, oh, good, we’ll let the Secretary worry about that after she worries about the Middle East and Afghanistan and Pakistan. No, it’s all part of the same challenge we’re facing.

QUESTION: Yeah. I love what a brainiac you are. (Laughter.) That’s such a comfort. All right, let’s talk about smart power, then –


QUESTION: — which is really what you’re talking about.


QUESTION: But let’s talk about it as those words, “smart power,” because –


QUESTION: — as I was reading about that, I thought, okay, this is something very, very cool that you sort of coined this term.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I can’t take credit for it. I can take some credit, I guess, for publicizing it. But academics and others have been talking about how it’s not enough to use the phrase “hard power” or “soft power.” Hard power is military action, the kind of show of force that you use in diplomatic and international relations. Soft power is development and how you try to instill values and help people. But I thought, well, it’s not either/or anymore. I mean, if you look at what we’re trying to do in places like Iraq or Afghanistan or Pakistan or the Middle East, I mean, we’re trying to, yes, kind of get people to work together and to solve their problems, and sometimes it does take military action to stop the bad guys from taking over. But really, at the end of the day, what we should be doing is changing hearts and minds. We should try to get people to want this for themselves and their children.

I mean, I spend most of my time trying to get people to overcome their past. It’s so difficult. Sometimes here in America, we’re accused of not caring enough about history, but in much of the rest of the world, they care way too much. Not that you forgive or forget that your family was murdered by somebody from another tribe or clan or ethnicity or religion or whatever the dividing line might be, but that you try to take that pain and channel it into something that will give your own children and future generations a chance to avoid that.


SECRETARY CLINTON: Not to keep doing the same thing over and over again. It’s what my work in Northern Ireland or Central America or the Middle East or anywhere else has taught me. There has to be a moment when you surrender to the fact you cannot change the past. No matter how hard you try, no matter how much you hate, no matter how much revenge you try to take on the other people, you are just perpetuating a vicious cycle. So instead, let’s think about what you can do for the future.

And just the other week, I was in a part of the world that has been so trapped by the past, namely the Balkans. And I was really struck by what the young president of Serbia and their parliament did. They actually issued a formal apology for the terrible massacre of Bosnian Muslims at Srebrenica. It’s so rare to have any apology ever given by anybody in power anywhere in the world. And I told this young president and his government officials that I met with I was really impressed by that. And now we had to build something that would shut the door on the past and try to go forward.

And whether I’m talking to people in Africa who are still fighting the wars of the past or people in South Asia who are still struggling with all of the unfinished business from the end of the British Empire or whatever it might be, you have to make a commitment the future. It’s what people have to do in their own lives. I mean, you may have done something terrible or had something terrible done to you, but the only way you can go forward is to seek forgiveness and maybe the – either as forgiveness of yourself and/or forgiveness of the other, and then you try to make amends by going forward.

And I spend so much of my time looking for ways to intervene to get people to think along those lines. And I wish that we had a magic wand and we could just go okay, everybody, let’s turn the page; no matter what the past meant to you, whether you were the aggressor or you were the victim, let’s think about what we’re going to do tomorrow to make this better for your kids. And that’s what I hope for. That’s what I – and that’s what smart power to me is: use all the tools at your disposal.

QUESTION: That’s what your mom did.

SECRETARY CLINTON: That’s what my mom did. That’s right. And I thought that was a good way to do it.

QUESTION: Gosh, you do a lot of mothering in your job, you really do, which thank goodness you’re so good at. Cookstoves.


QUESTION: This is – and now I have to read this because I read this in The New York Times and I couldn’t believe these words all put together in a sentence: “Nearly 2 million people, mostly women and children, in the developing world die annually from illnesses brought on by breathing toxic smoke from indoor cooking stoves.”


QUESTION: I mean, so let’s talk about the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves.


QUESTION: This is pretty phenomenal what you’ve got going here.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, you’ve traveled. You’ve been privileged to travel, as I have. And what is the main occupation for most women in the developing world? Finding enough food and finding enough fuel to cook that food to be able to take care of your family. So for so many women, working in their own fields, going to the market, looking for firewood, shaping the dung, whatever it is that they put into their cooking fires. And the fact is, both because it is this huge health hazard, because in these confined spaces with that smoke that children and women breathe, they get acute asthma, they get respiratory diseases, they have all kinds of complications if they do get a virus and they have bacteria and they have compromised breathing, so that they succumb more quickly to pneumonia.

And it is – there’s no choice. People – women have to feed their families. So what we’ve been doing is working with a consortium of countries and groups that come to this issue from different places, some because of it’s a health hazard, some because it’s a safety hazard, especially in areas where the trees have been cut down women have to go further and further away, and then they often are in conflict zones and they’re in danger. And it’s an environmental hazard because it produces something called black carbon, which goes into the atmosphere and contributes to global warming.

