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An Interview with
Senator Hillary Clinton 

April 22, 2004
Living History

 


Introduction:

Hillary Rodham Clinton, former First Lady, was elected to the US Senate from New York in 2000, and re-elected in 2006. Although her run for President in the Democratic Primary of 2008 was unsuccessful, she proved a woman could win primary state victories and come vey close to winning the nomination of a major party. In her speech of June 7, 2008, ending her campaign, she was clear that in the future, "It will be unremarkable to think that a woman can be President of the United States. And that is truly remarkable." She added, "To those who are disappointed that we couldn't go all the way - especially young people who put so much into this campaign - it would break my heart if, falling short of my goal, I in any way discouraged any of you from pursuing yours. Always aim high, work hard and care deeply about what you believe in. When you stumble, keep faith. When you get knocked down, get right back up. And never listen to anyone who says you can't or shouldn't go on." She discourages us from thinking "if only" or "what if." Emphatically she adds, "Every moment wasted looking back keeps us from moving forward."

"The most important thing you can say is that you love what you do in your life."

"Some may lead, some may follow, but none of us can go it alone."

"There are no acceptable prejudices in the 21st century in our country."

-Hillary Clinton

Spencer:

As you may recall, we first met at the McGovern Award Ceremony in January. Dr. James Comer received the Award this year for his contributions to education in America. His concept of teamwork, child development, and the social factor is improving the educational environment throughout our country. He, like you, believes that all children should have the opportunity to reach a high level of academic success. You wrote your first book on how we need to make our society into a village to help children grow to become better adults. Can you explain your concept so teenagers and pre-teens like myself can understand?

 

Senator Clinton:

And we did meet at the McGovern Award Ceremony. Dr. James Comer received the award, and in my book I write about the importance of having the entire society, which I call the village, help families to help children grow to be productive adults. Now what that means is that the most important people, in any child’s life, are that child’s family – parents, brothers and sisters, grandparents, aunts and uncles. And they should do the very best job they can to help their boy or girl. But there are things that families cannot do all by themselves. Your father is a doctor. He can’t control the air you breathe; he can’t test every piece of food you put in your mouth to make sure it’s safe; he can’t police the streets so that you’re not mugged, or criminals don’t take advantage of you. And there are so many other examples. So the idea of it taking a village is that all of us need to help families do the best job they can to be good parents and take care of their children. So that’s what I write about in my book.

 

Spencer:

That’s a very interesting topic. We recently studied the importance of global warming in science. The current leadership promised to do something about this problem. Not much is happening. Well, this is still April. Can we still say April Fools?? What will it take to get the ball rolling?

 

Senator Clinton:

It’s a very real problem, and unfortunately this administration and the Republican leaders in the House and the Senate either don’t believe it’s a problem or don’t want to do anything about it. And I’ve worked with some of my colleagues, on both sides of the aisle, Senators McCain from Arizona and Lieberman from Connecticut. We’ve introduced legislation to try to do something to put the United States government on record, committed to eliminating the sources of pollution that cause global warming. My husband tried to do that when he was president, and we made some progress, but the current president doesn’t want to do anything about it. So it is a big challenge, and it’s a bigger issue for people your age, because if we don’t do something now to help improve the environment, it’s going to get worse and worse.

 

Spencer:

In recent remarks to the City College of New York, when introducing Senator Kerry, you said, “The 21st Century demands a combination of both grit and imagination, of understanding and tenacity.” We know Senator Kerry has these qualities. So do you. How will you use these qualities to help the new administration in 2005?

 

Senator Clinton:

Now, let’s see, Senator Kerry is someone I’m strongly supporting and I’m going to do everything I can to make the case to people to elect him, to provide a new president, with new leadership for our nation.

 

Spencer:

In the early 1800’s Dolly Madison was one of the most respected women in America. In the 1930’s and 1940’s it was Eleanor Roosevelt. In the 1990’s it was Hillary Clinton. And now, in the 21st Century, it is still you. And you are not just the wife of a president, you are a senator standing on your own. My gosh, you even beat Oprah in the polls. What is your plan? How will you continue to juggle so many things without dropping anything?

