... the game of idealism is always refereed by realism. "I prefer being considered a hybrid, perhaps an idealistic realist." -- Hard Choices by Hillary Clinton
Hillary Clinton ended Hard Choices with a subtle hint of her intent to run for office in 2016. While sharing the inspiring story of her late mother, Dorothy Howell Rodham, Hillary stated: "Mom measured her own life by how much she was able to help us and serve others. I knew if she was still with us, she would be urging us to do the same. Never rest on your laurels. Never quit. Never stop working to make the world a better place. That's our unfinished business."
Idealism: The Global Country of Social Media
Part of what Hillary sees as "our unfinished business" can be understood if we consider one of the overarching themes throughout the book: America's role in an increasingly interconnected global community. Hillary notes that the "global middle class is expected to double in size by 2035, to as many as 5 billion". She states that "the global middle class is a natural constituency for America" because when "wages and incomes rise elsewhere, there'll be more people able to buy our goods and services and less incentive for companies to outsource our jobs."
Twitter, Facebook, Google, iPhones, apps... digital technology is the fabric weaving our global community together, and social media is our collective interoperable-consciousness. Hillary cites research discussing the value of harnessing new technologies in the developing world, stating that "a 10 percent increase in the penetration rate for mobile phones in a developing country can lead to an increase in GDP per capita of between .6 and 1.2 percent. That translates to billions of dollars and countless jobs" (pp. 546-547).
Living in a digitized global community requires that those whose actions have broad consequentiality proceed judiciously. The death of Mohamed Bouazizi was the precursor to the Arab Spring, a set of uprisings in the Middle East where citizens organized using social media to fight for political reforms. The uprisings in Libya led to direct U.S. involvement to avert a potential genocide as Dictator Muammar Qaddafi was on the doorstep of Benghazi. The conflict ended in 2011 with Qaddafi's death. Hillary remarked that she was "proud to stand here on the soil of a free Libya" (p. 379).
Fast-forward to 2012 and again protests sprouted across the Middle East, but this time in response to an Islamophobic video posted by a Florida pastor. Though we had prevented a tragedy in Benghazi before, we sadly were unable to on 9/11/2012. Although those who perpetuate tired Benghazi conspiracies will never accept this, the "internet video played a role" in what happened. To say it had no influence (or that it was the only influence) is to "defy not only the evidence but logic as well" (pp. 402-403).
Social media has also been utilized in efforts to seek public assistance or support the common good. For instance, DigitalGlobe essentially sought crowd-sourced searching for MH370. In addition, the targeting and shooting of girls at UC-Santa Barbara in May 2014 by a misogynistic male led to the historic #YesAllWomen campaign on Twitter. Finally, #LoveFromTexas has spearheaded volunteer and donation events for thousands of unaccompanied kids from Central America; many of whom are eligible for the Special Immigrant Juvenile Visa.
Overall, new technologies and social media offers new & promising opportunities to billions around the world. Hillary cites an article by Dr. Anne-Marie Slaughter (America's Edge: Power in the Networked Century) while discussing the benefits of championing a virtual public square. She states that "...diverse and cosmopolitan societies would have significant advantages over homogeneous and closed societies. They'd be better positioned to take advantage of expanding commercial, cultural, and technological networks and capitalize on the opportunities presented by global interdependence" (p. 550).
There are, however, "200 million fewer women than men online in the developing world" (p. 585). Thus, the ideal of greater international interdependence must be met with the reality that women lack individual independence across the world.
The reason some may view Hard Choices as nothing more than a memoir lacking 'breaking news soundbites' of presidential policies is because "work on behalf of women [is] often seen as a parenthetical exercise" (p. 569). Women are the greatest untapped resource on Earth, as "opportunities for women and girls across the globe directly supports everyone's security and prosperity" (p. 569). For instance, In the United States, having more women in the labor force has contributed to "more than $3.5 trillion in GDP growth over four decades" (p. 570).
Despite the opportunities to be gleaned by advancing the rights of women, they "still comprise the majority of the world's unhealthy, unfed, and unpaid" (p. 563). Societies that devalue women tend to be "the parts of the world most plagued by instability, conflict, extremism, and poverty" (p. 562). Hillary remarked that "it's not too surprising that more than half of all peace agreements fail within five years" given that women are excluded from the negotiating table about 90% of the time (p. 572). Consider the following examples as country-sized case studies on the benefits of "full and equal participation" (p. 584).
In Yemen, Nujood Ali annulled her marriage at the age of 10. To the east, in Oman, a country that excluded girls from their primary schools in 1970 was now watching "more women than men graduate from the country's universities" (p. 337). What's the difference in the two countries? Yemen has been considered the worst place in the world to live for women, whereas Oman "empowers women and girls," places "people at the center of its development strategy," and in 2010 was ranked "as the world's most improved country in human development since 1970."
As "Latin America and the Caribbean steadily increased women's participation in the labor market... extreme poverty in the region decreased by 30 percent" (p. 571). Guyana (a country close to my heart) and many other Latin American countries have been models "for emerging democracies" by "showcasing the power of women leaders" (p. 256). President Dilma Rousseff symbolizes Brazil's rise as a global power since the 1990s. By providing incentives that "empowered women," Brazil watched as the percent of its population "below the poverty line fell from 22 percent in 2003 to just 7 percent in 2009" (p. 255). President Michelle Bachelet of Chile has "worked to unite the country," curb "human rights abuses," and (between her non-consecutive terms as President) worked with Hillary as the Executive Director of UN Women (p. 261). The stewardship of these great leaders will help Hillary achieve her "goal of seeing every community in the region gain access to electricity by the year 2022" (p. 256). (read about Connect 2022 here)
Aung San Suu Kyi and the people of Burma can attest to Hillary's diplomatic prowess and the constructive role women play in developing and leading democratic reforms. After negotiating for Democratic reforms & the release of political prisoners, Suu Kyi was released from house arrest in November 2010, and won a seat in Parliament in April 2012. When Hillary visited Rangoon later that year, she noticed new construction, increased foreign investment, & fewer government "restrictions on the internet." In fact, the number of smartphone users is expected to grow from a nadir "in 2011 to 6 million by 2017" (p. 124).
Without question, improving the rights of women helps "resolve conflicts and stabilize societies" and, in an increasingly interconnected global community, it's quite possibly our greatest unfinished business (p. 562). It's a key issue for our national security & economic growth, and if we truly envision the 21st century being another American century, then we, as the indispensable nation, must ensure that half of the world's population is not treated as dispensable.
International Compromise For An International Policy
If we consider that harnessing new technologies and advancing women's rights are global issues, then Hillary Clinton's tenure as Secretary of State may have sculpted her into the perfect President for this moment. Hard Choices is replete with examples of Hillary's negotiations and agreements with world leaders; the very people she would need to forge agreements with to be a successful President. As she said in an interview with Jon Stewart, America has a great story to tell, and she will have to advance America's digital ideals to the international community and assert women's right to the same opportunities for the world to fully quench its potential.
Ideally, the world community would embrace this vision of a global, diverse middle class, where "equality of opportunity" (not equality of outcome) prevails for both men and women (p. 526). Of course, Hillary is not agnostic to the fact that the game of idealism is always refereed by realism. She states that "...there are times when we do have to make difficult compromises. Our challenge is to be clear-eyed about the world as it is while never losing sight of the world as we want it to become. That's why I don't mind that I've been called both an idealist and a realist over the years. I prefer being considered a hybrid, perhaps an idealistic realist." (p. 566)