Hillary Clinton Biography

Government Official, Activist, U.S. First Lady, Women's Rights Activist(1947–)
When Hillary Clinton was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2001, she became the first American first lady to ever win a public office seat. She later became the 67th U.S. secretary of state in 2009, serving until 2013. In 2016, she became the first woman in U.S. history to become the presidential nominee of a major political party.

Synopsis

Hillary Clinton was born on October 26, 1947, in Chicago, Illinois, going on to earn her law degree from Yale University. She married fellow law school graduate Bill Clinton in 1975. She later served as first lady from 1993 to 2001, and then as a U.S. senator from 2001 to 2009. In early 2007, Clinton announced her plans to run for the presidency. During the 2008 Democratic primaries, she conceded the nomination when it became apparent that Barack Obama held a majority of the delegate vote. After winning the national election, Obama appointed Clinton secretary of state. She was sworn in as part of his cabinet in January 2009 and served until 2013. In the spring of 2015, she announced her plans to run again for the U.S. presidency. In 2016, she became the first woman in U.S. history to become the presidential nominee of a major political party. After a polarizing campaign against GOP candidate Donald Trump, Clinton was defeated in the general election that November.

Background

Hillary Diane Clinton was born Hillary Diane Rodham on October 26, 1947, in Chicago, Illinois. She was raised in Park Ridge, Illinois, a picturesque suburb located 15 miles northwest of downtown Chicago.

Hillary Rodham was the eldest daughter of Hugh Rodham, a prosperous fabric store owner, and Dorothy Emma Howell Rodham; she has two younger brothers, Hugh Jr. (born in 1950) and Anthony (born in 1954).

As a young woman, Hillary was active in young Republican groups and campaigned for Republican presidential nominee Barry Goldwater in 1964. She was inspired to work in public service after hearing a speech in Chicago by the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr., and became a Democrat in 1968.

Education and Early Career

Rodham attended Wellesley College, where she was active in student politics and elected senior class president before graduating in 1969. She then attended Yale Law School, where she met Bill Clinton. Graduating with honors in 1973, she went on to enroll at Yale Child Study Center, where she took courses on children and medicine and completed one post-graduate year of study.

Clinton worked at various jobs during her summers as a college student. In 1971, she first came to Washington, D.C. to work on U.S. Senator Walter Mondale's sub-committee on migrant workers. In the summer of 1972, she worked in the western states for the campaign of Democratic presidential nominee George McGovern.

In the spring of 1974, Rodham became a member of the presidential impeachment inquiry staff, advising the Judiciary Committee of the House of Representatives during the Watergate Scandal. 

(Chief Counsel Jerry Zeifman would later contend that he fired Clinton from the committee for what he deemed as unethical professional behavior connected to Nixon's due process. These allegations have been contradicted by other media sources that deny Zeifman's authority over the young attorney at this time, with no comment from Clinton herself.) 

After President Richard M. Nixon resigned in August, she became a faculty member of the University of Arkansas Law School in Fayetteville, where her Yale Law School classmate and boyfriend Bill Clinton was teaching as well.

Marriage to Bill Clinton

Hillary Rodham married Bill Clinton on October 11, 1975, at their home in Fayetteville. Before he proposed marriage, Clinton had secretly purchased a small house that she had remarked that she liked. When he proposed marriage to her and she accepted, he revealed that they owned the house. Their daughter, Chelsea Victoria, was born on February 27, 1980. 

In 1976, Hillary worked on Jimmy Carter's successful campaign for president while husband Bill was elected attorney general. Bill Clinton was elected governor in 1978 at age 32, lost reelection in 1980, but came back to win in 1982, 1984, 1986 (when the term of office was expanded from two to four years) and 1990.

Hillary joined the Rose Law Firm in Little Rock and, in 1977, was appointed to part-time chairman of the Legal Services Corporation by President Carter. As first lady of the state for a dozen years (1979-1981, 1983-1992), she chaired the Arkansas Educational Standards Committee, co-founded the Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families, and served on the boards of the Arkansas Children's Hospital, Arkansas Legal Services and the Children's Defense Fund. She also served on the boards of TCBY and Wal-Mart.

In 1988 and 1991, The National Law Journal named her one of the 100 most powerful lawyers in America.

