On January 21, 2009, Hillary Rodham Clinton was sworn in as the 67th Secretary of State of the United States. Secretary Clinton joined the State Department after nearly four decades in public service as an advocate, attorney, First Lady, and Senator.
Born on October 26, 1947, Hillary was raised in a middle-class family in the middle of America. From that classic suburban childhood in Park Ridge, Illinois, Hillary went on to become one of America’s foremost advocates for children and families; an attorney twice voted one of the most influential in America; a First Lady of Arkansas who helped transform the schools; a bestselling author; a First Lady for America who helped transform that role, becoming a champion for health care and families at home and a champion of women's rights and human rights around the world.
Since her path-breaking election to the United States Senate, Hillary has been a steadfast advocate for middle-class families, working to help create jobs, expand children’s health care and protect Social Security from privatization. As the Senator representing New York after 9/11, Hillary has fought to strengthen our approach to homeland security and to improve our communications and intelligence operations. As the first New Yorker ever named to the Senate Armed Services Committee, Hillary has been a tough critic of the Bush Administration’s bungling of Iraq and a fierce advocate for proper equipment, health benefits, and treatment for military families.
The promise of America was very real as Hillary was growing up. She learned that no matter who you are or where you're from, if you worked hard and played by the rules, you could provide a good life for your family.
Hillary’s father, Hugh Rodham, was the son of a factory worker from Scranton, Pennsylvania. He trained sailors in the Navy during World War II and then returned to Illinois to start a small business selling draperies. He taught Hillary both a deep sense of patriotism and a strong belief in fiscal responsibility. He never took a dime of credit and was so frugal that he used to turn the heat off overnight during the winter to save money, waking up early to turn it back on so the house would be warm when everyone woke up.
Hillary’s mother, Dorothy, the daughter of a firefighter, had a tough childhood. Her parents were young and felt unable to care for their children. So when Dorothy was just eight, she and her three-year-old sister traveled alone on a four-day train ride to Los Angeles. There they were raised by a strict grandmother. It was not until Dorothy was a teenager and worked as a helper to another family that she finally knew what a loving family could be. The stories of her mother’s difficult childhood imbued in Hillary a fierce sense of justice and a belief that no child should be mistreated and that every child deserves to be loved.
The life that Hugh and Dorothy created for Hillary and her two brothers was a classic 1950s middle-class suburban childhood. Park Ridge in those days was the kind of place where everyone left their doors unlocked and the neighborhood kids all played on the block together. Hillary was a Brownie and then a Girl Scout. She started her political life as a Republican, like her father. She even volunteered as a Goldwater girl!
Faith was central to her family. Her mother taught Sunday school, and Hillary was a regular in her church youth group. She was deeply influenced by her youth minister who taught her about “faith in action.” There were trips to the inner city, babysitting for the children of migrant farm workers, and an extraordinary night when Hillary was fourteen and her youth group went to hear a speech by Martin Luther King Jr.
Hillary went to Wellesley College, where she was chosen by her classmates to be the first-ever student commencement speaker. She talked about the tumultuous times that her generation was living through and said, “The challenge now is to practice politics as the art of making what appears to be impossible, possible.”
Next came Yale Law School, where Hillary focused on questions about how the law affected children and began her decades of work as an advocate for children and families. As a law student, Hillary represented foster children and parents in family court and worked on some of the earliest studies creating legal standards for identifying and protecting abused children. Following graduation, she became a staff attorney for the Children’s Defense Fund.
After serving as only one of two women lawyers on the staff of the House Judiciary Committee considering the impeachment of Richard Nixon, Hillary chose not to pursue offers from major law firms. Instead she followed her heart and a man named Bill Clinton to Arkansas. They married in 1975 and their daughter Chelsea was born in 1980.
Hillary ran a legal aid clinic for the poor when she first got to Arkansas and handled cases of foster care and child abuse. Years later, she organized a group called Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families. When she was just 30, President Carter appointed her to the board of the United States Legal Services Corporation, a federal nonprofit program that funds legal assistance for the poor.
When Bill was elected Governor of Arkansas, Hillary continued to advocate for children, leading a task force to improve education in Arkansas through higher standards for schools and serving on the board of the Arkansas Children’s Hospital, helping them expand and improve their services. She also served on national boards for the Children's Defense Fund, the Child Care Action Campaign, and the Children's Television Workshop.
She also continued her legal career as a partner in a law firm. She led the American Bar Association’s Commission on Women in the Profession, which played a pioneering role in raising awareness of issues like sexual harassment and equal pay. Hillary was twice named one of the 100 most influential lawyers in America.
When her husband was elected President in 1992, Hillary’s work as a champion for women was recognized and admired around the world. She traveled the globe speaking out against the degradation and abuse of women and standing up for the powerful idea that women’s rights are human rights.
