October 26, 1947
New York City
- Known For:
Former Secretary of State
About Hillary Clinton
Hillary Diane Rodham Clinton was born October 26, 1947, in Chicago, Illinois. She was the oldest of three children born to Hugh and Dorothy Rodham. Hugh Rodham ran a textile supply business, and Dorothy Rodham was a homemaker. In 1950, Clinton’s younger brother Hugh was born, and soon after, the family moved to Park Ridge, a Chicago suburb. Four years later, Tony, the third Rodham child, was born.
Clinton’s family was active in the United Methodist church, though her parents were split in their political beliefs. Her father was a member of the Republican Party, while her mother was a Democrat. “I grew up between the push and tug of my parents’ values, and my own political beliefs reflect both,” she wrote in her memoir, Living History.
During childhood, Clinton played softball, swam, and participated in Girl Scouts. She also spent time helping her father in his textile business. She got involved in politics from a young age, helping canvas in Chicago’s South Side during the 1960 presidential election when she was thirteen years old. Four years later, she volunteered for Barry Goldwater’s 1964 presidential campaign.
Clinton attended Maine East High School from 1961 to 1964, where she wrote for the school newspaper and was junior class vice president. For her senior year, she transferred to Maine South High School, graduating in 1965 in the top five percent of her class.
Clinton has been married to her husband, Bill Clinton, since October 11, 1975. They first met in 1971 while attending Yale University. They now have one daughter, Chelsea, born in 1980, and three grandchildren.
Hillary Clinton’s Education
In 1965, Hillary enrolled at Wellesley College in Massachusetts, where she majored in political science. During her freshman year of college, Clinton became the president of the Young Republicans on campus.
Clinton graduated from Wellesley in 1969, after writing a senior thesis on community organizer and political theorist Saul Alinsky. She spoke at her commencement ceremony, becoming the first Wellesley student to give a commencement address.
After graduating from Wellesley, Clinton enrolled in Yale Law School, where she studied child development and volunteered to do legal work for child abuse cases. While in school, she worked as a staff attorney at the Children’s Defense Fund and as a consultant to the Carnegie Council on Children. In 1973, she graduated from Yale with her law degree.
After graduating from law school in 1973, Clinton worked as a member of the impeachment inquiry staff during the trial of President Richard Nixon. After failing the bar exam in Washington D.C., she moved to Arkansas, where Bill Clinton, who was her boyfriend at the time, was living. They were married soon after.
In Arkansas, Clinton initially lived in Fayetteville, and took a position as a faculty member at the University of Arkansas School of Law. In 1976, Clinton moved with her husband to Little Rock after he was elected Arkansas attorney general. In Little Rock, she joined the Rose Law Firm and worked there from 1977 to 1992. As a lawyer, she focused on intellectual property and patent infringement litigation. She was the first female partner at Rose Law.
In 1977, Clinton co-founded the Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families, a non-profit advocacy organization. After Bill Clinton was elected governor of Arkansas in 1979, he appointed his wife the chair of the Rural Health Advisory Committee.
During Bill Clinton’s second term as Arkansas governor, Hillary Clinton became involved in state education policy and was named chair of the Arkansas Education Standards Committee. Her public reputation continued to grow. In 1983 she was recognized as “Arkansas Woman of the Year” and “Arkansas Young Mother of the Year” in 1984.
Clinton continued to practice law during her time as First Lady of Arkansas. In 1988 and 1991, The National Law Journal named Clinton one of the “100 Most Influential Lawyers in America.” In addition to her political and law degrees, she also sat on the corporate board of directors at TCBY, Wal-Mart, and Lafarge.
First Lady of the United States
Hillary Clinton served as First Lady of the United States from 1993 to 2001 during Bill Clinton’s presidency. As First Lady, she was active in policymaking and advocacy work. One of her major initiatives was healthcare reform. In 1993, Bill Clinton put her in charge of the Task Force on National Health Care Reform. However, her proposed health care plan failed to gain approval from Congress. Clinton also advocated for women’s issues during her time as First Lady by helping to create the Department of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women.
