MANCHESTER, N.H. — Hillary Clinton's most reflective answer of the CNN town hall forum in New Hampshire on Wednesday night came in answer to a question from a rabbi.
It was, in essence: How do you deal with running for higher office with humility?
In her answer, Clinton reflected on the difficulty of adjusting to the personal demands of campaigning and of being at the center of public scrutiny for most of her adult life.
She acknowledged that compared to her husband, former President Bill Clinton, she has struggled with campaigning: "This is hard for me," Clinton said.
"I met my husband, who was such a natural, knew exactly what he wanted to do. I was happy to support him," Clinton said.
There was also a rare moment of reflection on some of the more difficult times of her public life — many of which had to do with Bill Clinton's infidelities, which unfolded publicly during his time in political office.
"I've never talked about this much publicly," Clinton said. "Everybody knows I ... I have lived a very public life for the last 25 or so years. And so I've had to be in public dealing with some very difficult issues and personal issues, political, public issues."
She said that a line from the parable of the prodigal son by Henri Nouwen became a "lifeline."
"And it basically is: practice the discipline of gratitude."
Clinton also noted — twice at the CNN forum — that she didn't expect to run for president, a statement that would surprise many of her detractors who accuse her of unbridled ambition.
Clinton, who was raised as a Methodist, said that grounds herself in her faith, and that she receives a scripture reading from a minister every morning.
Read her full response:
I think about this a lot. Um, I feel very fortunate that I am a person of faith, that I was raised in my church and that I have had to deal and struggle with a lot of these issues about ambition and humility, about service and self-gratification, all of the human questions that all of us deal with, but when you put yourself out into the public arena, I think it's incumbent upon you to be as self- conscious as possible.
This is hard for me. You know, I never thought I'd be standing on a stage here asking people to vote for me for president. I always wanted to be of service. I met my husband, who was such a natural, knew exactly what he wanted to do. I was happy to support him while I worked in the Children's Defense Fund and legal services and taught law, and, you know, had our daughter.
I never thought I would do this. And so I have had to come to grips with how much more difficult it often is for me to talk about myself than to talk about what I want to do for other people, or to tell stories about, you know, the man I met in Rochester who — whose AIDS medicine is no longer affordable. And that — that can grip me and make me feel like there's something I can do about that.
So I'm constantly trying to balance how do I assume the mantle of a position as essentially august as president of the United States not lose track of who I am, what I believe in and what I want to do to serve?
I have that dialogue at least, you know, once a day in some setting or another. And I don't know that there is any ever absolute answer, like, okay, universe, here I am, watch me roar or oh my gosh, I can't do it, it's just overwhelming, I have to retreat.
It's that balance that I keep to try to find in my life that I want to see back in our country. And it will be something that I continue to talk about with a — you know, with a group of faith advisers who are close to me. I get a scripture lesson every morning from a minister that I have a really close personal relationship with. And, you know, it just gets me grounded. He gets up really early to send it to me. So, you know, there it is in my in box at 5:00 a.m..
I have friends who are rabbis who send me notes, give me readings that are going to be discussed in services. So I really appreciate all that incoming.
And the final thing I would say, because again, it's not anything I've ever talked about this much publicly, everybody knows I — I have lived a very public life for the last 25 or so years. And so I've had to be in public dealing with some very difficult issues and personal issues, political, public issues. And I read a, um, a treatment of the prodigal son parable by the Jesuit Henri Nouwen, who I think is a magnificent writer of spiritual and theological concerns. And I — I read that parable and there was a line in it that became just a lifeline for me. And it basically is practice the discipline of gratitude.
So regardless of how hard the days are, how difficult the decisions are, be grateful. Be grateful for being a human being, being part of the universe. Be grateful for your limitations. Know that you have to reach out to have more people be with you, to support you, to advise you, listen to your critics, answer the questions.
But at the end, be grateful. Practice the discipline of gratitude. And that has helped me enormously.