So for all these reasons, it just seemed to us that it was time to have a global effort. And what do we mean by that? Well, different forms of fuel that can be produced out of waste so that it’s not all the trees being cut down or other sources that are really dangerous, but more importantly, efficient cookstoves so that you can vent the smoke or you can have smokeless fuel. The systems don’t require so much intense contact between the woman and the cookstove or with the baby on the back or on the knee.

So we rolled this out at my husband’s Clinton Global Initiative and it was great. We had so many countries there. The United Nations Foundation which Ted Turner started is one of our lead partners in this. Norway, a lot of the big corporations that care about the developing world. So I’m hopeful that in a few years we’re going to see reduced costs for more efficient cookstoves that can be brought in the marketplace or subsidized and delivered very cheaply, the way we now do bed nets for malaria. Because what’s interesting is if you give a bed net to somebody, they’re less likely to use it than if they have to pay just a little bit for it. So we want to create a market mechanism that will give people ownership over these clean stoves and save lives and cut the carbon in the atmosphere.

QUESTION: That’s fabulous. All right, now I’m getting to my favorite part, which I called balance because this is the section that I called balance as I was writing my thoughts down. I have two sons and a daughter, and I have to say that when I heard your beautiful daughter stand up and call you her hero, I had a tear in my eye thinking how proud that must make you as a mom. And I wanted to talk a little bit about her wedding and all things truly important, like your stunning dress and things like that. So how was that day for you?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, it was the most amazing experience in every respect. Well, first of all, sort of back – she got engaged the Thanksgiving before she got married. And we always have a huge Thanksgiving with a lot of her friends, most of whom don’t have anywhere to go for Thanksgiving because they’re usually foreigners who have nowhere to go because they don’t celebrate Thanksgiving, or friends who live way far away from their families here in our country. So we always have like 25 people there.

So it was wonderful. They announced their engagement, and then immediately, of course, as the MOTB, the mother of the bride, I started going into oh my gosh, oh my gosh, what are we going to do, when are we going to do this, where are we going to do this. And so we had the best time. And again, one of the great experiences was sharing it with my mother because I got married in 1975 and it was just a different time, and I bought my dress off the rack, I got – we had like 15 people at our wedding, we were so —

QUESTION: You looked fabulous, and I love your wedding picture.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we were so – we were poor, we were young, and it was just a different experience. And so this time we went through the whole process and my mother got to participate in it. But Chelsea and Mark were very smart. They said we want this wedding to be our family and our friends, because he comes from a big family. He had 11 kids in his family.


SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes. And adopted kids, too. His mother was one of the very first single women ever to be able to adopt somebody, and she adopted an orphan from Vietnam when she was a young woman. So it’s a wonderful family with lots and lots of people. And so both Chelsea and Mark said we want this to be our friends, our family. We want to know everybody who’s there. We want everybody to feel a connection to us. So people from the time that they were born all the way up until today got to participate in it. And even though it was several hundreds of people, it felt really intimate because everybody had a connection.

And they wanted to get married in New York, and because I had been a senator from New York, Chelsea had traveled around New York with me and fell in love with upstate New York, particularly the Hudson River Valley. It is so beautiful. And we found the perfect place on the Hudson River. It was a perfect day. Everything about it was just exactly as we had hoped for. And you could see – I mean, she was the happiest bride.

QUESTION: She was stunning. Stunning.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, she was stunning. She was so beautiful. But it was also just the glow about how happy she was. And her poor dad, it was like oh my gosh, walking her down the aisle, he was really trying hard not to cry.

QUESTION: That’s that moment, though. That’s what you work for your whole life to send her off with confidence.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Exactly. And to feel so good about her future and about the man that she’s marrying and how much he loves her. It was just perfect.

QUESTION: And your dress was —


QUESTION: It was so fabulous. I loved the color.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you. It was great. Well —

QUESTION: It was gorgeous and a little cha-cha.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, yeah. It was fun. It was fun to wear. And everything about the day was special. My mother got a dress made. I mean, everything about it was just as we had hoped for. It was kind of the dream wedding for all three of us. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: That’s what it should be. So speaking of family time, I wonder, do you get much time with your whole family together and your mom and Chelsea, and do you guys cook and play cards? That’s what we do with my mom.

SECRETARY CLINTON: That’s what we – that’s exactly right. Well, because my mother lives with us here in Washington, I see her every day. And if I can, I have dinner with her. And Bill comes down and Chelsea and Mark come down, so they – everybody keeps her involved in what we’re doing. And because Chelsea lives in New York City, we get to see her a lot because even though I work in Washington, I live in New York. And so when I can, which isn’t as often as I’d like, I get to go home to New York, and very often she and Mark will come out to see us. And we have – my brother lives nearby and he has three kids – a teenage son and then a little daughter and a little son – so we see them. So yeah, it’s very nice to be connected to your family and to be able to spend time. Lots of card games. Lots of football watching. My mother is a great football fan, which makes my brothers very happy and my husband very happy. So there’s just a – just real ordinary stuff that you just do together as a family.

