Around this time four years ago, I was in Denver for the Democratic convention. But I'm not there this year. Some of the old gang is back and will be speaking again. Just like in 2008, the half-sister of the candidate will be speaking, Maya Soetero-Ng. So will the daughter of a former president -- Caroline Kennedy -- and the wife of a current one, Michelle Obama. They will be joined on stage by new speakers Tammy Duckworth and Tammy Baldwin, both of whom are running for office, and newcomers like Sandra Fluke, who symbolizes the so-called Republican War on Women. There will also be a record number of female delegates on the convention floor, but the energy and the enthusiasm feels different this time. There's no history in the making at this convention.
The woman who represents the highest hopes for the highest office in the land, the woman who broke the glass ceiling in 18 million ways in 2008 -- and still it was not enough -- will be absent from this convention, missing her party's party for the first time in over a quarter of a century. You may rightly ask, then, where is Hillary Clinton and why is she not speaking?
Here are three answers I've considered:
1. She traveling for business and couldn't get away.
2. Her husband is speaking and he wants to be the center of attention again.
3. She's thinking about starting her second life -- and it doesn't include politics.
All of those answers are feasible -- or at least partly feasible for the moment. First, Hillary Clinton was in Beijing yesterday and she'll be in Russia for the APEC economics meeting by the end of on the week with a few stops along the way. In fact, I'm not sure an acting Secretary of State can be at the convention. I mean, when that red phone rings at 3 a.m. and the President is partying with the delegates, doesn't Hillary Clinton need to be around to answer it? Surely, nobody thinks she isn't ready to pick up the phone any more.
Yes, former President Bill Clinton has a significant speaking role at the 2012 convention, where he'll praise the first term accomplishments of Barack Obama, his wife's former rival and current boss. Bill, as Hillary could tell President Obama, is an excellent speaker, but sometimes better at selling himself than others.
Third, Hillary Clinton has said she is done with politics and that she will not be running for president in 2016. Here's how she answered a Danish journalist this spring when asked about her future plans: "I'm looking forward to working as hard as I can until the end of my tenure as Secretary of State, and then will look forward to some time to collect myself and spend it doing just ordinary things that I very much am looking forward to again, like taking a walk without a lot of company -- not that I don't love seeing you all -- but just having the time to set my own schedule and pursue a lot of the interests that I have pursued my entire life..."
The woman who has traveled to more than 100 countries and racked up more than 730,000 miles is looking forward to a little down time. After all, she might want to spend some time with her daughter Chelsea and her husband at the new country place they're reportedly buying in upstate New York. Maybe she'd like to read something beside foreign policy white papers. Or perhaps she'd like to do a little writing, maybe update her book, A Living History, for which she won an $8.1 million advance. There's plenty of new material -- the Arab Spring alone would take up a couple of chapters -- not to mention keeping nuclear weapons out of the hands of the Iranians and North Koreans. Or, once she's rested, maybe she will start an international foundation protecting the rights of women and children -- that has been her personal cause for her entire political life. Or maybe she can work alongside Bill at the Clinton Global Initiative. She did take his name, after all.
What Hillary Clinton will choose to do after January 20, 2013 is anyone's guess. But here's what I do know about women her age, which is my age as well. In the 21st century, we can expect to live 30 years longer than our sisters in the first world did in the 1900s. Our generation -- yes, the baby boomer generation -- is better educated, healthier and more affluent than any other generation before them. We have the time and energy and resources for a second adult life, one of our own choosing, one with a multitude of options, one driven by passion and purpose -- and, oh yes, if we are lucky -- joy.
Hillary Clinton won't be attending the Democratic convention this week. Will she be in attendance in 2016? I think so. Will she be a candidate for president the next time around? All I know for sure, at this moment, is that she's not talking.