Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has some “unfinished business” to tend to, she told a packed crowd at the Newsweek/Daily Beast Women in the World summit Friday–but she didn’t say that includes another run for the White House.
“The great unfinished business of the 20th century [is] the rights and opportunities for girls,” Clinton told a crowd of mostly women advocates and her supporters.
“I look forward to being your partner in all the days and years ahead.”
Clinton’s every word is under a microscope this week, as her supporters look for clues into her future plans and whether they include another presidential bid. The former secretary of state stepped back into the public eye Tuesday for the first time since leaving office two months ago, with another women’s empowerment speech Tuesday for Vital Voices, the organization she helped create as first lady.
Clinton’s storied work toward equal rights for women, which she said “has been at the heart of my work for my entire life,” loomed large at the summit, with Thursday night’s crowd bursting into applause at a video clip of her groundbreaking 1995 speech as first lady in Beijing. Crowds pushed into the jam-packed lobby of Lincoln Center’s David Koch theater Friday, spilling outside the building, ahead of her speech to score prime seats. Her presence on stage elicited three standing ovations: two before she spoke, and one at the end when she reprised her famed Beijing proclamation.
“Let’s keep fighting for opportunity and dignity, let’s keep fighting for freedom and equality, let’s keep fighting full participation,” Clinton said to the audience, “and let’s keep telling the world that yes, women’s rights are human rights and human rights are women’s rights, once and for all.”
Clinton highlighted the work of Pakistani teen activist Malala Yousafzai, who a day prior at the Women in the World summit announced, via video message, the first grant from her charity to educate girls in her native country. Yousafzai was gunned down by the Taliban six months ago while riding her school bus, and has since made a remarkable recovery and continues working as an advocate.
“The Taliban recognized this girl, 14 at the time, as a serious threat,” Clinton said. “And you know, they were right – she was a threat. But the Taliban miscalculated. They thought if they silenced her, not only she but her cause would die. Instad they inspired millions of Pakistanis to say enough is enough.”
“The business is also unfinished here in the U.S.,” Clinton said, calling for the extension of the family and medical leave act, the need to make equal pay a reality, and necessity of encouraging more women to pursue careers in math and science.
“We are meeting at a remarkable moment of confluence,” Clinton said. “There is a powerful new current, a grassroots activism stirring, galvanized by events too outrageous to ignore and enabled by new technologies that give women and girls voices like never before.”
Clinton, a formative leader in the Democratic party who has many supporters encouraging a second bid for the White House, cautioned against countries using their female politicians to fulfill a checklist. She warned that women leaders “cannot be seen as tokens that give everyone else in society a chance to say: we’ve taken care of our women.”