Glamour Interview with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
Good interview over at Glamour. Here’s an excerpt:
Hillary Rodham Clinton (yes, the Rodham’s back, in case you haven’t heard) is the most-traveled U.S. secretary of state ever—more than Condi, more than Kissinger—having, at press time, visited 85 countries and logged 582,002 miles in her two and a half years on the job. I joined her fast-paced trip to the Middle East and Africa this June, covering four countries in six days. Her mission: to further U.S. interests abroad, encourage democracy and development and, as always, to sound the alarm for equal rights for women.
“No country can thrive when half of its people are left behind,” Secretary Clinton says repeatedly during the trip. “If you don’t see all citizens get the rights and freedoms they deserve, you are on the wrong side of history.”
GLAMOUR: You’ve talked a lot during this trip about women and children. Beyond the fact that you are a woman and a mother, why the emphasis?
SECRETARY HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON: Some people are attracted to working on behalf of the elderly or people with disabilities or diseases. For me it’s been kids…. And it’s difficult to talk about helping kids if you don’t talk about helping their mothers.
GLAMOUR: But is that a bit First Lady-ish? Could championing safer cooking stoves for African women make you seem soft?
SECRETARY CLINTON: One thing I’ve never been called is soft, so I don’t really worry about that. [Laughs.] I believe in being as authentic as possible, and this is how I see the world…. I’m convinced that women’s rights are the unfinished business of the twenty-first century. Who are the people in the world most denied their rights to life and livelihood? Women and girls. Look at gendercide in countries like China, where they kill female babies at a horrifying rate. Look at rape as a tool of war against women in conflicts, particularly in Africa.
GLAMOUR: How do you manage not to feel overwhelmed by all of this suffering?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Because for every story of tragedy there are 10 stories of courage and inspiration. When I was First Lady, I went to a squatters encampment outside of Cape Town and met a group of women who were on their own, with children. They had taken over this piece of property and were building a village. The next year I went back, and they had built more houses. Then two years ago they had completed the village and gotten property for a second. These women could run General Motors, and probably pretty well! They were determined to make a better life for themselves and their children. Everywhere in the world, I see women who refuse to be cowed by what is expected of them.
GLAMOUR: You probably have to walk into a lot of rooms full of sexist guys. How do you work with leaders like that?
SECRETARY CLINTON: You just have to figure out what you’re trying to accomplish. I often try, in private discussions with leaders, to press them on women’s rights. For the first few years, I kept a running tally of how many women were in meetings with me. It was always fascinating, who would bring women and what roles they would have. And who never showed up with women at all…. It’s wonderful to go to a country like Brazil, which elected a woman president [last year]. I made a big effort to go to her inauguration, because I know how hard it is for a woman to be elected.
I think my political background has been a very big advantage in my job—I understand the pressures of politics on leaders…. Sometimes I push them to do more than they think is possible. But not impossible. So I’ve told leaders, “Look, I was in politics. I’ve won elections and lost elections. And it’s not the end of the world…. Do what’s best for your country, and you will be remembered well.”
GLAMOUR: You’ve said you plan to step down in 2013, even if President Obama is reelected. Glamour.com reader Jan Gibson of Bethesda, Maryland, writes, “I’d like to know what Hillary is planning to do after her stint at the State Department.”
SECRETARY CLINTON: So would Hillary! I haven’t started thinking about that. I will probably rest up, because I’ve had 20 years with no break.
GLAMOUR: I’m exhausted after one week!
SECRETARY CLINTON: I know! And I get photographed all the time and have to stay awake. Sometimes I’ll be up onstage, and I’ll look out at everybody who’s traveling with me, and they’re passed out.
GLAMOUR: So it wasn’t just me, then?
SECRETARY CLINTON: [Laughs.] A lot of my friends who’ve stepped down after these kinds of stints have said, “You don’t know how tired you are until you stop long enough to let go.” I’m looking forward to an active involvement in women and children and questions of democracy and economic opportunity. But for now I want to stay focused on what I’m doing, and I’m going to work until the last minute. I think there’s more than enough to be done.
GLAMOUR: Do you worry that your next step won’t be as fulfilling as this one?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I don’t. Somebody asked me, “So you’ve been First Lady of a state, of a country. You’ve been a senator from New York, you were elected two times, you ran for president, you’re secretary of state. What do you like best?” They were such different experiences. And how fortunate could I be that I’ve had this kind of range of opportunities? Sometimes a young girl will ask me, “What did you do to get to where you are?” And I say, “Well, you know, I never planned it.” If you had asked me 40 years ago, “Are you going to be married to a president? Are you going to be a senator from New York? Are you going to be a secretary of state?” I would have looked at you like you had two heads. You have to prepare yourself for whatever might come your way. And then you have to take a leap of faith, and see if it fits with who you are.
Note: Thanks to lisam for for giving me the head’s up about this interview.