Saturday, November 15, 2014

Hard Choices

Book 60 of my 2014 Reading Challenge

Hard Choices Hillary Rodham Clinton

Summary (excerpted from the book jacket)
Hillary Rodham Clinton's inside account of the crises, choices, and challenges she faced during her four years (2009-2013) as America's 67th Secretary of State, and how those experiences drive her view of the future.

My Opinion

For me, reading this book was like listening to Kevin talk about his job.  Yes I'm comparing my husband to Hillary Clinton, bear with me.  They are both obviously and incredibly well-informed, intelligent, and passionate about their career BUT... the stories are also incredibly detailed and a little long.  I tease Kevin all the time that it may be faster for me to just live his day than listen to him retell it!  So while this book was well-written and a political junkie will eat it up, the average reader should be prepared...600 pages for 4 years is going to have a LOT of names and details.  

Politicians are self-serving by nature, especially when their career may not be done yet (see below), but what I liked about this book is it wasn't all positive for herself and negative for others.  She's very interested in fairness and justice and references 'leveling the playing field' often.  She definitely takes people to task, especially when talking about her frustration with Congress during the debt ceiling deadline period, but she has high standards for herself as well as others and doesn't throw anyone under the bus.  To quote from the book, "In the years to come, I wouldn't always agree with the President and other members of his team; some of those times you'll read about in this book, but others will remain private to honor the cone of confidentiality that should exist between a President and his Secretary of State, especially while he is still in office".  I'm too cynical to accept that explanation as her entire reasoning but am okay with it since she was able to address the challenges of the job without being super blamey toward any particular person or party.  

Speaking of the challenges of her job, I was surprised at how makeshift some of their technology precautions are.  When she was in less well-equipped settings, such as some foreign countries, she would have to leave devices on the plane with the batteries removed, or read sensitive materials in an opaque tent (or even under a blanket if a tent wasn't available) in her hotel room for security.  And the story about her and Obama finding out about a secret meeting on climate change that they weren't invited to and running down the hall to surprise the other countries' representatives by barging in and sitting down was funny and surprisingly human.  World leaders...they're just like us! 

The book had a great cover photo and all the photos included in the book were a nice addition.

As for the million dollar question, what her plans for 2016 are?  At the very end of the book she lists some pros and cons followed by this quote, the last line of the book..."But for this day, at least, I just wanted to stretch my legs and enjoy the spring. Everywhere around me there was new life. There have been too few quiet moments like this over the years. And I want to savor them. The time for another hard choice will come soon enough".

A Few Quotes from the Book
"As a girl in Illinois, I played my share of softball, and one of the lessons that stuck with me was that if you try to hit only home runs, you'll end up popping out more often than not. But if you also go for singles and doubles, even walks, they can add up to something even bigger." 

"In difficult economic times, there is an inherent tension between our desire to lift other people around the world out of poverty and into the middle class and our need to protect our own hard-pressed middle class...I believe our own prosperity depends on having partners to trade with and that our fortunes are inextricably linked to those of the rest of the world. And I am convinced that, as long as the competition is fair, the more people around the world who leave poverty and join the middle class, the better it will be for America."

"When I lost my father in 1993, it felt too soon, and I was consumed with sadness for all the things he would not live to see and do. This [her mom's passing in 2011] was different. Mom lived a long and full life. This time I wept not for what she would miss but for how much I would miss her."

"In the international development business, it's easy to get frustrated and fatalistic. But step back and look at the sweep of history, and you realize just how remarkable our country's contributions have been. Just in my lifetime the United States has helped eradicate smallpox and reduce polio and malaria. We helped save millions of lives through immunizations, life-saving treatments for AIDS, and oral rehydration therapy that greatly reduced the deaths of infants and children. We helped educate millions of young people and provided significant support to once impoverished countries that have flourished and become generous donors themselves, such as South Korea. American should take pride in these achievements, which have not only helped humanity but have also helped our nation project our values and strengthen our leadership in the world."