Who is Hillary Clinton?
Hillary Rodham Clinton, born on October 26, 1947, in Chicago, Illinois, is an American lawyer and politician who has held several significant positions in government. She served as a U.S. senator from 2001 to 2009 and as secretary of state from 2009 to 2013 during the administration of President Barack Obama. Clinton was also the first lady from 1993 to 2001 during the presidency of her husband, Bill Clinton, who was the 42nd president of the United States. In 2016, she became the Democratic Party’s nominee for president, making history as the first woman to lead the presidential ticket of a major political party in the United States.
Hillary, the first first lady born after World War II, was raised in Park Ridge, a Chicago suburb, as the eldest child of Hugh and Dorothy Rodham. Her father’s successful textile business provided a comfortable upbringing and her parents instilled in her the importance of hard work and academic excellence.
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As a student leader in public schools, Hillary was involved in youth programs at the First United Methodist Church, and although she later became associated with liberal causes, she initially identified with the Republican Party of her parents. In fact, she campaigned for Republican presidential nominee Barry Goldwater in 1964 and served as chair of the local chapter of the Young Republicans. It wasn’t until she enrolled at Wellesley College in 1965 that her political views began to shift. Influenced by the assassinations of Malcolm X, Robert F. Kennedy, and Martin Luther King, Jr., she joined the Democratic Party and volunteered in the presidential campaign of antiwar candidate Eugene McCarthy.
After graduating from Wellesley in 1969, Hillary attended Yale Law School where she was mentored by Marian Wright Edelman, an alumna of Yale and a children’s rights advocate. Through her work with Edelman, Hillary developed a keen interest in family law and issues affecting children.
Lawyer and First Lady of Arkansas
Following their graduation from Yale in 1973, Hillary and Bill Clinton went their separate ways. While he returned to Arkansas, she joined the Children’s Defense Fund in Massachusetts where she worked with Marian Wright Edelman. In 1974, Hillary played a part in the Watergate investigation into the possible impeachment of President Richard Nixon. After her work on the inquiry concluded with Nixon’s resignation, she made a pivotal decision and relocated to Arkansas. Hillary taught at the University of Arkansas School of Law and after marrying Bill Clinton on October 11, 1975, she became a partner at the prominent Rose Law Firm in Little Rock, Arkansas.
As Bill Clinton was elected governor of Arkansas in 1978, Hillary continued to pursue her career and retained her maiden name until 1982. Some voters criticized her for not changing her name, claiming that it reflected a lack of commitment to her husband. Chelsea Victoria, their only child, was born in 1980.
During her husband’s two terms as governor (1979–81, 1983–92), Hillary remained active in her law practice and continued her work on initiatives that supported children and the underprivileged. She served on the boards of several prominent corporations and was twice recognized as one of the country’s top 100 lawyers by the National Law Journal in 1988 and 1991. Additionally, Hillary chaired the Arkansas Education Standards Committee and established the Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families. Her contributions were acknowledged when she was named Arkansas Woman of the Year in 1983 and Arkansas Young Mother of the Year in 1984.
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First Lady of the United State
During Bill Clinton’s governorship, Hillary Clinton worked on programs that helped children and disadvantaged individuals, while also maintaining a successful law practice. She served on various boards for high-profile corporations and was named one of the nation’s 100 most influential lawyers twice (in 1988 and 1991) by the National Law Journal. Furthermore, she chaired the Arkansas Education Standards Committee and established the Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families. In recognition of her efforts, she was named Arkansas Woman of the Year in 1983 and Arkansas Young Mother of the Year in 1984.
In Bill’s 1992 presidential campaign, Hillary played a crucial role by giving speeches, greeting voters, and serving as one of her husband’s main advisers. She became a household name after appearing with him on the TV news program 60 Minutes in January 1992, where she addressed allegations about Bill’s extramarital affair with Gennifer Flowers. During the campaign, Hillary’s professional career was heavily scrutinized, and she faced criticism for having her own agenda due to her previous work for liberal causes. Her response to this criticism, where she joked that she could have stayed home and baked cookies, was used by her critics to portray her as not respecting women who chose to be homemakers.
Hillary faced suspicion of impropriety
As first lady, Hillary faced suspicion of impropriety regarding her financial dealings, such as her involvement in the Whitewater real estate development in Arkansas and her commodities trading in 1978–79. Her role as a political figure and adviser to her husband was emphasized during the 1992 campaign, where Bill Clinton talked about a “twofer” presidency. This was supported when she set up her own office in the West Wing and was appointed to head the Task Force on National Health Care, which received both criticism and praise for her expertise on the subject. However, her role in the health care debate ultimately led to Republicans recapturing Congress in the 1994 elections. As first lady, she was also criticized for her involvement in the firing of seven staff members from the White House travel office and for her role in legal maneuvering during the Whitewater investigation.
During the scandal surrounding Bill Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky, Hillary stood by her husband and supported him throughout the impeachment process. In 1999, Hillary made history by running for the U.S. Senate seat in New York being vacated by Daniel Patrick Moynihan. She moved to New York to meet the residency requirement and won the election, becoming the first first lady to hold an elected office. Despite being a subject of controversy, Hillary demonstrated that a first lady could merge ceremonial duties with a strong role in public policy and turn the clout of the position into personal political power. Her book, It Takes a Village: And Other Lessons Children Teach Us, published in 1996, described her views on child rearing and was both praised by her supporters and criticized by her opponents.
