Hillary Clinton steps out of the political spotlight today, as she departs from the U.S. State Department after four years as secretary of state. From her contentious start as first lady, in 1992, to her historic run for the White House, to the highest ranks of the federal government, Hillary Clinton has had quite a political career — one that may continue, in 2016.
In her four years as secretary of state, Hillary Clinton has visited 112 countries and has enjoyed great popularity. And yet, as we reflect on her legacy, John Cassidy, staff writer at The New Yorker, argues that Secretary Clinton achieved more as an ambassador than as secretary of state. Cassidy writes: "The post she really had was that of U.S. Ambassador to the world, and she made a pretty good fist of it."
Since 1992, Hillary Rodham Clinton has maintained a consistent level of power in Washington, from first lady to senator to secretary of state.
While Secretary Clinton has always had her detractors, as her Congressional hearings demonstrated, and as she waves farewell to the State Department, her supporters believe she leaves behind a legacy as a champion for women's issues abroad.
Melanne Verveer served as Hillary Clinton's chief of staff in the secretary's time as first lady, and she now reports to Clinton in the State Department, as the U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women's Issues.
"It's been an extraordinary journey," Ambassador Verveer says of Secretary Clinton's odyssey from the White House to the State Department.
"When she took on the role of first lady, I don't think she had any plans in terms of international affairs or…women's progress around the globe," Verveer explains.
She cites then-first lady Clinton's speech at the 1995 U.N. Conference on Women in Beijing as a "seminal moment" in terms of Clinton's investment in women's issues. At the Conference, first lady Clinton famously proclaimed, "If there is one message that echoes forth from this conference, let it be that human rights are women' s rights, and women's rights are human rights."
Verveer says that "for everybody there in that room, to have a woman who was viewed…as powerful, because she was the wife of the President of the United States, after all, and she was taking on these issues that many though they were struggling with alone."