Three years out and you’d think the deed was done: Madame President Hillary Diane Rodham Clinton.
She’s everywhere these days because: (a) It’s August; (b) reporters are bored with President Obama; (c) reporters are bored with Joe Biden; (d) Clintons are never boring.
Op-ed columns are filled with advice about what Hillary needs to do. She needs a narrative. A message. It can’t be that she’s a Clinton or a woman. It has to be . . .
Here’s a thought: She can save the world.
Yes, all right, perhaps that’s a trifle hyperbolic, but hear me out. And keep in mind that this works only as a long game. We may not live to see salvation but one has to start somewhere. Thus far invasions, bunker-busting mega-bombs and killer drones seem not to be having the desired effect.
Let’s begin with a working (and provable) premise: Women, if allowed to be fully equal to men, will bring peace to the planet. This is not so far-fetched a notion. One, men have been at it for thousands of years, resulting in millions and millions of corpses. Two, countries where women are most oppressed and abused are also the least stable.
Three, as women become more empowered, especially financially, countries become more stable. When women have money, they can feed their families, get health care, educate their children, start businesses and so on. The ripple effect is stronger families, stronger communities and ultimately saner nations.
This fact, reinforced by numerous economic studies, has not escaped the attention of corporate America, which is investing heavily to reach women in developing countries. As Muhtar Kent, the CEO of Coca-Cola, put it: “Women are already the most dynamic and fastest-growing economic force in the world today.”
What does this have to do with Hillary? Quite a bit.
Rewinding the tape to 1995 at the U.N.’s Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, then-first lady Hillary Clinton empowered women as never before with just a few words: “Human rights are women’s rights and women’s rights are human rights, once and for all.”
Imagine that. Well, of course, we can imagine that. Our Founding Fathers created the instruments to codify this concept, even if it took a while to imprint on our psyches and to be reflected in our laws. But elsewhere, in places where women are tortured, abused, sold into slavery and disfigured, all to the “glory” of men, it was a trumpet blast from heaven’s gate that caused the earth to tremble: Women are human beings, too.
How do you say “wow” in Lingala?
At the time, it was a revolutionary statement and helps explain why Hillary is one of the most recognized and revered individuals in the world.
While Americans obsess about Hillary’s hair and married life, others have been studying her for inspiration. To millions, she is a role model and a warrior for women’s right to self-determination. As secretary of state, she continued the work of predecessors Condoleezza Rice and Madeleine Albright, who first insisted that women’s rights be part of our foreign policy, and then pushed further. Under Hillary’s watch, Obama made permanent the Office of Global Women’s Issues and appointed longtime Hillary colleague Melanne Verveer as ambassador-at-large.
These strides in soft diplomacy may get less ink than, say, John Kerry’s progress toward Middle East peace talks, but they are no less important in the longer term. Far newsier than yet another round of “peace talks,” necessary though they be, are the implications of the global explosion in women’s economic and, therefore, political power.
Whether one likes or dislikes Hillary, few dispute that she has matured in her public role. Her résumécan be topped by few and the symbolic power of electing a woman president — especially this woman — can’t be overestimated. Many doubtless shudder at the prospect of Hillary Clinton as the most powerful person in the world, but we’ve done worse. For what it’s worth, many in the Bush White House said privately they hoped Hillary would win because they felt she was better prepared to handle international challenges.
Whatever transpires during the next three years, we can be sure the world’s women are watching closely. In 2007 when I traveled through the Middle East with then-first lady Laura Bush, every woman I met was riveted by the U.S. presidential election and wanted to talk about only this question: Will Hillary win?
In 2008, it seemed possible. In 2016, barring a Benghazi surprise, it seems probable.