4 Life Lessons From Hillary Clinton on International Women’s Day
“The truth is, life hands all of us setbacks,” Hillary Rodham Clinton said to a rumble of laughter and applause yesterday afternoon at the annual Girls Inc.luncheon in Manhattan. Dressed in a cherry red pantsuit—the color of the nonprofit advocacy group as well as International Women’s Day—the former presidential candidate delivered the line with a knowing smile, but she had a broader meaning in mind. For many young mentees in the organization, the path to success is pockmarked with family discord, discrimination, and flagging confidence; well-timed support can make all the difference, as demonstrated by the poised, college-bound speakers sharing the stage. “Everybody gets knocked down. What matters is that you get back up and keep going,” said Clinton, accepting the Champion for Girls Award.
At a time when self-care is hailed as the ticket to staying grounded and energised for whatever fights lay ahead—political, professional, or personal—it’s not exactly surprising that Clinton leads by example. The woman is endurance incarnate. Less expected was her recollection of gender bias on her high-school basketball court (“hard to believe,” she quipped of her phys-ed days). If the modern wellness movement loves a guru, Clinton might have earned herself a new role, with advice on emotional well-being and advocacy for equal opportunity in everything from exercise to education. “Think of the hard-hitting news on the glossy pages of Teen Vogue right across from makeup tips. Because you know what: Girls can and do care about both,” she said in celebration of beauty and brains. Here, four life lessons from Clinton’s speech.
Foster a Community of Support “I’ve had my ups and my downs. In the last months, I’ve done my share of sleeping, a little soul-searching and reflecting, long walks in the woods. And in those moments, I am thankful for my own village, my community of family and friends who have supported and encouraged me. I have also been buoyed by the love and support that I’ve received from the young women I have mentored over my lifetime. They inspire me every day.”
Practice Gratitude—And Grit “One of my favorite phrases that I came across in a hard time in my own life was to practice the discipline of gratitude. Now, it is easy to be grateful when things are going our way, but to exercise the mental discipline to be grateful in the face of setbacks, I have found, is one of the great experiences that give you that resilience and the opportunity to see your life, to see your community and the world much more broadly, and to keep going. [It’s] the inner strength, even the stubbornness to keep showing up every day, to refuse to quit or give up in the face of any setback. Sometimes the road to progress can feel like it’s two steps forward, one step back, particularly when it comes to advancing the rights, opportunities, and full participation of women and girls. It can seem discouraging, whether you’ve been on that road for a long time or you’re just starting out. But think how different the world would be today if the people who came before us had not just gotten discouraged but because of that had given up.”
In Life, Play the Full Court “When I was growing up, there were scholarships I couldn’t apply for, schools that I was not welcome at, just because I was a girl. Some of us here may even remember half-court basketball. [laughter] I see I’ve got some contemporaries. But for everyone else, let me tell you, I played basketball—hard to believe—in high school […] and we had to stop at half-court. You couldn’t cross the centre line. The prevailing wisdom was that running up and down a full court would be dangerous for girls’ hearts. Now, we have professional women’s teams and so much else. […] Thanks to Title IX, girls not only play on the full court, they have more opportunities than ever to excel in sports and in class, and we know the results: athletes and artists and scientists and entrepreneurs, leaders in every field. But our work is far from over in big ways and small, the unfinished business of the 21st century is the full equality of women. And there are still too few women in the upper reaches of the private sector, academia, science, technology, not to mention politics and government.”
Cultivate a Rock-Solid Sense of Self Worth “We all want our daughters and our granddaughters to dream big and be bold, but too often, starting at such a young age, they hear messages. They aren’t good enough, deserving enough, smart enough. I recently read about a research study, which found that by the age of 6, little girls start thinking they’re not as smart as little boys. Think about that: the age of 6. The chorus of naysayers starts early, and that means we must, too. We have to form our own chorus, twice as loud, convincing our friends, our colleagues, ourselves that women are both smart enough and good enough to be considered for anything they choose to pursue.”