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Clinton: Women are 'agents of change, drivers of progress'

No hint on presidential race, but former secretary of state praises Oregon's equal rights amendment effort


by: TRIBUNE PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told a packed Keller Auditorium audience Tuesday night that advancing women's rights was the 'unfinished business' of the world and the nation. Clinton didn't answer that one, big question however: Does she plan to run for president in 2016?Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton did not answer the BIG question — will she run for president in 2016? — during her visit to Portland Tuesday night, but she did tell them that she is a fan of Voodoo Doughnuts.

Clinton stopped by a jam-packed Keller Auditorium April 8 to keynote the World Affairs Council of Oregon’s 14th annual International Speakers Series.

“I was wondering how to compress … years of experience and actually 112 countries, nearly a million miles, into a presentation, and I hope you’re ready for a long evening,” Clinton deadpanned. “I am willing to order Voodoo Doughnuts. Those sugar highs can keep us going to breakfast!”

Work to be done

In keeping with this year’s theme, "Women Changing the World," in addition to comments on topics of international interest, such as Russian president Vladimir Putin (“His vision for the future is to drag the country into the past”) and global warming (“I know that people think about it as an economic issue or an environmental issue, but I wish that Americans would understand that it is a (national) security issue”), her speech largely revolved around the importance of advancing the status of females in U.S. society and worldwide.

“It’s crucial that we think hard about how to advance the rights and opportunities of women and girls, the unfinished business here at home and around the world,” Clinton said. “As first lady, senator, then as secretary of state, I had the chance to travel on behalf of all of you. I’ve met with women from every walk of life, and learned that women everywhere have much more in common than what separates us: aspirations for good jobs, healthy families, strong communities, the drive to be entrepreneurs and builders, agents of change, drivers of progress, makers of peace.”

She cited evidence that when women are allowed to fully participate in the economy, the gross domestic product of a nation rises significantly.

“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat across the table from some high-ranking official in some country … whose eyes glaze over when I say, for example, ‘Don’t you think you ought to let your women drive?,' ” Clinton recalled. “ 'I don’t want to get too radical here, how about letting them vote, how about letting them leave their house without a male relative?' But when I raise the impact on the economy, and what that would mean for their country, suddenly they’re alert.”

Clinton asserted that there is much work still to be done.

“In the United States and other advanced economies, women still earn 16 percent less on average than men for the same,” she said.

by: TRIBUNE PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Former First Lady Hillary Clinton praised Oregon's equal rights amendment proposal, and Portland's Voodoo Doughnuts during her 90-minute speech to the World Affairs Council Tuesday night at Keller Auditorium.

'Something beyond your borders'

According to Clinton, Oregon and Portland specifically have the ability to set a precedent for both economic prosperity and the promotion of gender equality. Upon being made aware that a version of the Equal Rights Amendment, which has never passed on a federal level, has been proposed to the Oregon state Constitution, she said, “Some of us remember the battle over the national ERA, and we were quite close to necessary number of states to recommend its inclusion in the constitution, and then just a flood of horrible consequences that would occur because of that were publicized and argued over and it just stopped people in their tracks. So some people say, ‘Well, it’s only symbolic.’ Well, yes, but symbolism is important, and it can also be a great message and even lead to actions that further equality, so I think I you can have that kind of debate here in this state, you might be starting something beyond your borders.

“So, I would be interested in seeing how that turned out.”