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Hillary Clinton: Breaking Barriers

Hillary Clinton Quotes

Hillary Clinton was the First Lady of the United States from 1993 to 2001 but there have been many more firsts in this famous First Lady’s life that have perhaps been overshadowed by events in her political career.

Born in 1947, Hillary has been known to say that the unusual spelling of her name is down to her mother naming her after mountaineer Sir Edmund Hillary. Sir Edmund and Tenzing Norgay made history when they became the first men to scale Mount Everest, but, as this event took place in 1953, it suggests that this was not the case. In fact, it has since been suggested that the Everest-conquering namesake version of events became a family story created by her mother to inspire greatness in her young daughter – and it would appear to have had great effect.

High Aspirations

During her school days, Hillary was greatly inspired by NASA and the Space Race between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. At around the age of fourteen, she wrote a letter to NASA to ask what she would need to do to become an astronaut – an indication that her mother’s story had indeed inspired her to achieve great things – but the reply she received informed her that women were not accepted on the training program. In high school, Hillary was class vice president in her junior year but lost her battle against two boys for class presidency in her senior year. At the time, one of the boys said to her, “You are really stupid if you think a girl can be elected president”. This was back in the 60s, but it seems that these happenings sparked her on-going drive to tackle gender inequality and her belief that staying positive and optimistic is the key to knocking down barriers and getting to wherever you want to go in life… “There is a sense that things, if you keep positive and optimistic about what can be done, do work out.”

In today’s world, it’s hard to imagine that speaking up for women’s rights was considered controversial when Hillary Clinton made her famous “human rights are women’s rights and women’s rights are human rights” speech as First Lady of the United States at the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women in 1995, but her words are considered to have been key in terms of empowering women. However, it was another speech given in 1969 that began Hillary’s string of firsts. As a student at Wellesley College, she became the first student ever to give a speech during commencement festivities; a speech that earned her a seven-minute standing ovation. She then graduated from Yale Law School in 1973, one of only 27 females in a class of 235, and became the only female on the President Nixon impeachment investigation team. In 1975, Hillary moved to Arkansas where she join the Rose Law Firm. By 1978, she had co-founded Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families and been appointed chair of the Legal Service Corporation, the first female to hold the position, and then in 1979, she became the Rose Law Firm’s first female partner.

High Expectations

Hillary’s string of firsts didn’t end there. In 1986, she was the first female to join Wal-Mart’s board of directors, and in 1987, she became the first chair of the American Bar Association’s Commission on Women in the Profession. In 2001, Hillary was sworn in as U.S. Senator from New York, the first female to hold this position, also making her the first ever female to be elected into office after serving as First Lady.

In 2016, Hillary Clinton’s dream of breaking through “that highest, hardest glass ceiling” to become the first female U.S. president may have been dashed, but her achievements continue to inspire women around the globe. Back in 1969 when she gave her speech at Wellesley College, Hillary said, The question about possible and impossible was one that we brought with us to Wellesley four years ago. We arrived not yet knowing what was not possible. Consequently, we expected a lot… We arrived at Wellesley and we found, as all of us have found, that there was a gap between expectation and realities. But it wasn’t a discouraging gap and it didn’t turn us into cynical, bitter old women at the age of 18.” She has maintained throughout her life a sense that things, if you keep positive and optimistic about what can be done, do work out.

We all face challenges in life and all of us, at times, question what’s possible, but something we can all learn from Hillary’s achievements is that it’s only by remaining positive and optimistic that we can make change happen and make the seemingly impossible possible. In her words, “You have just one life to live. It is yours. Own it, claim it, live it, do the best you can with it.”