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An Interview with Professor Donald Elder: Hillary Clinton

Sep 14, 2018 by

Hillary Clinton

Michael F. Shaughnessy –

1. Professor Elder, one of the most famous women of contemporary times undoubtedly is Hillary Rodham Clinton. Lets’ give our readers a real in-depth look at this famous person. When and where was she born and what was her early childhood like?

Hillary Rodham was born in Chicago, Illinois on October 26, 1947. At the age of three, she and her parents left Chicago, moving to a suburb named Park Ridge located north and west of the city. As a child, she joined the Brownies, and then continued in Girl Scouts. Initially, she went to Maine East High School in Park Ridge, where her academic performance earned her induction into the National Honor Society. While at Maine East, she participated in student government and wrote for the school newspaper.

A new high school in Park Ridge opened her senior year, and because she lived in that school’s district she attended Maine South High School for her senior year. There, her classmates voted her “Most Likely to Succeed.” History suggests that they voted wisely.

2. Her early college formative years: where did she go to university, what did she study and what was she known for?

In the fall of 1965, Hillary Rodham enrolled at Wellesley College in Wellesley, Massachusetts. Her collegiate experience appears in retrospect to represent a watershed moment in her life. A conservative who had campaigned for Republican presidential nominee Barry Goldwater in 1964, she began to change her political orientation during her first two years at Wellesley. In particular, she found herself moving left politically on the issues of the Civil Rights movement and the War in Vietnam.

Still a nominal Republican in 1968, she went to the party’s national convention in Miami to support the candidacy of Nelson Rockefeller, but found her views on important issues (especially racial justice) far outside the norms of most convention delegates. By the time that she graduated from Wellesley in 1969, her transformation from conservative to liberal seemed only a matter of time.

3. Obviously, her marriage and relationship with William Jefferson Clinton was a turning point in her life. How did they meet and what were their first endeavors?

After graduating from Wellesley, Hillary Rodham attended Yale Law School. There, in the spring of 1971, she began to go out with a fellow law student named Bill Clinton. That summer, she went to California to intern at a law firm. Clinton followed her there, and by the time that the two returned to Yale that fall they had entered into an exclusive relationship. During their summer break, the two had their first joint foray into the political realm when they campaigned for George McGovern during his failed presidential bid. When Hillary Rodham received her law degree in 1972, Clinton asked her to marry him, but she turned him down. Later, she did accept his proposal, marrying him in 1975.

4. In terms of public service, what were her initial forays into public life?

Even before she wed Bill Clinton, Hillary Rodham had become politically active. While in law school, for example, she had worked at New Haven Legal Services, giving advice to people who could not afford a lawyer. Once she received her law degree, she went to work as a staff attorney for the Children’s Defense Fund—a cause that remains a priority for her to this day. In 1974, she became a Congressional staff worker. At that time, she decided to practice law, and moved to Arkansas to start her legal career.

5. As first lady to Bill Clinton, what were her passions and her commitments?

As soon as Bill Clinton took office as the president in January of 1993, he gave his wife an important responsibility, asking her to head a task force charged with suggesting reforms to our nation’s health care system. This effort never came to fruition, but Hillary Rodham Clinton had much better success in helping convince Congress to create the Children’s Health Insurance Program.

During the next three years, she helped increase funding for National Institute of Health initiatives, and she also helped publicize the need for women to undergo mammogram testing. By the time her husband left office, she had traveled to 79 countries, making her the most well-traveled first lady in United States history to that point in time.

6. As Secretary of State, perhaps she kept us out of war, but in retrospect what were her accomplishments during that time period?

Although she and Barack Obama had fought each other tooth and nail for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008, he asked her to serve as his Secretary of State once he won the general election that fall. She agreed, and won confirmation in the Senate by a vote of 94-2. Immediately upon assuming her position, she became an effective spokesperson for Obama’s foreign policy initiatives.

Privately, she argued for more military action in places ranging from Libya to Syria, but when the president refused to go as far as she wanted she kept her true feelings under wraps and publicly supported the president. Feeling that she had accomplished what she had set out to do, Hillary Rodham Clinton let the president know that she would like to give up her duties at Secretary of State at the end of his first term. Obama agreed, and John Kerry replaced her in February of 2013. As fate would have it, however, she could not escape her role as the Secretary of State that easily.

On September 11, 2012, terrorists had attacked American diplomats in Benghazi, Libya, killing four people. Congress investigated the incident, and called Clinton to testify. Although some members of Congress publicly found fault with her, as a whole Congress decided that neither she nor the president had failed in their responsibilities to the nation. Still, Benghazi would come to represent a serious political liability to her.

7. As is known, she was the first woman to run for President and apparently won the popular vote, but lost in terms of the Electoral College. How will historians regard this situation do you think?

When Hillary Rodham Clinton ran as the Democratic presidential candidate in 2016, she broke through a long-standing barrier to women. As we have seen, Benghazi presented her with a challenge, but as Election Day arrived most polls showed her with a small but significant lead over her rival. The polls proved correct in one regard, as Clinton received over a million more popular votes than her rival.

Unfortunately for her, popular votes do not decide an American presidential election: the Electoral College does. In that contest, she lost 306-232. History will note that she proved more popular overall than her opponent in 2016, but not in the one metric that truly counts.

8. Obviously, historians will review her life and work 10, 20, 30 years down the road and reflect back. And who knows, her story and public service may not as yet be over.  But how do you think that some future historians will regard her?

Hilary Rodham Clinton will always occupy an important place in the story of Women in American History, because through her nomination for the presidency she achieved something that many considered impossible. While she fell short of her ultimate goal, she immeasurably helped in paving the way for the woman that proves able to one day take that final step in achieving gender equity.

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