Posted by Ruth O’Brien
“After nearly a million miles of travel to 112 countries, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is closing her term on the familiar home ground of partisan politics and crackling fascination with the ambitions of a woman almost no one thinks is really leaving public life.”
Apparently Hillary Clinton can do it all. And, as is true of so many women in leadership, her greatest strength as well as triumph is that everyone always underestimates her.
Back in the 1990s, when I was coming of career age and discovered that she had been perceived as the “better” half of the Clinton couple when she went to Yale Law School, I looked up her valedictory speech at Wellesley, which was covered in Life magazine. It was amazing. Then I learned that she gave up being a lawyer on the Watergate investigation to move to Arkansas. Hun?
Then, at Rose Law Firm, she defended Walmart . . . the story got worse and worse, and just when you thought you’d hit bottom, it got worse still. Hillary was doing what so many women do: sacrificing her principles and squandering her enormous potential to have a family. Who ever heard of such a thing in the 1970s?
To me, Hillary Clinton’s nadir happened when I watched her on television explaining how she turned a supposedly “proper” and legal gift of 1 grand into 100 grand by playing the cattle-futures market, all while dressed up in her pink-and-black Chanel suit. That’s when I turned off.
Well, I was a child of the 1980s and 1990s, so this seemed like squandered potential to me. But then, I never saw any bra burnings or got to participate in anything with brightly colored stockings. Maybe it’s time for me to rethink a few of these things. Since I finally got it all (career, sons, husband who took my surname, and supports me and my sons) so I should be generous. And now that I have the benefit of experience in a male world (senior women faculty in the political science academy might even be a smaller percentage then women in the Senate, though thankfully, the Graduate Center has many, many senior women so this too is another version of “it all.”)
Like most powerful women leaders, Hillary has had to make a lot of lemonade. Obama thought he would put Hillary on a plane so she’d never touch American soil and steal his thunder, but perhaps this time it means our first female president will be intersectional just like Obama, having two vulnerable identities simultaneously: a “senior woman.” It doesn’t sound half bad.