In a spirited talk at Rutgers University-New Brunswick on Thursday, March 29, 2017, Hillary Rodham Clinton said she believes the United States is moving toward a breakthrough in which women and underrepresented groups will become more active in politics for the benefit of their communities. This will happen, however, only if they summon the courage to run for office and go to the polls.
“I’m so encouraged and actually optimistic about the number of women, particularly young women, who are running for office or who are active in politics even if they themselves are not the candidates,” the former Secretary of State and presidential candidate told an audience of 5,100 at the Rutgers Athletic Center in Piscataway. “I believe we are on the brink of crossing over.”
Secretary Clinton made the remarks during a public dialogue with Ruth B. Mandel, director of Rutgers University-New Brunswick’s Eagleton Institute of Politics and co-founder of Eagleton’s Center for American Women and Politics.
Ms. Clinton spoke as Eagleton’s 2017-2018 Clifford P. Case Professor of Public Affairs, a lectureship previously awarded to former President Gerald Ford, former Vice President Walter Mondale, and former Gov. Thomas H. Kean, among others. Clinton lauded Eagleton and CAWP for their nonpartisan roles in promoting research and data about politics, for encouraging political engagement and for CAWP’s role in preparing women to run for office.
Director Mandel described Clinton as “the most important political woman of our time” – the first First Lady to run for president, first woman nominated by a major party to run for president and first woman to win the popular vote. She also cited her service in the U.S. Senate (“the most powerful men’s club in the world”) and as the Secretary of State.
Ms. Clinton pointed to challenges that often prevent women’s involvement in politics, starting with convincing women to get involved in the first place. “Going in with eyes wide open that you will be criticized, face all kinds of attacks online and offline, but it is worth it to go out there and advocate for what you believe,” she said.
Women candidates also face backlash “because when you make enough progress, change enough laws, challenge enough norms, there will always be discomfort. People will want to pull that progress back. You have to understand that is part of the process of breaking through.”
Finally, she said, there is the discouragement. “If you are new to politics, it takes so long and there are so many setbacks,” she said. “If you go into politics believing so strongly in what you want to change — whether it’s advocacy for climate change or on behalf of those brave young students in Parkland for commonsense gun legislation — you find out that there are a lot of people who don’t want that to happen and they are as determined, if not more, than you are.”
Ms. Clinton noted that concerned people can make a difference in politics and government without becoming candidates or holding elected office. As an example – and one grounded on the strength of a Rutgers education – she pointed to Lona Valmoro, a Rutgers alumna, who has served as Hillary Clinton’s scheduler and close adviser since her days in the U.S. Senate.
Ms. Valmoro introduced Clinton as a tireless advocate for children, families and women. She also described her career – as the aide who “has prepared (Clinton’s) daily schedule for the last 5,475 days, give or take” — as the type she dreamed about when she discovered her love of politics as an undergraduate.
“The education I received here, the confidence and sense of purpose I found at Rutgers, have taken me farther than my wildest dream,” Ms. Valmoro said
The Clifford P. Case Professorship of Public Affairs was established in honor of U.S. Senator Clifford P. Case’s 34 years representing New Jersey in Congress. In 1980, the Rutgers Board of Governors voted to establish a program in his name, bringing to campus prominent, respected public servants.
The Eagleton Institute of Politics presents an annual series of public programs designed to promote civil discourse that celebrates democracy, respects politics and encourages civic engagement. The Institute explores state and national politics through research, education and public service, linking the study of politics with its day-to-day practice. Eagleton focuses attention on how contemporary political systems work, how they change and how they might work better.
www.Rutgers.edu Rutgers University, New Brunswick is where Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, began more than 250 years ago. Ranked among the world’s top 60 universities, Rutgers’s flagship is a leading public research institution and a member of the prestigious Association of American Universities. It has an internationally acclaimed faculty, 12 degree-granting schools and the Big Ten Conference’s most diverse student body.