Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage from

Hillary: Secretary of empowerment

By Donna Brazile, CNN Contributor
February 8, 2013 -- Updated 0029 GMT (0829 HKT)
Girls hug U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during a 2010 tour of a shelter run for sex trafficking victims in Cambodia.
Girls hug U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during a 2010 tour of a shelter run for sex trafficking victims in Cambodia.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Donna Brazile: Clinton stepping down as Secretary of State. Maybe she'll run for president
  • She says as secretary she expanded foreign policy to include effect on regular people
  • She says she was first secretary of state to focus on empowering women and girls
  • Brazile: Clinton has fought for education and inclusion in politics for women and girls

Editor's note: Donna Brazile, a CNN contributor and a Democratic strategist, is vice chairwoman for voter registration and participation at the Democratic National Committee. She is a nationally syndicated columnist, an adjunct professor at Georgetown University and author of "Cooking with Grease." She was manager for the Gore-Lieberman presidential campaign in 2000.

(CNN) -- As Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton steps down from her job Friday, many are assuming she will run for president. And she may. In fact, five of the first eight presidents first served their predecessors as secretary of state.

It hasn't happened in more than a century, though that may change should Clinton decide to run. After all, she has been a game changer her entire life.

But before we look ahead, I think we should appreciate what she's done as secretary of state; it's a high profile, high pressure job. You have to deal with the routine as if it is critical and with crisis as if it's routine. You have to manage egos, protocols, customs and Congress. You have to be rhetorical and blunt, diplomatic and direct.

CNN Contributor Donna Brazile
CNN Contributor Donna Brazile

As secretary of state you are dealing with heads of state and with we the people. And the president of the United States has to trust you -- implicitly.

On the road with Hillary Clinton

Of all Clinton's accomplishments -- and I will mention just a few -- this may be the most underappreciated. During the election, pundits were puzzled and amazed not only at how much energy former President Bill Clinton poured into Obama's campaign, but even more at how genuine and close the friendship was.

Obama was given a lot of well-deserved credit for reaching out to the Clintons by appointing then-Sen. Hillary Clinton as his secretary of state in the first place. But trust is a two-way street and has to be earned. We should not underestimate or forget how much Clinton did and how hard she worked. She deserved that trust, as she deserved to be in the war room when Osama bin Laden was killed.

By the way, is there any other leader in the last 50 years whom we routinely refer to by a first name, and do so more out of respect than familiarity? The last person I can think of was Ike -- the elder family member who we revere with affection. Hillary is Hillary.

It's not surprising that we feel we know her. She has been part of our public life for more than 20 years. She's been a model of dignity, diplomacy, empathy and toughness. She also has done something no other secretary of state has done -- including the two women who preceded her in the Cabinet post.

Rothkopf: President Hillary Clinton? If she wants it

Become a fan of CNNOpinion
Stay up to date on the latest opinion, analysis and conversations through social media. Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion and follow us @CNNOpinion on Twitter. We welcome your ideas and comments.



Hillary has transformed our understanding -- no, our definition -- of foreign affairs. Diplomacy is no longer just the skill of managing relations with other countries. The big issues -- war and peace, terror, economic stability, etc. -- remain, and she has handled them with firmness and authority, with poise and confidence, and with good will, when appropriate.

But it is not the praise of diplomats or dictators that will be her legacy. She dealt with plenipotentiaries, but her focus was on people. Foreign affairs isn't just about treaties, she taught us, it's about the suffering and aspirations of those affected by the treaties, made or unmade.

Clinton: Time to step off the high wire
Clinton makes surprise Libya visit

Most of all, diplomacy should refocus attention on the powerless.

Of course, Hillary wasn't the first secretary of state to advocate for human rights or use the post to raise awareness of abuses or negotiate humanitarian relief or pressure oppressors. But she was the first to focus on empowerment, particularly of women and girls.

She created the first Office of Global Women's Issues. That office fought to highlight the plight of women around the world. Rape of women has been a weapon of war for centuries. Though civilized countries condemn it, the fight against it has in a sense only really begun.

