Clinton Launches New Institute For Women Leaders At Wellesley

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Secretary of State Hillary Clinton poses with a gathering of delegates at the Women in Public Service Institute at Wellesley College Monday. (AP)
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton poses with a gathering of delegates at the Women in Public Service Institute at Wellesley College Monday. (AP)

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton paid a visit to her alma mater to launch the State Department's Women in Public Service Institute Monday.

At Wellesley College, Clinton, alongside former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, joined 50 female activists from across the globe for the institute's opening ceremonies.

Clinton says she pushed for the institute because it became clear to her that a lot of women around the world felt they were not well-equipped to take part in politics.

"They believed that they didn't have whatever the skills were, the education was, and they therefore were self-eliminating, saying, 'Well, I can't do that, so I won't try,' " Clinton told an audience of several hundred at Wellesley's Alumnae Hall.

The goal of the program is to make sure women make up 50 percent of the world's elected leaders by 2050. In that, the U.S. actually lags behind. Just over 17 percent of the world's elected offices are held by women, and a slightly lower percentage in the U.S.

Clinton spoke of the higher standard to which women leaders, including herself, have been held in U.S. And many of the delegates were interested in hearing about her career. One delegate asked how she first decided to run for office.

"There was a very powerful candidate on the Republican side, the then-mayor of New York, Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who was running for the Senate, and the Democrats in New York didn't think they could find anyone silly enough to run against him, but thought that if I ran, I could at least make a respectable showing," Clinton recalled.

"I was kind of their sacrificial lamb, I think, if you really thought about it hard, and I was determined that I was not going to do it. As first lady, I went to New York City for a totally unrelated event. It was an event about encouraging young women to participate in sports, and there was a big banner behind the podium where I was going to speak. And the banner said: 'Dare to compete.' So this young woman introduces me. She whispers in my ear: 'Dare to compete, Mrs. Clinton. Dare to compete.' That did it. I thought, here I've been someone telling young women all my life: 'Compete for what you believe in, whether it's your community or your country,' and my words were coming back to haunt me."

It was a question about Clinton's political future that drew the biggest applause. Many in the audience were Wellesley alumnae.

"If you get elected as the next president," began Bothaina Ahmed Attal before she was interrupted by cheers. "As a woman president, we've seen lots of wars in our region. Will we have less of that?"

"You can't make generalizations that simply having a woman in a high office means you'll have a different policy, but you can say that having many women involved in the governments of countries means that many issues important to women will be on the agenda," Clinton replied.

Clinton steered clear of saying whether she would run for president again. She did not say no, but she did say she hopes to live long enough to see a woman in the Oval Office.

This article was originally published on June 10, 2012.

This program aired on June 10, 2012.

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Fred Thys Reporter
Fred Thys reported on politics and higher education for WBUR.



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