Senate and 2008 Presidential run
After being inaugurated on January 3, 2001, Senator Clinton continued her efforts for healthcare reform and remained a champion for children. She served on multiple Senate committees, including the Committee for Armed Services. In the wake of the September 11 attacks in 2001, she endorsed the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan, but became increasingly critical of President George W. Bush’s handling of the Iraq War. Living History, her highly anticipated memoir of her White House years, was published in 2003 and set sales records, with an advance of around $8 million. In 2006, she was reelected to the Senate with ease.
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After being sworn into office in 2001, Hillary Clinton continued to advocate for health care reform and children’s rights while serving on several senatorial committees, including the Committee for Armed Services. In the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, she supported the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan but later became critical of Pres. George W. Bush’s handling of the Iraq War. In 2003, she published her memoir of her time in the White House, “Living History,” which broke sales records after receiving an advance of approximately $8 million.
Democratic Party’s presidential nomination
In 2007, Hillary announced her intention to seek the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination for 2008. Despite beginning the primary season as the front-runner, she placed a disappointing third in the Iowa caucus. However, she rebounded and won the New Hampshire primary, followed by important states on Super Tuesday such as California, Massachusetts, and New York. Obama won 11 consecutive states following Super Tuesday and eventually became the favourite for the nomination. However, Clinton rebounded with key victories in Ohio and Texas in early March and Pennsylvania in April. Despite this, her narrow victory in Indiana and substantial loss in North Carolina in early May significantly hindered her chances of overtaking Obama before the final primaries in June. On June 3, Obama surpassed the delegate threshold and became the presumptive Democratic nominee, officially securing the nomination on August 27 at the Democratic National Convention in Denver. He went on to win the general election on November 4.
Secretary of state and 2016 presidential candidate
Hillary Clinton was chosen by Barack Obama in December 2008 to become the secretary of state, and she was quickly confirmed by the Senate in January 2009. Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state was widely praised for her efforts in improving the United States’ foreign relationships. She resigned from her position in 2013 and was succeeded by John Kerry, a former senator from Massachusetts. In 2014, her memoir, Hard Choices, detailing her experiences as secretary of state, was published. The following year, it was revealed that Clinton had used a private email address and server while serving as secretary of state, leading to concerns about government transparency and security. The FBI later launched an investigation into the matter.
U.S. presidential election
In April 2015, Clinton declared her candidacy for the 2016 U.S. presidential election, and she quickly emerged as the leading contender for the Democratic nomination. However, she faced an unexpected challenge from Senator Bernie Sanders, a self-proclaimed “democratic socialist.” Clinton, who was seen as an establishment politician, initially struggled to respond to Sanders’s populist policies, which she criticized as impractical. Instead, she promoted a “sensible agenda” that centered around traditional Democratic objectives, including raising taxes on the wealthy, increasing the minimum wage, and implementing immigration reform. Furthermore, she supported stricter regulations on Wall Street, but her prior connections to the banking and investment industry, including corporate speeches and campaign contributions, drew scrutiny. As a former secretary of state, Clinton emphasized her foreign policy expertise and advocated for a strong U.S. presence abroad.
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Despite facing questions regarding her campaign, including the ongoing e-mail scandal, Clinton became the clear front-runner by March 2016. On June 7, following wins in several states, including California, Clinton claimed the Democratic nomination. The FBI concluded its e-mail probe the following month, with Director James Comey recommending that no charges be brought against Clinton, although he noted that she had been “extremely careless” in handling classified material. Clinton’s opponents criticized the decision, but she sought to move beyond the scandal. Sanders officially endorsed her on July 12, after which she selected Sen. Tim Kaine as her running mate. On July 26, 2016, she was named the Democratic nominee at the party’s convention. Her opponent was Donald Trump, a businessman whose outsider status and political incorrectness appealed to previously underrepresented voters. The campaign was highly negative and contentious, with Trump accusing Clinton of being “crooked” and calling for her imprisonment over the e-mail scandal. She also faced allegations of granting special treatment to Clinton Foundation donors while serving as secretary of state. Despite denying these claims, polls showed that many Americans found her untrustworthy.
Vice-Presidential running mate
After facing unexpected competition from Bernie Sanders in the primary election season of 2016, Clinton emerged as the front-runner by March of that year, despite ongoing questions about her campaign, including the e-mail scandal. In June 2016 she claimed the Democratic nomination and the following month the FBI concluded its e-mail investigation, with Director James Comey recommending that no charges be brought against Clinton. However, he criticized her handling of classified material, which drew criticism from her opponents. Clinton was officially endorsed by Sanders in July 2016 and selected Sen. Tim Kaine as her vice presidential running mate.
At the Democratic National Convention later that month, Clinton was named the party’s nominee, facing Republican nominee Donald Trump in the general election. Clinton highlighted her experience in public service and raised doubts about Trump’s temperament, political inexperience, and business dealings. She also repeatedly challenged his treatment of women and accused him of past sexual assaults. As election day approached, polls showed Clinton with a sizable lead, but she was defeated by Trump in the electoral college, although she won the popular vote. Following the election, Clinton wrote about her campaign in What Happened (2017) and launched Onward Together, a political group that aimed to fund and support progressive causes.
In 2020, a documentary about Clinton’s life and career, Hillary, was released, and she turned to fiction writing with State of Terror, a geopolitical thriller co-written with Canadian author Louise Penny, in 2021.