Today is former president Bill Clinton’s birthday. I think he’d say “he’d be honored” if I celebrate it with a tribute to his wife’s work.
Hillary Rodham Clinton’s style is to work with quiet effectiveness behind the scenes. While others toot their own horns, she’s been getting it done with little fanfare or press as First Lady, Senator, and now as Secretary of State.
She’s recently returned from an 11-day tour of Africa which made diplomatic history. Mary Beth Sheridan reported in “Clinton Puts Spotlight on Women’s Issues“ in yesterday’s The Washington Post that Secretary Clinton’s trip:
. . .sent the clearest signal yet that she intends to make women’s rights one of her signature issues and a higher priority than ever before in American diplomacy.
She plans to press governments on abuses of women’s rights and make women more central in U.S. aid programs.
It’s not going to be easy. Secretary Clinton is bumping into resistance from those who want to keep the status quo firmly in place. Ms. Sheridan quoted two conservatives who appear to believe she shouldn’t be “focusing on women’s rights instead of terrorism or nuclear proliferation.” Brett Schaefer, an African scholar at the conservative think-tank the Heritage Foundation was somewhat passive-aggressive:
It’s great she’s mentioning the issue. As to whether her bringing it up will substantially improve the situation or treatment of women in Africa, frankly I doubt it.
Lawrence Wilkerson, who had worked for Colin Powell when he was Secretary of State, waved the war sword. Apparently, he hasn’t gotten the memo about how women’s empowerment is the surest ticket to world peace:
You might be right, in the narrowest sense of women in that country or region need to be empowered, but you’re saying something inimical to other U.S. interests.
In other words, he perceives women’s empowerment to be a hostile act. . .like empowered women are a new breed of terrorists. This helps explain why Secretary Clinton is the first US diplomat to take a stand on rape as a weapon of war.
I had heard about First Lady Clinton’s U.N. speech in Beijing in September, 1995, but I was not aware that it had become a “deeply personal” mission for her. Melanne Verveer told Ms. Sheridan how First Lady Clinton gradually built a global network of women and founded Vital Voices with then-Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.
After being appointed Secretary of State, Clinton made women’s rights a top priority in the Obama Administration. Ms. Sheridan quoted a State Department official:
We have to integrate women ~ or we’re going to be fired.
Secretary Clinton appointed her long-time aide Ms. Verveer to be the State Department’s first global ambassador for women’s affairs. One of Ms. Verveer’s top priorities is violence against women. She and Mrs. Clinton are on a mission to change “the dynamic within governments.”
Secretary Clinton’s efforts are being bolsterd by the White House’s women’s council, more women in Congress, and Senator Barbara Boxer’s first Senate subcommittee on global women’s issues. It helps that Rep. Nita Lowey is chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee on foreign operations.
Why does Secretary Clinton do it? “It feeds my heart.”
Bravo, Secretary Clinton! And, bravo to the Washington Post for covering Secretary Clinton’s trip in depth.