Hillary Clinton BioNAME: Hillary Diane Rodham Clinton
RELATION: Wife of Bill Clinton
AGE AT CONVENTION: 48
Hillary Clinton was born on October 26, 1947 in Chicago, Illinois and moved to the middle-class suburb of Park Ridge when she was four. Her father, Hugh Rodham, ran a drapery making business and her mother, Dorothy Howell Rodham, ran the household. Hillary was the oldest of three children. She has two younger brothers, Hugh and Tony.
An excellent student, Hillary was a National Honor Society member and a National Merit Scholarship finalist. She played piano, won merit badges in the Girl Scouts and community service awards from the Daughters of the American Revolution.
During summers she worked as a life guard at a local pool and, as a teenager, became active in social causes. Her youth minister, Reverend Don Jones of the United Methodist Church, urged the group to work with inner city blacks and Hispanics in hopes of conquering racism. Hillary took his advice and organized a babysitting service for immigrants. Jones also encouraged Hillary to develop her intellectual interest and loaned her books on theology.
Despite signs of liberalism, Hillary and her parents were staunch Republicans -- she helped out on Barry Goldwater's 1964 presidential campaign. After graduating from Maine South High School in 1965 (she finished in the top 5% of her class and was voted Most Likely to Succeed) she enrolled at Wellesley College, an all female school outside Boston.
At Wellesley she became the head of the Young Republicans, but her politics began to shift to the left. The social unrest of the 1960s, specifically the assassinations of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. as well as violence against anti-war protesters at the 1968 Democratic convention in Chicago, combined with her early predilection for social activism eventually led her to the Democratic party. She worked for Democrat Eugene McCarthy's presidential campaign in 1968. (Bill Clinton supported Robert Kennedy's campaign.)
In 1969 Hillary graduated from Wellesley and, as student body president, gave her famous commencement address. She dismissed the speaker before her, Republican Senator Edward Brooke of Massachusetts, as irrelevant and gave a speech that described Wellesley's student experience in a personal way. She and her speech were featured in the next issue of Life magazine.
After a summer working for Marian Wright Edelman at a group that would become the Children's Defense Fund, Hillary enrolled at Yale Law school -- where she learned to combine social activism with a legal career. She met her future husband, Bill Clinton, during her second year of law school in 1971.
The story of Bill and Hillary's first meeting has been repeated many times: She approached Bill in the Yale Law Library and said, "Look, if you're going to keep staring at me and I'm going to keep staring back, I think we should at least know each other. Hi I'm Hillary Rodham. What's your name?" The two reportedly were inseparable after that meeting.
Bill and Hillary spent the summer of 1972 in San Antonio, Texas, where Bill ran George McGovern's campaign and she worked to register Hispanic voters. After graduation, in 1973, Bill Clinton moved back to Arkansas to teach law and Hillary moved to Washington to work first for Children's Defense Fund, then for the House Judiciary Committee's impeachment proceedings against President Richard Nixon.
Hillary Clinton impressed her supervisor and colleagues on the Judiciary Committee and was offered many lucrative jobs after the committee disbanded. But she chose to teach law at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, with Bill Clinton.
In 1974 Hillary managed Bill Clinton's first run for political office. He sought a U.S. House seat from Arkansas' 3rd Congressional district. He lost to the incumbent, but with the help of Hillary's organizational skills, he trailed his opponent by only 4 percentage points. Hillary made political contacts around the state and, nearly a year after the election, decided to stay in Arkansas.
In the summer of 1975, Bill proposed to Hillary in Fayetteville, Arkansas and the two were married on October 11, 1975. Hillary kept her maiden name and they made no honeymoon plans. However, Hillary's mother, Dorothy, found an Acapulco vacation special and bought tickets to Mexico for Bill, Hillary and the whole Rodham family. According to Roger Morris' controversial book on the Clintons, "Partners in Power," Bill Clinton argued he did not have time for a honeymoon because of his upcoming campaign for Arkansas Attorney General, Morris also writes Dorothy Rodham "pointedly" excluded Bill's mother, Virginia Kelley, and brother, Roger, from the trip.
Bill and Hillary moved to Little Rock after Clinton was elected Attorney General in 1976. Hillary continued to teach law at the Little Rock branch of the University of Arkansas. She also worked on Jimmy Carter's presidential campaign, on which Bill was the state director. Also in 1976 she founded Arkansas Advocates for Children, and became the first woman lawyer to join the Rose Law Firm.
In 1978 she worked on her husband's first (successful) campaign for governor and continued working as a lawyer and in various other public interest capacities.
In 1980, Hillary became a partner at the Rose Law Firm and had her first (and only) child, Chelsea. Many tradition-minded voters in Arkansas were shocked that she chose to keep her maiden name (it never made news until Hillary had Chelsea). Along with several other factors (including the Reagan tidal wave) Hillary's decision to keep her maiden name hurt her husband politically and Bill Clinton lost his reelection bid in 1980.
In 1982 Bill Clinton won back the governorship and Hillary took his last name. She also made a new image for herself. She switched glasses for contacts, lightened her hair and dressed better. From 1982 until 1992 she continued working as a lawyer, a social activist and sharpened her campaign skills -- helping Bill Clinton win four reelection campaigns. She also developed a national reputation as a rising star in the Democratic party. (Clinton's much touted reform of the Arkansas education system was mostly her doing.) Hillary also served on the boards of several corporations (including Wal-Mart and TCBY) and was listed as one of the most influential lawyers in the country by the National Law Journal.
It was also during this time that most of the events now known as Whitewater occurred. Whitewater is the name of a real estate development the Clinton's invested in. Whitewater would lead to a massive investigation by a government-appointed special counsel and two Congressional committees. So far, the investigation has lead to guilty verdicts of the Clinton's former business partners, Jim and Susan McDougal and former Arkansas Governor Jim Guy Tucker.