In the White House, Hillary led efforts to make adoption easier, to expand early learning and child care, to increase funding for breast cancer research, and to help veterans suffering from Gulf War syndrome who had too often been ignored in the past. She helped launch a national campaign to prevent teen pregnancy and helped create the Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997, which moved children from foster care to adoption more quickly. Thanks in part to her efforts, the number of children who have moved out of foster care into adoption has increased dramatically.
As everyone knows, Hillary’s fight for universal health coverage did not succeed. But her commitment to health care for every American has never wavered. She was instrumental in designing and championing the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, which has provided millions of children with health insurance. She battled the big drug companies to force them to test their drugs for children and to make sure all kids get the immunizations they need through the Vaccines for Children Program. Immunization rates dramatically improved after the program launched.
Hillary’s 1995 book It Takes A Village, about the responsibility we all have to help children succeed, became an international best seller. Hillary has donated the proceeds -- more than a million dollars -- to children’s causes across the country.
Hillary’s autobiography, Living History, was also a best seller. It has been translated into 12 languages and sold over 1.3 million copies.
In 2000, Hillary was elected to the United States Senate from New York. As Senator, Hillary has continued her advocacy for children and families and has been a national leader on homeland security and national security issues.
After the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Hillary worked with her colleagues to secure the funds New York needed to recover and rebuild. She fought to provide compensation to the families of the victims, grants for hard-hit small businesses, and health care for front line workers at Ground Zero. And she continues to work for resources that enable New York to grow, to improve homeland security for New York and other communities, and to protect all Americans from future attacks.
She is the first New Yorker ever to serve on the Senate Armed Services Committee, working to see that America’s military has the necessary resources to protect our national security. She has visited troops in Iraq and Afghanistan and at Fort Drum in New York, home of the 10th Mountain Division and other New York bases, as well as at Walter Reed Military Hospital. She has learned first-hand the challenges facing American combat forces. Hillary passed legislation to track the health status of our troops so that conditions like Gulf War Syndrome would no longer be misdiagnosed. She is an original sponsor of legislation that expanded health benefits to members of the National Guard and Reserves and has been a strong critic of the Bush Administration’s handling of Iraq.
But Hillary has recognized that we can’t ignore our problems at home while we face challenges overseas. She has introduced legislation to tie Congressional salary increases to an increase in the minimum wage, because she believes if America's working people don’t deserve a raise, neither does Congress. She has supported a variety of middle-class tax cuts, including marriage penalty relief, property tax relief, and reduction in the Alternative Minimum Tax, and supports fiscally responsible pay-as-you-go budget rules. She helped pass legislation that encouraged investment to create jobs in struggling communities through the Renewal Communities program. She has championed legislation to bring broadband Internet access, which is so important in today’s information economy, to rural America.
In the Senate, Hillary has not wavered in her work to expand quality affordable health care to more Americans. She worked to strengthen the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which increased coverage for children in low income and working families. She authored legislation that has been enacted to improve quality and lower the cost of prescription drugs and to protect our food supply from bioterrorism. She sponsored legislation to increase America’s commitment to fighting the global HIV/AIDS crisis, and is now leading the fight for expanded use of information technology in the health care system to decrease administrative costs, lower premiums, and reduce medical errors.
Her strong advocacy for children continues in the Senate. Some of Hillary’s proudest achievements have been her work to ensure the safety of prescription drugs for children, with legislation now included in the Best Pharmaceuticals for Children Act, and her legislation to help schools address environmental hazards. She has also proposed expanding access to child care. She has passed legislation that will bring more qualified teachers into classrooms and more outstanding principals to lead our schools.
Hillary has been a powerful advocate for women in the Senate. Her commitment to supporting the rights guaranteed in Roe v. Wade and to reducing the number of abortions by reducing the number of unwanted pregnancies was hailed by the New York Times as “frank talk...(and) a promising path.” Hillary is one of the original cosponsors of the Prevention First Act to increase access to family planning. Her fight with the Bush Administration ensured that Plan B, an emergency contraceptive, will be available to millions of American women and will reduce the need for abortions.
Hillary is strongly committed to making sure that every American has the right to vote in fair, accessible, and credible elections. She introduced the Count Every Vote Act of 2005 to ensure better protection of votes and to ensure that every vote is counted.
In 2006, Senator Clinton won reelection to the Senate with 67 percent of the vote, and in 2007 she began her historic campaign for President. In 2008, she campaigned for the election of Barack Obama and Joe Biden, and in November, she was nominated by President-elect Obama to be Secretary of State.
For Secretary Clinton's views on the Middle East, please click HERE.