Posted by: greeningwashington | December 25, 2010

Hillary: Living Herstory

I have completed the first chapter in my law school journey: one semester down, five more to conquer. Chipping away at my legal studies for 15 plus hours a day left little time for anything (eating, sleeping, personal hygiene); engagement in the world at large took a back seat to the negligence formula and contracts. Attempts by the law school administration to keep the students informed amounted to the broadcast of CNN on a single tv located in the commons eating area. The placement of the tv in the eating area had little success in captivating an audience, as students managed to simultaneously hoover a six-inch sub while reading case law, tuning out everything else including CNN.

December 17 finally arrived, with much anticipation, and my peers and I released the tightly wound tension with shrieks of relief, high-fives, cardio and sweat, and some took to the college vices. Instead of joining others for a round of drinks, I picked up my father  from the airport after his 24-hour journey from the other side of the world, worked out on the tredmill, and joined my study group for a delicious sushi dinner complete with a shared bottle of cold saki.

Throwing myself headstrong into the study of law prevented me from diving into the pages of anything other than the 1000 plus pages of casebooks. I didn’t realize how much I craved the escape and knowledge of a recreational read until I blazed through three books in five days. I recently finished Hillary Rodham Clinton’s Living History, Chirstopher McDougall’s Born to Run, and Half the Sky, Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn’s poignant but oft forgotten, hopeful but tragic, account of the sexual slavery, gender discrimination, and deplorable poverty millions of girls and women face on a day-to-day basis.

“Human rights are women’s rights, and women’s rights are human rights, once and for all.” Hillary Clinton: UN World Conference on Women 1996.

Hillary Rodham Clinton (Hillary Rodham as she preferred to be called until campaign advisers determined engaging in the misguided tradition of changing one’s name (one plus one = two not one, right?) after marriage was a preferable way to assuage wary voters. She ultimately made the choice to adopt Bill’s last name, as many wives do, because she loves Bill and because she realized that her independence stemmed from her actions not from her name.

Hillary is my hero. [As is her hero Eleanor Roosevelt].

Courageous, independent, and strong, she uses her position of power and influence to advocate for the unspoken issues facing millions of people around the world, specifically those facing women and girls in developing nations. Scholars, feminists, everyday people around the world recognize that women are the key to the  development and growth of impoverished nations (the correlation is clear given the fact that women and girls are disproportionately subjected to poverty, disease and famine). My understanding is that all human rights (education, food, economic independence, medical treatment, freedom from physical violence) must exist in conjunction to pull women out of the cycle of poverty thus translating into the development and growth of nations.

Hillary’s story is inspiring not for her impressive resume, which is quite impressive for a baby boomer female politician who grew up with few examples and strong societal reaction to females in any public role. She once called home during her first weeks at Wellesley, nervous and apprehensive, seeking words of encouragement from her parents. Her mother, with broken dreams of a college education, told Hillary she wasn’t a quitter. Her father told her to come home. Her story is inspiring because she took her middle-class privilege and used it for the betterment of society, fighting for children’s rights, universal health care, improved education, nuclear arms reduction, and more causes too great in number to list. Hillary stepped out of the quiet, unassuming role of First Lady and dared to tackle the issues. For instances, Bill appointed her chair of the commission on health care and she made numerous trips abroad meeting with top leaders while advocating for women’s rights. She was not always successful in managing reform, but her commitment to raising human rights, women’s rights, issues on the global stage was paramount to real change.

Reading history is unlike living it. Hillary has lived history; she has lived HERstory and has told the stories of women from every corner of the world. Her brave stand against a man and a well-funded, self-righteous Republican machine, who were committed to the Clinton’s destruction, shows that women can persevere in politics and are not destined to crack under unrelenting pressure (6 years of constant harassment and subpoenas took their toll on Hillary but did not break her spirit for what is right with America).

I recommend Living History for a candid, but sometimes guarded, insight into the life and mind of a brilliant, profound leader.

Until Next Time.

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