Clinton was known for her active role in diplomacy, traveling to 79 countries as first lady, more than any previous First Lady.In 1995, she gave a famous speech in Beijing stating, “Human rights are women’s rights, and women’s rights are human rights.”
While Clinton was first lady, her husband was accused of having an affair with a 22-year-old white house intern, Monica Lewinsky. Initially, Hillary Clinton argued that these accusations were part of a right-wing conspiracy, but eventually, her husband admitted the affair had happened.
Clinton was reportedly angry about the affair and considered ending the marriage. However, later, she stated, “I reached the point where I decided that I was either going to have to forgive . . . and let go of the anger and the disappointment that I had felt, or we weren’t going to have a marriage. And both of us worked very, very hard to reach that point.”
In her 2016 book What Happened, Clinton explained why she stayed in her marriage, writing, “There were times that I was deeply unsure about whether our marriage could or should survive. But on those days, I asked myself the question that mattered most to me: Do I still love him? And can I still be in this marriage without becoming unrecognizable to myself, twisted by anger, resentment, or remoteness? The answers were always yes. So I kept going.”
While the public’s opinion of Clinton rose and fell throughout her time as First Lady, when her husband left office, her approval ratings were lower than that of any First Lady up to that point. Though some criticized Clinton’s response to the affair as enabling her husband’s mistakes, overall, her approval ratings reached their highest point amidst the scandal.
In 2000, while still First Lady of the United States, Clinton ran for the U.S. Senate seat from New York. She won the seat left open by Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s retirement. Her candidacy was a polarizing issue since she had never previously lived in New York. However, she won the election, defeating Republican Rick Lazio with 55% of the vote.
As a senator from 2001 to 2009, Clinton served on five Senate committees, including the Budget Committee, the Health, Education, and Pensions Committee, and the Public, Environment, and Public Works Committee.
Following the Iraq invasion of 2003, Clinton voted to authorize the use of force in Iraq as leverage for full inspections of Saddam Hussein’s suspected nuclear and chemical programs. She later regretted that vote as the war dragged on.
Clinton ran for re-election in 2006, defeating her Republican opponent by a 67%–31% margin. According to campaign finance records, during her campaign, she spent $29.5 million, more than any other candidate in the country. During Clinton’s second term, she opposed the troop surge in Iraq, supported comprehensive immigration reform, and backed raising the national minimum wage.
During her second term as senator, Clinton announced her campaign for U.S. President. Though she initially did well in polls, she lost the Democratic nomination to Barack Obama, who went on to win the general election. In June 2008, she ended her campaign and endorsed Obama.
U.S. Secretary of State
After Barack Obama won the presidential election, Clinton accepted a position on his cabinet as Secretary of State, resigning from her role as senator to do so. As Secretary of State, Clinton pushed for a larger international affairs budget and an expanded role in global economic affairs, especially in the Middle East.
During her tenure as Secretary of State, Clinton was heavily involved in the foreign policy crisis surrounding the Arab Spring. The U.S. supported uprisings against autocratic leaders in Egypt, Libya, and Yemen, but the aftermath was chaotic and unstable. When four Americans were killed, including the US ambassador, in a 2012 attack on the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya, Clinton was heavily criticized for her handling of the crisis. Critics claimed Clinton failed to prepare for the situation and protect the U.S. consulate.
During hearings related to the Benghazi attacks, Clinton gave over five hours of testimony regarding her role in the crisis. Though the consulate in Benghazi had requested additional security, she said she did not see those requests. She stated, “I feel responsible for the nearly 70,000 people who work for the State Department. But the specific security requests pertaining to Benghazi, you know, were handled by the security professionals in the department. I didn’t see those requests. They didn’t come to me. I didn’t approve them. I didn’t deny them.”