During the 1992 Presidential race, Hillary proved to be a great asset to the Clinton campaign. First, when Gennifer Flowers emerged weeks before the New Hampshire primary claiming to have had a 12 year affair with Bill Clinton, Hillary urged CBS 60 Minutes to interview her and Bill Clinton about the Flowers issue. Hillary performance was given rave reviews and was broadcast on Super Bowl Sunday -- some analysts say it brought Bill Clinton's foundering campaign back to life.
Hillary was an effective campaigner, focusing on important domestic policy issues such as health care. She also was extremely powerful behind the scenes. (She reportedly cleared the way for James Carville to take over the campaign.) But she did make some mistakes. When she defended herself against Jerry Brown's assertion that she profited from her husband's position as Governor, Hillary quipped, "Well I suppose I could have stayed home and baked cookies and had teas. But what I decided to do was pursue my profession, which I entered before my husband was in public life." Many homemakers and others thought it was an offensive, arrogant remark -- but others thought she was being unfairly attacked because she was a woman who had power. Later, on April 4, 1992, Hillary asked the press to quit looking into charges of infidelity in her marriage.
Hillary Clinton took a very prominent role during the first two years of the Clinton administration. However, events would soon make her a liability to the White House and she would be forced to take a lower public profile. Hillary Clinton broke with tradition by setting up her office in the West Wing of the White House -- instead of the more ceremonial East Wing. She was appointed to head the President's task force on national health care. The plan created by the task force (34 work groups and 500 employees working in secret until September 1993 -- months later than originally scheduled) was intended to overhaul the nation's health care industry, control costs and make sure everyone received some form of health insurance. The "secrecy" aspect of the plan's development angered many in Washington. And not a few thought it was wrong to give so much to power to a First Lady, since she was not elected, appointed, or accountable to the public.
Also, Hillary Clinton did not trust the career White House staff, seeing them as still loyal to the past three Republican administrations. This reportedly led to the firing of the White House travel office staff, which would cause political headaches for the Clintons.
Hillary's role in the Clinton Administration and her past dealings at the Rose law Firm became a lightning rod for conservative criticism. Conservative organs such as The American Spectator and The Washington Times published countless articles harshly critical of Hillary Clinton and began working full time investigating the Whitewater story, which was first reported by the New York Times in 1992. Rush Limbaugh kept up the harsh (but sometimes humorous) criticism on his radio and television shows and the Wall Street Journal's editorial page steadily questioned the ethics of both Hillary and Bill Clinton.
The mainstream press soon weighed in. An important cover article by Michael Kelly in the New York Times Magazine in May 1993 titled "Saint Hillary" portrayed her as someone "who would like to make the world better -- as she defines better." Also, the editorial board of the New York Times began to see the Whitewater affair as serious ethical issue.
On July 20, 1993, Vince Foster, Hillary's close friend from the Rose Law Firm and the Clinton's personal White House lawyer, committed suicide. His suicide letter cited his distress that the Wall Street Journal "lies without consequence."
Hillary Clinton remained active in health care reform until its eventual demise in September 1994. Fractured Democratic support, (about 100 members wanted a single-payer, Canadian style health insurance system) unified Republican opposition and an expensive lobbying effort by affected parts of the health care industry made it impossible for the reform plan even to make it out of congressional committees for a full floor debate.
After the devastating Congressional elections of 1994, Hillary took a much lower public profile in the Clinton Administration, although she maintained an influential role behind the scenes. Hillary was deeply involved in writing the President's budget in late 1994 and instrumental in bringing controversial consultant Dick Morris back into Clinton's inner circle.
By February 1995, Hillary Clinton began to work her way back into the spotlight -- this time with a less sweeping agenda. She focused on issues concerning women and children, without proposing new government programs. She did interviews with U.S. News & World Report and the Washington Post. In July 1995 Mrs. Clinton began writing a newspaper column. She also began to travel. In September 1995 she made a high profile appearance at the Beijing Women's conference. She also wrote and published a best selling book, "It Takes a Village."
But controversy and embarrassing news stories would not go away. Bob Woodward's book "The Choice" reported Hillary had consulted with Jean Houston, a controversial new age scholar who had conducted experiments with LSD and spiritual channeling in the past. In June 1996 the Senate Whitewater Committee issued a majority report harshly critical of Hillary Clinton. On January 26, 1996 Hillary Clinton became the first First Lady to testify before a federal grand jury. She answered questions about Whitewater-related documents which had been subpoenaed, reported missing and then mysteriously appeared in the White House residence.
Hillary Clinton is also the first First Lady to have her own professional career (independent of her husband) and is the first to have favorability ratings consistently lower than the President. However, she continues to receive strong support from liberals and from women.
Hillary Clinton said in July 1996 she is "eager" to campaign for her husband in the fall, even though it still is not clear if, politically, she helps Bill Clinton more than she hurts him. Aides say Mrs. Clinton will appear on non-political national talk shows and travel to events outside of Washington, where she usually received coverage from local media. She is also working to lock-up the women's vote. Hillary asked the Clinton/Gore campaign to meet in her conference room once a week with members of her staff to coordinate strategy to reach women voters.
Aside from politics and policy, Hillary Clinton's other current project is researching colleges for her daughter, Chelsea, who will be a high school senior next year.
Sources: Current Year Biography 1993, New York Times Magazine 5/23/93, U.S. News 2/5/96, Time 7/1/96 Facts on File, Bill Schneider 6/19/96 and 6/20/96 scripts, Washington Times 2/19/95, AP 7/6/96, 7/10/96, WSJ 7/8/96, "First In His Class" David Maraniss, "Partners in Power" Roger Morris, and widely reported articles.
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