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Special Feature: Hillary Rodham Clinton’s New Book and Tour

SIDEWALKS writer Jeanne Powell was invited to cover Secretary Clinton’s book tour for HARD CHOICES.

Last Wednesday night (June 25, 2014), the Orpheum Theatre in San Francisco, CA was packed with friends and supporters of Hillary Rodham Clinton, the once and (possible) future presidential candidate. No, she was not running for office, although many well-wishers clearly wished she were. Wisely the former activist attorney, first lady, New York senator and secretary of state continued to avoid the question of whether she would “throw her hat in the ring” in 2016.

Hard Choices

Hard Choices (Simon & Schuster)

Responding to questions from the journalist who interviewed her onstage, Secretary Clinton said that if she runs for president in 2016, that decision needs to be rooted in the right reasons – for example, advancing the rights of women and girls. She reminded listeners that she has spent her life being an advocate for others. She stressed that the decision to run must be made at the right time. At the moment Mrs. Clinton is looking forward to becoming a grandmother (her daughter Chelsea is pregnant), and to helping with Congressional elections across the nation in November. She said it’s too early to decide anything else.

Secretary Clinton is on a nationwide tour to promote her impressive new book, HARD CHOICES, a detailed memoir of her four years as secretary of state in the Obama administration. In 2010 Mrs. Clinton said “My big-picture commitment is to restore American leadership, and I think that’s about as big a job as you can get.” In her new memoir, she goes into detail about her challenges and experiences all over the globe during those four years: representing the United States, using diplomacy to settle disputes when possible, and helping the president to establish new initiatives. To that end, she spoke eloquently for nearly 30 minutes, walking back and forth on the stage, without a script. For the second half hour, she was seated next to a journalist, who interviewed her.

During her opening remarks, Secretary Clinton spoke of the foundation established by Bill and Hillary Clinton, and of the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI), the purpose of which is to convene global leaders to create and implement innovative solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges. For more information on this annual event, go to http://clintonfoundation.org.

Mrs. Clinton said the CGI for America was: to build partnerships between public and private sectors of our nation; to assist the millennial generation; and to focus on early childhood development. Again and again she returned to the theme – what kind of country are we going to be? Our values are the most important thing we have. We must have a commitment to the core values we’ve always stood for. In her book she said she emphasizes why America and the world matter to each other.

Frequently when Secretary Clinton traveled, she had to explain the story of how President Obama chose her as secretary of state. In some countries, she said, it was not unheard of for victorious candidates to kill their political opposition. So the story of how she became head of the State Department, instead of a refugee in hiding, helped to illustrate American values to other nations.

In the second half of the hour, when she was being questioned by a journalist, Mrs. Clinton said we live in a time of political angst. She is concerned about negative attitudes in politics today – how some will use sound bites to substitute for constructive solutions in the public arena. She spoke about the difference between making progress on an issue, and getting support for an issue by using a less progressive stance.

She was asked whether it was more difficult for a woman to run, since 49 other countries have had female leaders and the U.S. has not. Secretary Clinton spoke about the crucial difference between the unique American political system and the traditional parliamentary system. Many nations utilize the parliamentary system, where you run from a reasonably safe constituency and hone your skills while in parliament (Congress). At some point the leaders of your party choose you to be the chief executive; you still must go to the voters to remain in office. In the United States, the process is more like running a gauntlet – our election campaigns last forever, with a lot of time and money and effort involved. You put on armor, run the gauntlet and see who survives at the end.

Hillary Clinton said the dangers to democracy include big money and rigid ideology. Voters need to be active and organized in opposition to big money and ideology. They need to vote in elections and to oppose laws which disenfranchise other voters.

She left the stage to a standing ovation, and flew to Austin TX for her next book tour appearance. Attendees flooded into the lobby to pick up complimentary copies of her memoir. Whether she is promoting a really interesting memoir, or training for a gauntlet run in 2016, Mrs. Clinton clearly is at the top of her game.


Hard Choices: A Memoir (Hardcover)

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About Jeanne Powell

Jeanne Powell is a poet and short story writer, who teaches in a summer program for teens. Her most recent books are "My Own Silence" and "Word Dancing," available online and through booksellers. She also hosts spoken word events in San Francisco, and covers cultural happenings for online media.