 

Senator Clinton:

Dolly Madison, who’s one of my favorites, and Eleanor Roosevelt, who’s my all-time favorite, and I am trying to figure out how to keep juggling so many things without dropping them because…

 

Georgia *

You have a quote in your book.

 

Spencer:

Yes, that was actually from It Takes a Village.

 

Senator Clinton:

Right.

 

Spencer:

From I think it’s on this page. It’s from Mary Catherine Bateson.

 

Senator Clinton:

That’s right.

 

Spencer:

She won the McGovern Award, I think four years ago.

 

Senator Clinton:

And she said she doesn’t like the word “juggling,” because it sounds like you could drop something important. So it’s more a question of balancing, you know, how do you balance all the responsibilities in your life. You know, when you’re growing up, you’re trying to get a good education, you’re trying to figure out how to get along with people in the world, you want to, you know, help your family, and then when you’re older, you have your own family, you have to work and you have to worry about the world around you. How do you balance all of that? And what I try to do is just set priorities. And you know the most important thing when you’re a parent, I think, has to be your children. And so that’s what I try to do as Chelsea’s mom, and you also want to be a good family member to other members of your family, and you want to be a good friend, because friends are very important, and then of course you want to try to be a good employee, to take care of your job, and then I think it’s important to be a good citizen. So I try to balance all of that.

 

Spencer:

It’s a very hard thing to do.

 

Senator Clinton:

It is a very hard thing. Do you find it hard in your own life?

 

Spencer:

Yes.

 

Senator Clinton:

Why? Why is it hard for you?

 

Spencer:

Well, I have Hebrew school, I have homework, I have trumpet, I have a lot of stuff to do.

 

Senator Clinton:

Do you get enough sleep?

 

Spencer:

Usually, but I need to start to get to bed earlier.

 

Senator Clinton:

Right, right. Well do you enjoy what you do?

 

Spencer:

I love what I do.

 

Senator Clinton:

That’ll keep you going, because the most important thing you can say is that you love what you do in your life, and I hope that you’ll always be able to say that, no matter what happens to you in the future. Well, these are really good questions.

 

Spencer:

Thank you so much.

 

Senator’s aide:

Spencer met a bonus senator on the way over. He got to meet his own senator, Senator Mikulski.

 

Senator Clinton:

Oh, great! She’s a terrific senator, she really is.

 

Senator’s aide:

She was very funny. He told her that he wrote a report on her, and Spencer, what was her first question to you?

 

Spencer:

Oh, she said, “What grade did you get on it?” I got an ‘A’ on it.

 

Georgia :

Then she said, “And what did you say about me, Spencer?”

 

Spencer:

Oh I said, "You’re a really great senator.”

 

Georgia :

And she said that now you get another ‘A’.

 

Senator Clinton:

I must say she is a very special person.

So, now when you get a little bit older, I still want you to intern for me.

 

Spencer:

Oh, I’d love that!

 

Senator Clinton:

Right, but we found out you couldn’t because you’re not old enough yet.

 

Spencer:

Would you say 2008?

 

Senator’s aide:

Is that it? 2008?

 

Staff Member:

I think 2008 is when he’ll be 16.

 

Senator Clinton:

So I have to get re-elected.

 

Spencer:

Oh, don’t worry you will.

 

Senator Clinton:

Oh good, thank you. Well, I may need your help on that.

 

Georgia :

You cannot have a better friend.

 

Spencer:

Well, I am so happy you came by.

 

Spencer:

Well, I’m so happy you let me come. It was so much fun.

 

Senator Clinton:

Oh, well, and I’ll look forward to seeing you again. Let’s not wait til 2008. We’ll figure out some other way, OK?

 

Spencer:

Sure, that’d be a lot of fun.

 

Senator Clinton:

Great, thank you dear.

 

Spencer:

Thank you so much!

*Georgia Irvin is an educational consultant and a good friend of mine. She accompanied me when I interviewed the Senator in 2004.