PISCATAWAY, NJ - Hillary Rodham Clinton said she believes the United States is moving toward a breakthrough in which women and underrepresented groups will become more active in politics for the benefit of their communities, but only if they summon the courage to run for office and go to the polls during an appearance at Rutgers University Thursday for which she was paid $25,000.
“I’m so encouraged and actually optimistic about the number of women, particularly young women, who are running for office or who are active in politics even if they themselves are not the candidates,” the former Secretary of State and presidential candidate told an audience of 5,100 at the Rutgers Athletic Center. “I believe we are on the brink of crossing over.”
Clinton made the remarks during a public dialogue with Ruth B. Mandel, director of Rutgers University-New Brunswick’s Eagleton Institute of Politics and co-founder of Eagleton’s Center for American Women and Politics.
Clinton spoke as Eagleton’s 2017-2018 Clifford P. Case Professor of Public Affairs, a lectureship previously awarded to former President Gerald Ford, former Vice President Walter Mondale and former Gov. Thomas H. Kean, among others. Clinton lauded Eagleton and CAWP for their non-partisan roles in promoting research and data about politics, for encouraging political engagement and for CAWP’s role in preparing women to run for office.
Mandel described Clinton as “the most important political woman of our time” – the first First Lady to run for president, first woman nominated by a major party to run for president and first woman to win the popular vote. She also cited her service in the U.S. Senate (“the most powerful men’s club in the world”) and as the Secretary of State
Clinton pointed to challenges that often prevent women’s involvement in politics, starting with convincing women to get involved in the first place. “Going in with eyes wide open that you will be criticized, face all kinds of attacks online and offline, but it is worth it to go out there and advocate for what you believe,” she said.
Women candidates also face backlash “because when you make enough progress, change enough laws, challenge enough norms, there will always be discomfort. People will want to pull that progress back. You have to understand that is part of the process of breaking through.”
Finally, she said, there is the discouragement. “If you are new to politics, it takes so long and there are so many setbacks,” she said. “If you go into politics believing so strongly in what you want to change -- whether it’s advocacy for climate change or on behalf of those brave young students in Parkland for common sense gun legislation -- you find out that there are a lot of people who don’t want that to happen and they are as determined, if not more, than you are.”
Clinton noted that concerned people can make a difference in politics and government without becoming candidates or holding elected office. As an example – and one grounded on the strength of a Rutgers education – she pointed to Lona Valmoro, a Rutgers alumna who has served as Clinton’s scheduler and close adviser since her days in the U.S. Senate.
Valmoro introduced Clinton as a tireless advocate for children, families and women. She also described her career – as the aide who “has prepared (Clinton’s) daily schedule for the last 5,475 days, give or take” -- as the type she dreamed about when she discovered her love of politics as an undergraduate.
“The education I received here, the confidence and sense of purpose I found at Rutgers, have taken me farther than my wildest dream,” Valmoro said.