Around this time four years ago, we were in Denver for the Democratic convention. But we’re not there this year. Some of the old gang is back, speaking again this year just like in 2008. The half-sister of the candidate will be speaking—Maya Soetero-Ng. So will the daughter of a former president—Caroline Kennedy—and the wife of a current one—Michele Obama. They will be joined on stage by new speakers—Tammy Duckworth and Tammy Baldwin who are running for office--and newer names like Sandra Fluke who symbolizes the so-called Republican War on Women. In addition, there will be record number of female delegates on the convention floor but the energy and the enthusiasm feels different this time. There’s no history in the making at this convention. The woman who represents the highest hope for the highest office in the land, the woman who broke the glass ceiling in 18 million ways in 2008—and still it was not enough—will be absent from this convention. She will be missing her party’s party for the first time in over a quarter of a century. You may rightly ask then where in the world is Hillary Clinton, and why is she not speaking at the convention?
Here are three possible answers:
1. She traveling for business—and couldn’t get away.
2. Her husband is speaking—and he wants to be the
center of attention again.
3. She's thinking about starting her second life—and it doesn’t include politics.
All of those answers are right—or at least partly right. First, Hillary Clinton is in Beijing on Tuesday and Wednesday and in Russia for the APEC economics meeting by the end of on the week with a few stops along the way. In fact, can an acting Secretary of State can be at the convention? Suppose that red phone rings at 3am and the President is partying with the delegates, doesn’t Hillary Clinton need to be around to answer it? Surely, nobody thinks she isn’t ready any more.
And, yes, former President Bill Clinton has a significant speaking role at the 2012 to praise the first term accomplishments of Barack Obama, his wife’s former rival and current boss. Bill, as Hillary could tell President Obama, is an excellent speaker but he is sometimes better at selling himself than others. Hope the charismatic big guy doesn’t go off script.
And, thirdly, Hillary Clinton has said she is done with politics, that she will not be running for president in 2016. Here’s how she answered a Danish journalist this spring when asked about her future plans: “I’m looking forward to working as hard as I can until the end of my tenure as secretary of state, and then will look forward to some time to collect myself and spend it doing just ordinary things that I very much am looking forward to again, like taking a walk without a lot of company—not that I don’t love seeing you all— but just having the time to set my own schedule and pursue a lot of the interests that I have pursued my entire life . . . .”
The woman, who has traveled to more than 100 countries (President Obama has been to 32 in his first term) and racked up more than 730,000 miles, is looking forward to a little down time. After all, she might want to spend some time with her daughter Chelsea and husband at the new country place they’re reportedly buying in upstate New York. Maybe she’d like to read something beside foreign policy white papers. Or, perhaps, she’d like to do a little writing, update her book “A Living History”, for which she won an $8.1 million advance.. Or, once she’s rested, maybe she will start an international foundation protecting the rights of women and children—that has been her personal cause for her entire political life. Or, she can work alongside Bill at the Clinton Global Initiative. She did take his name after all.
What Hillary Clinton will choose to do after January 20, 2013 is anyone’s guess. But here’s what we do know about women her age. In the 21st century, we can expect to live 30 years longer than our sisters in the first world did in the 1900s. Our generation is better educated, healthier and more affluent than any generation before it. We have the time and energy and resources for a second adult life, one of our own choosing, one with a multitude of options, one driven by passion and purpose—and pumped with joy.
Hillary Clinton won’t be attending the Democratic convention this week. Will she be in attendance in 2016? Probably. Will she be a candidate for president the next time around? Who knows? Right now, she’s not talking.
(All pictures by Maryl from Democratic Convention 2008, Denver, Colorado)