First Lady

During Bill Clinton's 1992 presidential campaign, Hillary emerged as a dynamic and valued partner of her husband, and as president he named her to head the Task Force on National Health Reform (1993). The controversial commission produced a complicated plan which never came to the floor of either house. It was abandoned in September 1994.

During this period, she and her husband invested in the Whitewater real estate project. The project's bank, Morgan Guaranty Savings and Loan, failed, costing the federal government $73 million. Whitewater later became the subject of congressional hearings and an independent counsel investigation.

In 1998, the White House was engulfed in the Monica Lewinsky sex scandal. Though she publicly supported her husband, Mrs. Clinton reportedly considered leaving her marriage. He was impeached, but the U.S. Senate failed to convict and he remained in office.

Senate Win and Presidential Run

In 1999, Clinton decided she would seek the U.S. Senate seat from New York held by Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who was retiring after four terms. Despite early problems and charges of carpetbagging, Clinton beat popular Republican Rick Lazio by a surprisingly wide margin: 55 percent to 43 percent. Clinton became the first wife of a president to seek and win public office and the first woman to be elected to the U.S. Senate from New York. She easily won reelection in November 2006.

In early 2007, Clinton announced her plans to strive for another first—to be the first female president. During the 2008 Democratic primaries, Senator Clinton conceded the nomination when it became apparent that nominee Barack Obama held a majority of the delegate vote. When Clinton suspended her campaign, she made a speech to her supporters. "Although we were not able to shatter that highest and hardest glass ceiling this time, thanks to you it has 18 million cracks in it," she said, "and the light is shining through like never before, filling us all with the hope and the sure knowledge that the path will be a little easier next time, and we are going to keep working to make it so, today keep with me and stand for me, we still have so much to do together, we made history, and lets make some more."

U.S. Secretary of State

Shortly after winning the U.S. presidential election, Obama nominated Hillary Clinton as secretary of state. She accepted the nomination and was officially approved as the 67th U.S. secretary of state by the Senate on January 21, 2009.

During her term, Clinton used her position to make women's rights and human rights a central talking point of U.S. initiatives. She became one of the most traveled secretaries of state in American history, and promoted the use of social media to convey the country's positions. She also led U.S. diplomatic efforts in connection to the Arab Spring and military intervention in Libya.

The State Department, under Clinton's leadership, came under investigation after a deadly attack on a U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya, killed U.S. ambassador Christopher Stevens and three others on September 11, 2012. An independent panel issued a report about the Benghazi attack, which found "systematic failures and leadership and management deficiencies" at the State Department.

Health Issues

Clinton, who said she took responsibility for security at the outpost in Benghazi, was scheduled to testify about the attack before Congress in December 2012. She canceled her scheduled testimony, however, citing a stomach virus and, later, a concussion that she suffered after fainting (the cause of which was later reported as dehydration). Some members of Congress questioned the timing of Clinton's illnesses, including Representative Allen West, who stated that he believed the secretary of state was suffering from "a case of Benghazi flu" on the day she was scheduled to testify.

On December 30, 2012, Clinton was hospitalized with a blod clot related to the concussion that she had suffered earlier in the month. She was released from a New York hospital on January 2, 2013, after receiving treatment, and soon recovered and returned to work.

Benghazi Testimony and Resignation

Clinton testified about the Benghazi attack on January 23, 2013. Speaking to members of the House Foreign Relations Committee, she defended her actions while taking full responsibility for the incident, which killed four American citizens. "As I have said many times since September 11, I take responsibility, and nobody is more committed to getting this right," she told the House. She added, "I am determined to leave the State Department and our country safer, stronger and more secure."

Since taking office in 2009, Clinton repeatedly stated over the years that she was only interested in serving one term as secretary of state. She officially stepped down from her post on February 1, 2013.

In May 2014, the House Select Committee on Benghazi, chaired by Representative Trey Gowdy from South Carolina, was created to investigate the Benghazi attack. Clinton testified in front of the committee on October 22, 2015 in a nearly 11-hour hearing. The House Select Committee on Benghazi issued its final report on June 28, 2016. The just over 800-page report found no new evidence of wrongdoing on Clinton's part, but was critical of "government agencies like the Defense Department, the Central Intelligence Agency and the State Department — and the officials who led them — for failing to grasp the acute security risks in the Libyan city, and especially for maintaining outposts in Benghazi that they could not protect," according to The New York Times.

