After two decades in the political spotlight, Hillary Clinton finally seems to have had enough.
The Secretary of State, talking to her employees Thursday, said her public life had probably exhausted her. "I think after 20 years-and it will be 20 years-of being on the high wire of American politics and all of the challenges that come with that," she said, "it would be probably a good idea to just find out how tired I am."
It was a typically low-key statement from Clinton, who has served as the Governor and the President's good wife, a U.S. Senator from New York, and now, a Secretary of State in President Obama's administration. Despite the constant pressure of publicity, much of it negative in earlier years, she has remained dignified, hard-working and ready to let others, like Obama, be the center of attention.
In short, Hillary Rodham Clinton, 64, is the ultimate Boomer Good Girl.
Being a good girl has often gotten a bad rap. Books have been written about why it's not productive to be one. According to their authors, being a good girl - i.e. tactful and compliant, working harder instead of smarter - doesn't get you anywhere. That might be true for younger women today, but Hillary was born into a world that unabashedly discriminated against women in almost every way, from patronizing advertisements to paying men more for the same work women were doing "because they have families,"
In a world like that, Clinton had to work twice as hard to be perceived as equal. And she's done that from the very beginning. As a child she was a Brownie and a Girl Scout and played several sports., she was a member of the Honor Society and a National Merit finalist.
Life changed for Clinton, as it did for so many Boomer women, in the 1960s and 1970s. As a student at Wellesley College, she switched from the Republican to the Democratic Party because of her views on the Vietnam War. More important to her personally, though, was the women's movement of the 1970s, when the idea of female equality seemed a possibility at last.
To prove their equality, Hillary and other Boomer women worked relentlessly , establishing their own identity. That superwoman work ethic has remained with her throughout her entire career, ranging from her work as as an attorney in Arkansas, where her husband was governor, through his 1992 and 1996 presidential campaigns and to her own post-First Lady work.
Despite the progress women had made over the years, not everyone was ready for a First Lady who had her own career and was her husband's intellectual equal. After Bill Clinton began campaigning for the presidency in the early 1990s, Hillary Clinton was derided in more than twenty major publications as "Lady Macbeth" - a manipulative power behind the throne. Her image wasn't helped when she snapped at interviewers that she wasn't about to "stay home baking cookies." And in an interview about Bill Clinton's alleged infidelity, she said, "I'm not some little woman standing by her man."
Ironically, several years later, Clinton did indeed stand by her man when the President became embroiled in the scandal involving Monica Lewinsky. And she was never more popular. Like millions of other couples, the Clintons appeared to work it out, paving the way for Hillary's biggest move yet - running for the U.S. Senate from New York. In the Senate , Clinton shrewdly kept a low profile but developed relationships with senators from both parties.
That diplomacy - and her traditional Boomer work ethic -- came in handy during her time as Secretary of State. After she started the job in 2009, she called dozens of world leaders and, during her first 100 days in office, traveled over 70,000 miles to develop relationships further. And she's kept up that level of effort ever since. (It's paid off in popularity as well as foreign-policy successes: In a Gallup poll, Americans named her as the woman they most admire in the world.)
Who can blame her for being tired? In recent weeks, Clinton has shown signs of loosening up-for example, wearing a headband in a style she undoubtedly wore a few decades ago, as if to say, Hey, I'm dressing the way I really want to from now on.
And there's no doubt that she deserves a good rest. But who knows what will happen after that? When telling State Department employees that she wouldn't be staying past the end of the current administration, she added, "But everyone always says that when they leave these jobs."
Don't ever count a good Boomer girl out!
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