In Her Words
I Witnessed One of Hillary’s Finest Moments
A memory of Hillary shining in a foreign setting
I saw Hillary Clinton, who is almost certain to be our next Secretary of State, in one of her finest moments. And it was in a foreign setting. I was one of the official American delegates to the UN Conference on Women in 1995 which was held in Beijing. Hillary, then First Lady, was the leader of the delegation.
The Conference was fascinating but the Chinese were less than cordial hosts. They were especially unfriendly to the thousands of women from non-governmental organizations that descended on Beijing, including some from Free Tibet groups. They put the NGOs far out of town, away from the official Conference site, in a muddy field. Add to that the fact, it kept raining and raining. I remember walking through mud with then Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna Shalala and Jane Fonda, who were also attending the Conference. Donna and I were trying unsuccessfully to stay dry by wearing cheap Chinese rain ponchos. Jane looked great in rainproof ultra suede!
Hillary spoke in a large hall filled with delegates from many nations, including many veiled women from the Middle East. Her speech was strong and forceful, capped by the ringing phrase “human rights are women’s rights and women’s rights are human rights.” The hall exploded in rapturous applause and everyone realized the importance of her making that declaration in China. I and the other members of the American delegation were very proud of America’s forthright First Lady. Even conservative editorial pages backed home praised Mrs. Clinton’s speech.
Later at the Conference I had the chance at one meeting to be the official representative of the United States. It was absolutely thrilling. As I sat there with women diplomats from other countries I thought how proud my immigrant grandparents would be to see me representing my country. How lucky I was to have this opportunity — and how it could have happened only in America.