QUESTION: That’s nice. I’m glad to hear that. That comforts me. All right, here’s a question. You now travel so much —


QUESTION: What do you consider a vacation to be? (Laughter.)

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, getting away from my travel for business. This summer, for the first time in years, we took two weeks off and took our whole family and got a house near the ocean – undisclosed location – and just had the best time, because it was so relaxing. And even though I had to work several hours a day on the phone, just being in a different setting and not have to dress up, not have to put on makeup or get my hair done or any of that stuff was so wonderful. So it was a true vacation.

QUESTION: Good. Well, you can always come to our house. We won’t tell anybody.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Okay, good. I’m taking you up on that.

QUESTION: No, you should. It’s very cozy at our house. I read that you are impervious to jetlag, which, as a traveler —

SECRETARY CLINTON: Untrue, untrue.

QUESTION: Well, do you have any rituals then when you get on the plane? Do you have tricks or little rules, or you don’t eat something or you drink two gallons of water, or what are your traveling tricks? You have to have some, or things that you always have with you that makes you feel cozy.

SECRETARY CLINTON: I try to drink as much water as possible. I really do. I find that that helps a lot. I try to limit the caffeine when I’m on the plane because I try to sleep. And I’m lucky because I can sleep on a plane. And if I couldn’t, I don’t know what I’d do. I’d be so wired I’d be walking into walls when I land. I try not to eat too much, but comfort food does come in handy when you’re on long trips, so you kind of have to make sure you’re not overdoing it. I bring my own pillow, I bring my own blanket. Yeah, yeah.

QUESTION: How do you remember everything? I mean, I cannot imagine the amount – I mean, do you just – I mean, it’s tough.


QUESTION: And then you get this job which is a whole new encyclopedia of information to have to suddenly know.

SECRETARY CLINTON: I know, it’s hard. It’s really hard. I spend an enormous amount of my time preparing for what I do every day and particularly for these long trips. I also am surrounded by young people who are – whose brains are a lot younger than mine and can remind me. (Laughter.) They go oh, hey, uh, this is what you’re supposed to know. But it just – I like what I’m doing, and so I’m energized in doing it, because I think I’m one of the luckiest people in the world. I get to go around and represent our country, try to help solve problems, try to do something good for people on behalf of the United States, so it gets me up every day. I’m not like oh heck, I have to go get on the plane and go. I really am energized by it. But physically it is hard.

QUESTION: It’s tiring.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Yeah. But so you just have to try to manage it. Well, you do that. You just do the best you can.

QUESTION: That’s all any of us can do. Do you get tired of being asked about your hair?

SECRETARY CLINTON: No, I mean, because what would I do if I weren’t. I mean, really, I just – it’s so —

QUESTION: You said a great thing when you said if you want to knock something off the front page, you change your hairstyle.

SECRETARY CLINTON: That’s right, exactly. In the middle of the next big crisis, whatever it is, I’m cutting my hair. (Laughter.) And believe me, we won’t be reading about whatever war is going on or other terrible things. I think your hair is one of the best parts of your body because you can change it so easily. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: You have nice hair.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, thank you. Thank you. Well, but it is true. I mean, every woman thinks oh my gosh, if I were just this or just that, and it’s just – you just have to be happy with who you are. But the one part of your body you can change is your hair. So I’ve never understood these people who say okay, you’ve got to pick a hairstyle and stick with it. How boring would that be? I just can’t see that.

QUESTION: Right, yeah. Well, I mean, I have other questions, but I think they’re better asked at the dinner table. I do want to say this, though. I feel like as a woman, as a mom, as a person of this country, that I would just like to express my gratitude and the fact that we’re all beholden to you for all the efforts that you’ve made in so many ways.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you, thank you. Well, that means a lot to me.

QUESTION: Really, you’re a special person and you’re an amazingly smart mom and 35 years married, a beautiful daughter – these are huge accomplishments, and now you represent our nation in such a critical way, and we rely on you so deeply.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I will do the very best I can. I think this is a great country and there’s so many wonderful people in it, and for this period of time I get to have this position which I think is such a blessing. But I want to say I am such an admirer of yours because I love the way that you and your husband have made your family such a priority. And it’s so natural and it’s so, for me, reassuring to see that because there’s nothing more important. I mean, we can be Secretaries of State or very successful movie stars, but at the end of the day, what matters is your kids. And that’s one of the things that Jackie Kennedy said to me all those years, that it doesn’t matter what else you do in your life; at the end of the day, it’s how happy your children are and how well-prepared for the world and how much you’ve invested in them. And I just think that’s it.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. Thain permalink
    May 8, 2011 4:33 pm

    Very cool interview

  2. January 25, 2013 8:21 pm

    We really do need more laws when it comes to air pollution.


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