Hillary Clinton Speaks at San José State University

by Karin McKie

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Monday April 14, 2014

No shoes were thrown at Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton during her speech at San Jos State University, the primary producer of technology sector graduates that feeds Silicon Valley companies, currently with about 6,000 engineering student enrolled. SJSU is a prime platform for the possible presidential hopeful, as it's the founding school of the sprawling 23-campus California State University system as well as the West Coast's oldest public institution of higher education. The downtown campus is also a few miles south of daughter Chelsea's alma mater Stanford University and the home of Santa Clara County Assessor Larry E. Stone, a Clinton family friend since 1990, who introduced the program and conducted a follow-up interview.

The mostly older and Caucasian crowd was likely "Hillary 2016" supporters, who sidestepped the small contingent of "Remember Benghazi" protesters outside the Event Center, which usually houses Spartan sports games.

During her 25-minute solo speech, Clinton reiterated her still-timely mantra of "women's rights are human rights," and the "unfinished business of the 21st century." She then launched into her talking points about supporting women and girls around the world as part of the Clinton Foundation's "No Ceilings" initiative.

SJSU Professor Cathleen Miller, author of Champion of Choice: The Life and Legacy of Women's Advocate Nafis Sadik (University of Nebraska Press) was in the audience and noted that while researching her book, one of Booklist's Top Ten 2013 Biographies, she interviewed Dr. Nafis Sadik about her work at the U.N. Population Fund and with Secretary Clinton. Dr. Sadik spoke about her admiration of Clinton's speaking ability as the two women both headlined at the Beijing Women's Conference, saying to Clinton, "I notice that you never look at your notes." Clinton replied, "Yes, after a time, one does develop a knack."

"That knack was clearly in effect as Clinton spoke extemporaneously with nary a note in sight," said Miller, who also noticed that Clinton continuously referred to her participation in 1995's China conference.

"While everything Clinton said about her participation is true, she didn't mention that all the work she and the U.S. team did in Beijing was based on the diplomatic successes at the previous year's International Conference on Population and Development," said Miller. "At that Cairo meeting, 179 governments reached an agreement on females' rights to education and reproductive health. In Beijing, their greatest goal was simply to protect the advancements made for women during that previous year."

"Sporting a pink suit and shoulder-length blonde hair, then First Lady Clinton arrived at the Beijing conference to great fanfare," Miller continued. "But, in her address, Clinton touched on many human rights abuses for which the Chinese had been excoriated, including their one-child policy and coercive tactics toward women to enforce the restriction.

Her comments clearly disparaged the Chinese and were considered improper behavior for a guest in their country. As the international press corps watched, Clinton boldly addressed these Chinese issues head on, which takes real guts when on a global platform in their capital city."

Preaching to the converted here at home, Clinton confidently walked around the large stage and effortlessly recounted statistics supporting that when women fully participate in economies, there is more peace and prosperity, even though in more than 100 countries they are still not allowed to have bank accounts, own property or sign contracts. In the U.S., Clinton observed that women earn 16 percent less than men, about 77 cents for every male dollar, and hold less than 17 percent of corporate board seats (even less, 11 percent, on technology company boards). She worried that American women formerly comprised a quarter of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) graduates but now only account for 20 percent of the degrees.

Clinton frequently commended her role model Eleanor Roosevelt, "the conscience of the country," who advised women in politics to have "skin as tough as rhino hide" and to "take criticism seriously, but not personally." Roosevelt had been the "eyes and ears and legs" of Franklin, and Clinton praised the fact that, in every single country she visited as Secretary of State, "Eleanor had already been there before me."

Clinton added that in this world of rampant gender disparity, women continue to be judged by different criteria. Although she said, "I'm not easily shocked anymore," she was nonetheless taken aback by the sexist language used to describe former Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard.

Plus, "women still harbor self-doubt and perfectionism," Clinton said. "When I want to promote a young female staffer, I have to encourage her to be confident and to take risks. I've never had a male employee worry, 'can I do it?'"

Clinton explained her decision to run for the New York Senate seat after attending a televised women's sports conference called "Dare To Compete." Although no former First Lady had ever run for public office, she took the advice to heart, ran and won.

Stone then invited Clinton to sit in stuffed blue chairs on an area rug in front of a small coffee table. He had her speak about her admiration for her mother Dorothy, whose parents abandoned her, but who ended up being cared for by teachers, neighbors and the family for whom she worked as a nanny. Although Dorothy died in 2011, Clinton still carries the lesson that "we have to take care of each other."

Clinton's response to "why is public service held in such low regard" was "money in politics is out of control," expressing displeasure with the recent Supreme Court campaign finance decision.

She also gave a play-by-play of what it was like to be one of the few in the Situation Room during the Navy Seal raid on Osama bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad, on which she will also reflect in her upcoming book about her four years as Secretary of State. "We were 50 percent sure that it was him, so I thought we should proceed. We waited for the first moonless night, which was May 1. What wasn't reported was that the Special Forces made sure that his four wives and their children were moved to safety before the one downed helicopter was blown up."

"As a New York senator, 9/11 was personal for me, so I felt that justice had been done for all those innocents murdered," she said.

Clinton said she was proud of Chelsea, who, even though Bill Clinton was governor of Arkansas, still had "a base of stability" growing up, attained by attending public schools and church, plus doing volunteer work and chores.

She concluded by urging partisan politicians to get to know each other, that we are humans first, not Democrats or Republicans but "on the American team." Clinton said that she's a perennial optimist, and attributed to Churchill the notion that "Americans eventually get around to the right thing after trying everything else."

Hillary Clinton spoke on Thursday, April 10 at San Jos State University in California. For information on future speaking engagements, visit http://hillaryclintonoffice.com

Karin McKie is a writer, educator and activist at KarinMcKie.com