Clinton stepped down from her position as Secretary of State in 2013. Overall, her approval ratings hovered around 65% throughout her four years as part of the Obama administration’s cabinet.
2016 Presidential Nominee
In 2015, Clinton announced her second presidential campaign, running on a platform of improving the Affordable Care Act, making college more affordable, raising middle-class incomes, and establishing universal preschool.
She beat Senator Bernie Sanders to obtain the Democratic nomination. Despite performing well in early polls, Clinton lost the general election to Donald Trump with 227 electoral votes compared to Trump’s 304. Though she lost the election, she won the popular vote by 2.8 million votes, becoming the fifth presidential candidate to win the popular vote but lose the election.
Criticisms and Controversies
The following is a list of some of the most significant controversies Clinton has been involved in:
Sharing Classified Information via Email
As Secretary of State, Clinton used a private email server for official communications. Her handling of classified information and deletion of over 30,000 emails led to an FBI investigation. In 2019, the State Department completed its reviews of Clinton’s personal email server, finding that her actions increased the risk of information being compromised, but there was no evidence of “systemic, deliberate mishandling of classified information.” Though she did not face charges, her opponents criticized her for being careless.
Handling of the Benghazi Attack
Critics argue the State Department under Clinton failed to provide adequate security for the Benghazi consulate, despite requests from diplomats in Libya. An independent review found security lapses and systemic failures in the State Department’s management of the Benghazi consulate. However, Clinton denied receiving any requests for additional security and claimed security was handled by lower-level officials.
In addition to Clinton’s failure to provide additional security, critics accused Clinton of misleading the public regarding the details of the attacks, arguing that Clinton and the Obama administration aimed to present themselves in a more positive light.
Conflicts of Interest Regarding The Clinton Foundation Funds
The Clinton Foundation received millions of dollars in donations from foreign governments and corporations while Hillary Clinton served as Secretary of State, fueling accusations of conflicts of interest. The contributions were not publicly disclosed, despite an agreement Clinton had struck with the White House to publicly identify all donors before stepping in as Secretary of State.
Critics argue there were instances where donors to the Clinton Foundation may have received special treatment or favorable access to the State Department. They contend that donations to the foundation may have influenced Clinton’s decision-making or given donors undue influence over U.S. foreign policy. However, after several investigations, no direct evidence has been found to support these accusations.
Profit From the Cattle Futures Trade
In 1978 and 1979, Clinton invested $1,000 in the cattle futures market and managed to turn it into nearly $100,000 in a short period. A 1994 analysis in the Journal of Economics and Finance estimated the odds of a such a return were 1 in 31 trillion. This raised suspicions and led to allegations of insider trading and favoritism. However, a later White House investigation found no evidence of illegal activities.
Whitewater Development Controversy
The controversy surrounding the Whitewater venture emerged when it was alleged that the Clintons had received improper financial benefits and engaged in unethical or illegal activities related to a real estate venture called Whitewater Development Corporation. Critics accused the Clintons of using their political influence to secure loans and favorable treatment from banks, after the venture was unsuccessful.
This controversy arose during Bill Clinton’s presidency. When Hillary Clinton was subpoenaed to testify before a federal grand jury regarding the Whitewater venture, she became the first First Lady ever to be subpoenaed by a federal court. After three investigations found insufficient evidence of any wrongdoing involving the Clintons, they were not charged. However, several of their associates were convicted of fraud related to the Whitewater development.
Hillary Clinton Today
After losing the 2016 presidential election, Hillary Clinton largely retreated from the public spotlight. She spends much of her time supporting Onward Together, a political action organization she co-founded in 2017.
Throughout 2017 and 2018, Clinton made occasional public appearances giving speeches and interviews but largely remained outside direct political involvement. She has also gotten involved in academia, taking a position as chancellor at Queen’s University Belfast in Northern Ireland and joining Columbia University as a professor of International and Public Affairs.
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