Hillary Rodham Clinton left the public stage on Friday, February 1, 2013 for the first time since she married Bill Clinton in 1975. We are all a little poorer for that and the hope is it will be only a short sabbatical rather than retirement. Hillary deserves to sit back, maybe even grab a quick nap, and have time to reflect on a life thus far well spent.
She announced she will write a memoir of her time as Secretary of State. Friends who have written books tell me that isn't really a vacation. But for Hillary maybe it is. Millions who read Living History felt it was time well spent. The guessing game continues about what Hillary will do in addition to the book as she takes that time off from daily public schedules and commitments.
I first met Hillary in 1990 in Arkansas. I was executive director of the National Association for Gifted Children, a professional membership organization for teachers who develop and teach in programs for gifted children. Our annual meeting was in Little Rock and at the invitation of one of our members Hillary agreed to keynote the conference. In addition her husband, the governor, invited our board of directors to the mansion for cocktails. This was at the time he was considering running for president and she had just led the commission revamping the education system in Arkansas.
Keynoters usually called to find out about the organization and ask what attendees would like to hear. I contacted Hillary and was politely told that she was fine and had all the information she needed for her speech. She showed up on the appointed day and was very gracious to me and the staff. She spoke to an audience of 1,500 teachers from around the nation and gave what I found out was a classic Hillary speech. First praising all the good things they were doing and then going on to give her ideas on education which weren't exactly everything our members wanted to hear. She did it in a way that everyone understood where she was coming from, which was ensuring that each child in every classroom reach their full potential. Hillary got a standing ovation and her speech had some people rethinking their own philosophy of education.
I fell in love with who Hillary was that day and nothing in her long and illustrious career since has changed those feelings. As an aside, at the cocktail reception the governor asked if I would support him should he run. People who know me will chuckle at my answer, since they know if nothing else I am forthright. My response was, "I would, but as a New Yorker who had worked for Mario Cuomo I was waiting for him to decide." Clinton laughed and said he hoped he could count on my support eventually, and as it happened, Cuomo, after playing Hamlet for a while, didn't run, and, as the saying goes, 'the rest is history.'
Like many I look forward to reading Hillary's memoir of her time at State. After traveling nearly one million miles and visiting 112 countries the stories will be great. We will have the opportunity to understand how she interacted with the president and foreign leaders and managed to meet so many regular people in the countries she visited. I don't remember a Secretary of State doing so many press conferences at foreign universities and meeting with students and women who weren't in power in the countries they visited. As Secretary Hillary spoke out for women and children around the world and it brought back memories of her gutsy speech as First Lady in Beijing during the 1995 International Conference on Women.
While Hillary rests and regroups writing her book; going to the gym, which she said she wants to do; and working with either a new organization of her own or joining with the Clinton Global Initiative; she will be missed on the daily public stage. I am sure she is keenly aware that every word she utters will be looked at and nuanced by the press for what it means for her future. She will still have every new hairdo make the gossip columns because of the continued fascination with her and the knowledge that there could be a final chapter yet to be written.
That chapter could begin at noon on Friday, January 20, 2017. It is a chapter that would make a difference to everyone but especially to woman and children around the world and to those who haven't had a voice in our own country. From her days at the Children's Defense Fund through her time at State, she has single-handedly done more for women and children around the world than nearly any person alive. As President Obama said in their 60 Minutes interview, part of why he asked Hillary to be his Secretary of State was because he knew she was a hero and celebrity around the world in her own right. Hillary arriving in a foreign capital was an event second to none. Places that the president couldn't be or leaders he couldn't meet with were never insulted when it was Hillary who came to call. Instead they were honored that she was there.
One can only imagine the reaction of women around the world when the most powerful nation on earth finally elects its first woman president. A president who for the past nearly 20 years has already been the most admired woman in the world.
Hillary, we will read your memoir and both enjoy it and learn from it. It will surely have a place of honor on my bookshelf. It will be next to Living History which I consider volume one of your life; but there will be an empty space on that shelf reserved for what I hope will be volume three: Hillary: the Presidential Years.