Column: The persistent value of Hillary’s savvy image

  • Posted: Wednesday, August 14, 2013 5:26 p.m.
    UPDATED: Wednesday, August 14, 2013 6:05 p.m.

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

She’s everywhere these days.

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 hyperbolic, but hear me out. 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 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. The ripple effect is stronger families, stronger communities, and ultimately saner nations. This fact has not escaped the attention of corporate America, which is investing heavily to reach women in developing countries.

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

Rewinding 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 with just a few words: “Human rights are women’s rights and women’s rights are human rights, once and for all.”

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 that caused the earth to tremble: Women are human beings, too. At the time, it was a revolutionary statement and helps explain why Hillary is one of the most revered individuals 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. 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. Far newsier than yet another round of “peace talks,” necessary though they be, are the implications of the global explosion in women’s economic and, therefore, political power. Whether one likes or dislikes Hillary, few dispute that she has matured in her role. Her resume can be topped by few and the symbolic power of electing a woman president can’t be overestimated. Many doubtless shudder at the prospect of Hillary Clinton as the most powerful person in the world, but we’ve done worse. For what it’s worth, many in the Bush White House said privately they hoped Hillary would win because they felt she was the better prepared to handle international challenges.

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 for The Washington Post and lives part-time in South Carolina.

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