Ghitis: Hillary Clinton's global legacy on gay rights

The office has worked to hold governments accountable for the systematic oppression of girls and women and fought for their education in emerging countries. As Hillary said when the office was established: "When the Security Council passed Resolution 1325, we tried to make a very clear statement, that women are still largely shut out of the negotiations that seek to end conflicts, even though women and children are the primary victims of 21st century conflict."

Hillary also included the United States in the Trafficking in Person report. Human Trafficking, a form of modern, mainly sexual, slavery, victimizes mostly women and girls. The annual report reviews the state of global efforts to eliminate the practice. "We believe it is important to keep the spotlight on ourselves," she said. "Human trafficking is not someone else's problem. Involuntary servitude is not something we can ignore or hope doesn't exist in our own communities."

She also created the office of Global Partnerships. And there is much more.

She has held her own in palaces and held the hands of hungry children in mud-hut villages, pursuing an agenda that empowers women, children, the poor and helpless.

We shouldn't have been surprised. Her book "It Takes a Village" focused on the impact that those outside the family have, for better or worse, on a child's well-being.

As secretary of state, she did all she could to make sure our impact as a nation would be for the better.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Donna Brazile.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1349 GMT (2149 HKT)
Patrick Cronin and Kelley Sayler say the world is seeing nonstate groups such as Ukraine's rebels wielding more power to do harm than ever before
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 2205 GMT (0605 HKT)
Ukraine ambassador Olexander Motsyk places blame for the MH17 tragedy squarely at the door of Russia
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1142 GMT (1942 HKT)
Mark Kramer says Russia and its proxies have a history of shooting down civilian aircraft, often with few repercussions
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1853 GMT (0253 HKT)
Les Abend says, with rockets flying over Tel Aviv and missiles shooting down MH17 over Ukraine, a commercial pilot's pre-flight checklist just got much more complicated
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1317 GMT (2117 HKT)
Mark Kramer says Russia and its proxies have a history of shooting down civilian aircraft, often with few repercussions
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1637 GMT (0037 HKT)
Gerard Jacobs says grieving families and nations need the comfort of traditional rituals to honor the remains of loved ones, particularly in a mass disaster
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1413 GMT (2213 HKT)
The idea is difficult to stomach, but John Sutter writes that eating dog is morally equivalent to eating pig, another intelligent animal. If Americans oppose it, they should question their own eating habits as well.
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 1630 GMT (0030 HKT)
Bill van Esveld says under the laws of war, civilians who do not join in the fight are always to be protected. An International Criminal Court could rule on whether Israeli airstrikes and Hamas rocketing are war crimes.
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 1205 GMT (2005 HKT)
LZ Granderson says Ronald Reagan went horseback riding and took a vacation after the Korean Air Crash of 1983. So why does the GOP keep airbrushing history to bash Obama?
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 1338 GMT (2138 HKT)
Aaron Miller says Kerry needs the cooperation of Hamas, Israel, Egypt and others if he is to succeed in his peacemaking efforts
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 1251 GMT (2051 HKT)
Errol Louis says the tragic death of Eric Garner at the hands of the NYPD has its roots in the "broken windows" police strategy from the crime-ridden '80s.
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 1408 GMT (2208 HKT)
Gordon Brown says the kidnapped Nigerian girls have been in captivity for 100 days, but the world has not forgotten them.
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 1127 GMT (1927 HKT)
Ruben Navarrette says Texas Gov. Rick Perry is right to immediately send 1,000 National Guard troops to the U.S.-Mexico border in response to the border children crisis.
July 22, 2014 -- Updated 1356 GMT (2156 HKT)
Ukraine's president says the downing of MH17 was a terrorist act, but Richard Barrett says it would be considered terrorism only if it was intentional
