On Thursday, June 20, Hillary Clinton spoke at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre to a crowd of about 5,000 people. Rather, she charmed the socks off a crowd of about 5,000 people!
Speaking as part of the “Unique Lives” lecture series, she began her talk to a standing ovation. She then spoke for a while about her life and family growing up, meeting her husband Bill at Yale Law School, and working as a young lawyer (on Richard Nixon’s impeachment, no less).
Clinton then switched gears and began talking about her political career, first as the First Lady of Arkansas; then as FLOTUS; then as Senator for the state of New York; and finally about her time as Secretary of State under Barack Obama. One of her more captivating stories was about the moment she decided to run for Senate, after the press had been speculating about whether or not she would run for some time. At an event where she was meeting several female athletes for a documentary on women in sport, one of the athletes leaned down and whispered, “Dare to compete, Mrs. Clinton. Dare to compete.” Hillary said that moment reminded her that she had been encouraging women to step up, take risks, and stand up for their rights, and now a young woman was telling her the same thing she had been telling other women for years. She felt she had to take her own advice and lead by example.
Clinton was led in conversation by Samantha Nutt, Executive Director of War Child North America. When asked what she thought was the unfinished business of feminism, Clinton quipped, “Can you stay until breakfast?” and went on to talk about how women’s rights around the world are still in progress. Clinton sees the real challenge and struggle in places where women and girls are denied their rights to education, health care, and participation in the economic and political system. This leads to greater conflict and instability, resulting in further victimization of women in countries mired in conflict. Many countries, she said, still have to be convinced to protect their women and children.
Clinton addressed a number of other topics, including how she handles sexist attacks in the media (her response: “I don’t care anymore!”). She surprised the audience by saying that if she could change one thing about her life, she would spend more time in nature and advocate further for climate change issues. When asked about her biggest accomplishment as Secretary of State, Clinton responded by saying that she was most proud of restoring America’s standing and reputation in the world. On the topic of whether women lead differently than men, she stated that the women leaders she has worked with are sometimes more understanding and supportive of advancing the rights of women, often seek consensus, and raise issues that do not cross mens’ minds.
Clinton hopes that the next President of the United States will be a woman, but admits that will require women to step up and subject themselves to the political process and take a leap of faith in the American voting public. She said this would send exactly the right historic message to all citizens, of all genders and ages..
The all consuming question for Mrs. Clinton is, of course, whether or not she will be that female candidate. Although she was not directly asked this question, my companions and I left feeling that she had indeed answered it.