Pros: fascinating, candid, engaging; 3 photo sections
Cons: war chapters skipped; very long; cover photo weird
When then-Senator Hillary Clinton lost the good fight for U.S. President in 2008 to her opponent then-Senator Barack Obama, she looked forward to returning to her responsibilities as a Senator from New York. It surprised her when the new President asked her to be his Secretary of State and she had to mull over what she would do, finally realizing that if the President needed her in his top cabinet, then that was where she needed to be to best serve her country. After stepping down last February, she has been busy writing her candid and substantial memoir of those four exhilarating years with Hard Choices as the rewarding result.
Some of you may question the idea that reading Clinton’s book is exhilarating or rewarding. A friend noticed my reading material and asked one question: does she talk about Monica Lewinsky? I steered her toward Clinton’s previous memoir Living History, which is also rewarding if not as gripping, and reflected on why some people wouldn’t find her life as a U.S. Secretary of State more interesting than a long-ago scandal that has no bearing on anybody’s life including Clinton’s. I can only guess that they assume that her new memoir is filled with the typical political posturing that most politicians offer as they look for more votes. While there is some of that here, she often shows her human side and I found that reading Hard Choices was mostly an easy choice from the very beginning.
One of my favorite examples of Clinton’s fresh air-approach is found at the end of her very intense chapter called Benghazi Under Attack. U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens, an American who had become well-loved and respected by Libyans as well as all who knew him, was killed in a midnight terrorist attack along with three other Americans helping the new democracy to flourish. Clinton shares the details of what must have happened, how she responded to make sure terrorists wouldn’t surprise them again, and the critical findings of the review board. The following passage bristles with energy:
Those who exploit this tragedy over and over again as a political tool minimize the sacrifice of those who served our country. I will not be a part of a political slugfest on the backs of dead Americans. It’s just plain wrong and it’s unworthy of our great country. Those who insist on politicizing the tragedy will have to do so without me.
Hard Choices rarely bored me, though it was tough going sometimes. I pretty much skipped the chapters on Iraq and Afghanistan because war bores me and it seemed like old news, but the other twenty-three chapters focusing on many of the 112 countries she visited were often fascinating stories of her diplomatic missions to promote democracy, free trade, human rights (especially women and girls and LGBT people), and support for global initiatives. Clinton believes in using smart power, which she explains in the second chapter as being more than a traditional Secretary of State and what one needs to use for the greater challenges of the 21st century. It makes sense to me.
She also believes that peace and greater prosperity follow a country that begins to offer women and girls more freedom to educate themselves, not be abused, and go into business. The evidence is overwhelming and yet dismissed by most men, but not by President Obama luckily. He has as much concern for the human rights of women and girls, the disabled, LGBT people, and the middle class. He asked her if she’d consider staying on for his second term and there were more things she would’ve loved to accomplish, but she was looking forward to a rest.
Will Hillary run for President in 2016? She claims to be more concerned with the 2014 elections and becoming a grandmother. I hope she does run and wins, not because she’s perfect, but because she learns from mistakes and has gained wisdom because of it. She’s helped to restore America’s relations with many countries and set us on the right path with her clear vision. If you’re at all interested in our future as a world leader, you will enjoy Hard Choices as much as I did.