July 22, 2014 -- Updated 2015 GMT (0415 HKT)
Robert McIntyre says the loophole that lets firms avoid taxes should be closed
July 22, 2014 -- Updated 1535 GMT (2335 HKT)
Jeronimo Saldana and Malik Burnett say Gov. Perry's plan to send National Guard to the border won't solve the escalating immigration problem.
July 22, 2014 -- Updated 1742 GMT (0142 HKT)
Sally Kohn: The world's fish and waters are polluted and under threat. Be very careful what fish you eat
July 22, 2014 -- Updated 1242 GMT (2042 HKT)
Les Abend says threat information that pilots respond to is only as good as the intelligence from air traffic controllers. And none of it is a match for a radar-guided missile
July 21, 2014 -- Updated 1235 GMT (2035 HKT)
Frida Ghitis: Anger over MH17 is growing against pro-Russia separatists. It's time for the Dutch government to lead, she writes
July 21, 2014 -- Updated 1227 GMT (2027 HKT)
Julian Zelizer says President Obama called inequality the "defining challenge" of our time but hasn't followed through.
July 21, 2014 -- Updated 1157 GMT (1957 HKT)
Gene Seymour says the 'Rockford Files' actor worked the persona of the principled coward, charming audiences on big and small screen for generations
July 21, 2014 -- Updated 1417 GMT (2217 HKT)
Daniel Treisman says that when the Russian leader tied his fate to the Ukraine separatists, he set the stage for his current risky predicament
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 1642 GMT (0042 HKT)
Andrew Kuchins says urgent diplomacy -- not sanctions -- is needed to de-escalate the conflict in Ukraine that helped lead to the downing of an airliner there.
July 19, 2014 -- Updated 0150 GMT (0950 HKT)
Jim Hall and Peter Goelz say there should be an immediate and thorough investigation into what happened to MH17.
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 1507 GMT (2307 HKT)
Pilot Bill Palmer says main defense commercial jets have against missiles is to avoid flying over conflict areas.
July 20, 2014 -- Updated 1755 GMT (0155 HKT)
Valerie Jarrett says that working women should not be discriminated against because they are pregnant.
July 21, 2014 -- Updated 1953 GMT (0353 HKT)
David Wheeler says the next time you get a difficult customer representative, think about recording the call.
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 1933 GMT (0333 HKT)
Newt Gingrich says the more dangerous the world becomes the more Obama hides in a fantasy world.
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 1011 GMT (1811 HKT)
Michael Desch: It's hard to see why anyone, including Russia and its local allies, would have intentionally targeted the Malaysian Airlines flight
July 17, 2014 -- Updated 1914 GMT (0314 HKT)
LZ Granderson says we must remember our visceral horror at the news of children killed in an airstrike on a Gaza beach next time our politicians talk of war
July 17, 2014 -- Updated 1206 GMT (2006 HKT)
Sally Kohn says now the House GOP wants to sue Obama for not implementing a law fast enough, a law they voted down 50 times, all reason has left the room.
July 17, 2014 -- Updated 1214 GMT (2014 HKT)
A street sign for Wall Street
Sens. Elizabeth Warren, John McCain and others want to scale back the "too big to fail" banks that put us at risk of another financial collapse.
July 17, 2014 -- Updated 2016 GMT (0416 HKT)
Newt Gingrich writes an open letter to Robert McDonald, the nominee to head the Veterans Administration.
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 1601 GMT (0001 HKT)
Paul Begala says Dick Cheney has caused an inordinate amount of damage yet continues in a relentless effort to revise the history of his failures.
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 1404 GMT (2204 HKT)
Kids who takes cell phones to bed are not sleeping, says Mel Robbins. Make them park their phones with the parents at night.
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1625 GMT (0025 HKT)
Buzz Aldrin looked at planet Earth as he stood on talcum-like lunar dust 45 years ago. He thinks the next frontier should be Mars.
July 16, 2014 -- Updated 1804 GMT (0204 HKT)
Mark Zeller never thought my Afghan translator would save his life by killing two Taliban fighters who were about to kill him. The Taliban retaliated by placing him on the top of its kill list.
July 17, 2014 -- Updated 1518 GMT (2318 HKT)
Jeff Yang says an all-white cast of Asian characters in cartoonish costumes is racially offensive.
July 17, 2014 -- Updated 0124 GMT (0924 HKT)
Gary Ginsberg says the late John F. Kennedy Jr.'s reaction to an event in 1995 summed up his character
July 16, 2014 -- Updated 1641 GMT (0041 HKT)
Meg Urry says most falling space debris lands on the planet harmlessly and with no witnesses.
ADVERTISEMENT