kim ghattas

“On page 2, the National ran a picture of Clinton meeting the Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed in Washington in April 2009. She was the same woman who had traveled from Washington with us on that plane, and yet in that old photo she looked different. Her hair had grown from her sharp presidential campaign cut into a softer style, blonde locks framing her face, a shade lighter than in years past. Chelsea had asked her mother to grow her hair for the wedding, and Hillary had liked the results.”

-from The Secretary by Kim Ghattas

Working Every Day to Make Us Better

Hillary will make a great president. She is smart, accomplished, ambitious and tenaciously dedicated to public service. If, during the course of my career, I can contribute 1/3 of what HRC has to making people’s lives better, I will have used my time and my talents well.

  1. Smart. I love how hard Hillary works at being smart. Obviously, she was born smart. She went to Wellesley, graduating with honors, and on to Yale Law School. But she doesn’t take her natural gifts for granted; she continually works at knowing more, understanding more. Kim Ghattas describes HRC in “The Secretary: A Journey with Hillary Clinton from Beirut to the Heart of American Power” as someone relentless in her determination to understand the countries she visited – 112; the most visited by any Secretary of State. Ghattas writes about the trip Book, a binder of information for the SoS prepared in Washington before each visit. How she “wanted all the details, all the angles, all the background.” How she “could extract what she needed from the tome and let the rest lie in the back of her mind to inform her general approach to a subject.” Complimenting this is her ability and commitment to listening. We read over and over that Hillary listens – really listens – to people. I think this is the way that she connects the dots within those tomes of information. How do these policies, histories, economics, societal changes impact real people’s lives? She does not forget who she is in service to and listens to people to help inform how to make smart changes to policy. It’s why her policies are often nuanced and why some of her stances have changed over time.
  2. Accomplished. I don’t mean 2-term Senator, Secretary of State, Yale Law School accomplished, (although, to be sure, I’d be pretty chuffed with myself if I had this resume). I mean, HRC gets shit done. I looove people who get shit done. Because whether you’re working at social change on local, national or international levels, getting shit done is actually really hard. And there are a LOT of people who like to talk about getting shit done, and a lot fewer that actually like to do the work. Here’s a sample of accomplishments, by no means complete: Children’s Health Insurance Program, Heroes at Home Act (health care for veterans & their families), staunch advocate for women and girls globally including work on human trafficking, raising issues around women and girls in China (Women’s Rights are Human Rights and Human Rights are Women’s Rights!) and Afghanistan and as Sec of State used every trip to empower the women of the 112 countries she visited, the principal author of the sanction on Iran, bringing them to the table without violence (holy hell, nobody had been able to do this), instrumental in helping secure $21 billion in federal aid to help New York rebuild after 9/11, led the charge on the Lilly Ledbetter Pay Equity Act, which is now NY state law, negotiated the cease-fire in Gaza that stopped the Hamas from firing rocket after rocket into Israel, authorship of the Pediatric Research Equity Act which requires drug companies to study their products in children and is responsible for changing the drug labeling of hundreds of drugs with important information about safety and dosing of drugs for children…
  3. Tenaciously dedicated to public service. HRC has clearly been engaged in politics and social change throughout her life. In the early 1970s, during her time at Yale, she begins to make some truly significant contributions, both at the local and national level - volunteering at New Haven Legal Services to provide free legal advice for the poor, researching migrant workers’ problems in housing, sanitation, health and education for Walter Mondale’s Subcommittee on Migratory Labor. By the time she stood up in China and said, “Women’s rights are human rights, and human rights are women’s rights” (at a time when NO ONE was talking about the critical importance of supporting women and girls in development, and certainly not talking about it in China), she’d been working on these issues for 25 years. And she continues to do this work, regardless of the barrage of inane, sexist crap hurled at her. How she managed to keep that serene, Mona Lisa smile while being asked on more than one occasion about her comparison to Lady Macbeth is beyond me. She doesn’t need to put up with this crap. She could walk away tomorrow and live a life of luxury. But she is compelled to contribute; she is tenacious in her dedication to making things better and being part of a solution.
  4. Ambitious . At 44, and as a woman, I am just starting to feel comfortable saying, “I am ambitious.” This is not something that, as women, we are taught to be or say. I still feel uncomfortable saying it; I always have to add a lot of qualifiers. But I’m realizing that if I want to make the type of change in the world that I know I can make, I need to get comfortable saying it. I need to own my ambition to support change for communities at national and global scale. When I walk into a meeting with the Minister of Culture or the Minister of Education, I need to feel that I belong there and that I bring value to the conversation about moving national agendas forward. I’ve been adopting the ‘fake it ‘til you make it’ approach in many of these meetings, but seeing other smart, accomplished, ambitious women who are also dedicated to making change helps me recognize the power in owning my ambition. The expression, “If you can see it, you can be it” stands true.  When we see a smart, dedicated, accomplished woman state boldly that she is ambitious enough to run for POTUS, we see that ambition as a positive contribution. We can put everything that we have – our talents, our grit – forward to accomplish our goals. Ambition can be feminine and powerful. Ambition does not take away Hillary’s ability to be a good mother or wife, it adds something to these other pieces of her life. It also shines a spotlight on the inequity in our society and power structures. I see why it is uncomfortable for me as a woman; it’s uncomfortable for us as a culture. Every POTUS that came before her, and every man that tried to get there, was ambitious. We never blinked. Yet, suddenly we hear the word ‘ambitious’ in the context of a smart, accomplished woman and it is, somehow, an insult.

We need more people in the world who try every day to help make people’s lives better, and we need these people in positions of power. #imwithher because Hillary is someone trying to make change for the better on a scale I can only imagine. She’s done it over a lifetime, and will continue to do it after she is President. She will inspire a legion of smart, dedicated, ambitious women to do the same.

actually several books. A portrait of Clinton, a fly-on-the-wall look at life as a foreign correspondent, an analysis of international relations in the Obama (more pertinently the post-Bush) era, and a personal journey by the half-Lebanese Ghattas herself.