Secretary of State Hillary Clinton heads to Latvia today. Her agenda there includes discussions on NATO missions, talks on Latvia’s recovery from the economic crisis, and a street naming ceremony — all in a day's work. Clinton's touch-down in Latvia will mark the 100th country she’s visited as Secretary of State — making her the most-traveled Secretary of State yet.
BBC state department correspondent Kim Ghattas accompanied Clinton on many of those trips, and recently produced a half-hour documentary about life on the road with the Secretary of State. To date, Clinton has spent an accumulated 73 days aboard her Boeing 757 aircraft. Between flights, she has dealt with issues ranging from the war in Libya to the advocation of cleaner cookstoves for hundreds of millions of women worldwide.
Between the Secretary and the President, Steven Lee Myers of the New York Times writes, "Obama and Clinton have instead led the least discordant national-security team in decades, despite enormous challenges on almost every front."
The record-setting number of countries visited has resulted in what Clinton calls a "marathon." "The travel pace, the jetlag, the schedule, the hours she keeps — it's really quite incredible," Ghattas says.
Over the years of the Secretary's term, Ghattas has seen Clinton grow more comfortable in her role as the United States' top foreign dignitary. "She's really enjoying what she's doing away from the politics of Washington," she says. Clinton's extensive travel has made her a sort of "chairman of the board" — many of her counterparts come to her to resolve differences, including European officials as they make their way through the Eurozone crisis.
Free from the domestic political scene, Clinton has been able to focus entirely on her daunting task of representing American leadership abroad. "She's viewed very differently outside of the U.S. than inside the U.S.", Ghattas says. "She always was a rock-star personality around the world."
This celebrity status, however, has not made the Secretary forget about the problems of the country she represents, Ghattas says. In her documentary, Clinton says, "Part of what I'm trying to do is speak and work on behalf of America's influence and leadership in a way that my own country understands."
"She's trying to explain to people why it is still important for America to be a leader around the world when people here are worried about their job or their healthcare," Ghattas says.