Pharos-Tribune

August 21, 2013

PARKER: The true meaning of Hillary


Pharos-Tribune

---- — Three years out and you’d think the deed was done: Madame President Hillary Diane Rodham Clinton.

Op-ed columns are filled with advice about what Hillary needs to do. She needs a narrative. A message. It can’t be that she’s a Clinton or a woman. It has to be ...

What?

Here’s a thought: She can save the world.

Yes, all right, perhaps a trifle hyperbolic, but hear me out. And keep in mind that this works only as a long game. We may not live to see salvation but one has to start somewhere. Thus far, invasions, bunker-busting mega-bombs and killer drones seem not to be having the desired effect.

Let’s begin with a working (and provable) premise: Women, if allowed to be fully equal to men, will bring peace to the planet.

This is not so far-fetched a notion. One, men have been at it for thousands of years, resulting in millions and millions of corpses. Two, countries where women are most oppressed and abused are also the least stable. Three, as women become more empowered, especially financially, countries become more stable.

What does this have to do with Hillary? Quite a bit.

Rewind the tape to 1995 at the U.N. Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing. Then-first lady Hillary Clinton empowered women as never before: “Human rights are women’s rights and women’s rights are human rights, once and for all.”

Imagine that. Well, of course, we can imagine that. Our Founding Fathers created the instruments to codify this concept, even if it took a while to imprint on our psyches and to be reflected in our laws. But elsewhere, in places where women are tortured, abused, sold into slavery and disfigured, all to the “glory” of men, it was a trumpet blast from heaven’s gate: Women are human beings, too.

At the time, it was a revolutionary statement and helps explain why Hillary is one of the most recognized and revered people in the world.

To millions, she is a role model and a warrior for women’s right to self-determination. As secretary of state, she continued the work of her predecessors, Condoleezza Rice and Madeleine Albright, who first insisted that women’s rights be part of our foreign policy, and then pushed further. Under Hillary’s watch, Obama made permanent the Office of Global Women’s Issues and appointed longtime Hillary colleague Melanne Verveer as ambassador-at-large.

These strides in soft diplomacy may get less ink than, say, John Kerry’s progress toward Middle East peace talks, but they are no less important in the longer term.

Whatever transpires during the next three years, we can be sure the world’s women are watching closely. In 2007 when I traveled through the Middle East with then-first lady Laura Bush, every woman I met was riveted by the U.S. presidential election and wanted to talk about only this: Will Hillary win?

In 2008, it seemed possible. In 2016, barring a Benghazi surprise, it seems probable.

Kathleen Parker is a columnist with the Washington Post Writers Group. She can be reached at kathleenparker@washpost.com.