I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to honor Hillary Rodham Clinton. Current Secretary of State for the Obama administration, Clinton was the first First Lady elected to the US Senate and the first female senator to represent New York.
The eldest daughter of Hugh Rodham and Dorothy Emma Howell Rodham, Hillary Diane Rodham was born on October 26, 1947 in Chicago, Illinois. An active young Republican, she was inspired to work in public service after hearing a speech by the Reverend Martin Luther King, and she became a Democrat in 1968. She served as Senior Class president at Wellesley College, where she graduated in 1969. Clinton then attended Yale Law School, where she served on the Board of Editors of Yale Law Review and Social Action and met her husband Bill Clinton. They married in 1975 and had a daughter, Chelsea, in 1980.
Clinton served as Arkansas First Lady for 12 years. She has always been incredibly commited to children’s issues, and she balanced family life and a career in public service whilst First Lady. She chaired the Arkansas Educational Standards Committee, co-founded the Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families, and served on the boards of the Arkansas Children’s Hospital, Legal Services, and the Children’s Defense Fund.
As First Lady of the United States, Clinton chaired the Task Force on National Health Care Reform. She was a leading advocate for expanding health insurance coverage and ensuring children are properly immunized. Clinton delivered a dramatic speech on women’s rights at the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995, criticizing the host country and other nations for abuses of girls and women. “It is no longer acceptable to discuss women’s rights as separate from human rights,” she said. As First Lady, Clinton was a strong advocate for development programs for women – such as loan assistance to women in third-world nations – which give them a higher household income and a stronger role in the local economy.
In 1996 she published her book, It Takes a Village and Other Lessons Children Teach Us, which became a best seller. In 1997 and 1999, Clinton advocated for the establishment of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, the Adoption and Safe Families Act, and the Foster Care Independence Act. With Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, Clinton launched the Vital Voices Democracy Initiative, a non-governmental organization that trains and organizes women leaders across the globe.
In 2000, Clinton was elected Senator for New York. She worked across party lines to build support for expansion of economic opportunity and access to quality, affordable health care. During her two terms, she has co-sponsored legislation to repeal the global gag rule, to end funding for abstinence-only education and fund comprehensive sexuality education, to expand contraceptive access, and to codify Roe v. Wade in federal law.
In 2007, Clinton announced her run to become the Democratic nominee for President of the United States. She led the field of candidates for most of 2007, but Barack Obama eventually gained enough delegates to become the party’s nominee. On December 1, 2008, President-elect Obama announced that Clinton would be his nominee for Secretary of State, and she accepted the new and exciting challenge.
As Secretary of State, Clinton has pledged to continue fighting for human rights across the globe, particularly the rights of women and girls. During her January 13 confirmation hearing, Clinton remarked:
“Our foreign policy must reflect our deep commitment to the cause of making human rights a reality for millions of oppressed people around the world. Of particular concern to me is the plight of women and girls, who comprise the majority of the world’s unhealthy, unschooled, unfed, and unpaid. If half of the world’s population remains vulnerable to economic, political, legal, and social marginalization, our hope of advancing democracy and prosperity will remain in serious jeopardy. We still have a long way to go, and the United States must remain an unambiguous and unequivocal voice in support of women’s rights in every country, every region, on every continent.”
I am so proud of Secretary Clinton, and I look forward to seeing how she uses her State Department position to further advocate for girls and women around the world.