Thursday, Apr. 30, 2009

Hillary Clinton

I met Hillary Clinton in the 1980s when she spoke in Washington at the Children's Defense Fund. Already her essential public qualities — intelligence, compassion, eloquence and wit — were on display. She was also a fighter for causes that count. Whether people agreed with her or not, they learned quickly that it was worth paying attention to what she had to say.

A quarter-century on, Hillary, 61, has proved herself as First Lady, U.S. Senator, author and the most successful female presidential candidate in American history. Yet her incredible journey continues. As Secretary of State, she must summon all her skills as a communicator while administering a large bureaucracy in a turbulent era on a global stage. For her, the hardest part may be accepting that in diplomacy, clear-cut wins and losses are rare. Foggy Bottom is a land of carefully chosen words, where unnecessary fights are avoided and multiple perspectives rigorously weighed. A skilled diplomat rarely generates extreme reactions; often, the most one can hope for while speaking is that when heads nod in response, it is in quiet agreement, not slumber.

Can Hillary adjust? She already has. It helps that no one doubts her courage, toughness or brains and that everyone knows who she is. It helps more that despite living under intense scrutiny for so long, Secretary Clinton knows exactly what she believes. The mission of public service is in her bones. She loves to tackle hard problems and has an assignment now where the supply is inexhaustible. She brings with her a lawyer's ability to marshal arguments, a pragmatist's skill at negotiating agreements and a natural leader's knack for making herself heard. In the end, she is more likely to change the job than the job is to change her.

Albright, who served as Bill Clinton's Secretary of State, was the first woman to hold that position

See why Hillary Clinton made the TIME 100 list