Earlier today I had the pleasure of attending an event at the Cheltenham Literary Festival to hear Hillary Clinton speak about her new book ‘What Happened’. After a delayed start she was welcomed to the stage by her interviewer Mariella Frostropp and before they moved into conversation Secretary Clinton addressed the audience with 4 lessons she wanted to get across.
She spoke without notes, without a prompter and was warm (and funny) and spoke from the heart. Here are the lessons she wants us to hear:
1 Everyone gets knocked down – what matters is whether you get yourself back up.
She talked about how she had got back up and how as part of this she had set up Onward Together an organisation that is dedicated to advancing the vision that earned nearly 66 million votes in the last election. By encouraging people to organize, get involved, and run for office, Onward Together will advance progressive values and work to build a brighter future for generations to come.
2 The only way to get sexism out of politics is to get many more women into politics.
She talked about how research in the US has shown that for men professional success and likability go hand in hand, whereas for women its the exact opposite; women are seen favourably when they advocate for others but less favourably when they advocate for themselves. She said how this struck a chord with her as people liked her better when she was in a supporting role (first lady, senator, secretary of state).
She went on to say that Women politics do bring a perspective that’s different – HC’s fave meme is the table of white men deciding what health services women are entitled receive. She continued that being in the room counts and quoted Lin Manuel Miranda from Hamilton – by being in the room where it happens you’re making government not only more representative but also more effective.
She noted that this book is the result of years of frustration with some of the challenges that women face in politics, that happens in a lot of other fields too. She gave an example of how the US mens national soccer team didn’t qualify for the world cup and the headlines all said US out of World Cup, forgetting that women won the world cup. These champion women in the US national team are fighting for equal pay. She stressed the need to work together and how continuing to fight to close the gender pay gap is essential in both US and UK.
3 – The interference in the election is a showing of clear and present danger of Russia’s assault on democracy.
She talked about a study where Columbia University found content posted by Russian trolls and bots were shared over 300 million times. She noted that the Russians are still playing on anything and everything they can to damage US unity and that it’s a global struggle between tolerant democracy and intolerant society. She called this a new kind of Cold War and that it was just getting started – wars in 21st century increasingly fought in cyber space.
4 There is no such thing as an alternative fact.
When leaders deny things we can see with our own eyes (crowds) or refuse to accept settled science (climate change) not just frustrating for those of use that liked to lead a fact based life, but is insidious and subversive to democracy. We have to insist on truth and accuracy, implore the press to help us, must refuse to be silent in the face of sexism, racism or bigotry no matter where it is coming from.
She then had about 45 minutes of conversation and questions with Mariella, cleverly brining everything back to her book. You can watch the whole video here, but skip past the first 45 mins or so as that’s just a holding page.
At the end Mariella put a few questions that had been submitted by some of the students there, including one on her position on the NFL players kneeling. Anyone who knows me IRL or from the Twits will know my love of american football so this is a topic that has been of much debate within my household and friendship group. She perfectly captured my view on this – I’ve tried to capture it verbatim below but you can also hear it from Clinton herself on the Facebook live video (around the 1hour 52 mark), this is what she said:
I support the right of athletes or anyone to protest peacefully and what was lost in the twitter storm by President Trump and meant to be lost is that these athletes were not protesting our anthem or flag – they made that very clear, in fact kneeling is often seen as a sign of reverence they weren’t turing their backs or walking away but kneeling to draw greater attention to continuing challenges we have with racism and injustice in our criminal system. It was perfectly legitimate and no one should be offended by it unless the are choosing to be or their president is telling them to be as it is within the full ambit of peaceful right to protest.
I am so pleased I had the opportunity to hear Secretary Clinton speak, and whilst I didn’t agree wth everything she said her message about empowering young women, fighting for equal pay, educating young men and women on how to treat each other and standing up against those that are a threat to democracy rang true and sure. I’m going to start the book now (every ticket holder was given one) and hope to continue to do my part in the ongoing fight for equality.