The Democrats on the committee issued their own 339-page minority report that criticized Republicans for "one of the longest and most partisan congressional investigations in history" that took two years to complete and cost "$7 million in taxpayer funds." 

"We have been hampered in our work by the ongoing Republican obsession with conspiracy theories that have no basis in reality," the minority report stated. "Rather than reject these conspiracy theories in the absence of evidence — or in the face of hard facts — Select Committee Republicans embraced them and turned them into a political crusade."

Mother-in-Law and Grandmother

In 2010 Clinton's daughter Chelsea married former Goldman Sachs investment banker and current hedge fund manager Marc Mezvinksy.

On September 26, 2014, Clinton became a first-time grandmother when daughter Chelsea gave birth to Charlotte Clinton Mezvinsky. Chelsea gave birth to her second child Aidan Clinton Mezvinsky on June 18, 2016.

Bid for 2016 Presidency

In June 2014, Clinton released Hard Choices, a memoir published by Simon & Schuster, which rose to number one on the New York Times Best Seller list. The following year in early March 2015, Clinton faced controversy and criticism when it was revealed that she had used her personal email address to handle official governmental business during her time as secretary of state. In a news conference held at the United Nations, speaking initially on gender equality and the political situation in Iran, Clinton stated that she had utilized her personal email for convenience as allowed by state department protocol. She later turned over all governmental correspondence to the Obama administration while deleting messages that could be construed as personal. 

After much speculation and assumptions over whether Clinton would run for the U.S. presidency, her plans were made official in the spring of 2015. On April 12, Clinton's campaign chairperson John D. Podesta announced via email that the former secretary of state was entering the race to secure the Democratic presidential nomination for the 2016 elections. This was immediately followed by an online campaign clip, with Clinton herself announcing that she was running for president.

Campaign Issues

On her campaign site, Clinton addresses a wide variety of issues she believes in, among them: lowering student debt, criminal justice reform, campaign finance reform, improving the healthcare coverage and costs of the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. Obamacare), and women's rights. 

However, she is also known for changing her stances on various hot button issues such as gay marriage (she now supports it) and trade deals (e.g. she is now against the Trans Pacific Partnership). In regard to the environment, Clinton has a plan to combat climate change but has been questioned by environmental activists for supporting fracking. She is also in support of the death penalty but claims it should be implemented in exceptional cases.

Email Scandal

In May 2016 the State Department issued a statement regarding Clinton's ongoing email scandal, in which she exclusively used a private server while serving as secretary of state. The department criticized her for not seeking permission to use the server and also stated it would not have approved it if she had.  

The 79-page report, along with a separate FBI investigation and other legal matters that involve her private email account, has exacerbated Clinton's controversial political reputation and been fodder for Republican officials.

After a year-long F.B.I. investigation of Clinton’s email practices while she was secretary of state, F.B.I. Director James B. Comey announced on July 5, 2016, that the agency would not recommend criminal charges against Clinton. “Our judgment is that no reasonable prosecutor would bring such a case,” Comey said at a news conference. He added: ”Although we did not find clear evidence that Secretary Clinton or her colleagues intended to violate laws governing the handling of the classified information, there is evidence that they were extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information."

The following day Attorney General Loretta Lynch released a statement saying that she would accept the F.B.I.’s recommendation and Clinton would not be charged in the case. “Late this afternoon, I met with F.B.I. Director James Comey and career prosecutors and agents who conducted the investigation of Secretary Hillary Clinton’s use of a personal email system during her time as Secretary of State,” Lynch wrote in the statement. “I received and accepted their unanimous recommendation that the thorough, year-long investigation be closed and that no charges be brought against any individuals within the scope of the investigation.”

Clinton’s email troubles resurfaced on October 28, 2016, when Comey revealed in a letter to Congress that while investigating disgraced former Congressman Anthony Weiner for texts he had sent to a 15-year-old girl, law enforcement officials had found emails that appeared “to be pertinent” to the closed investigation of Clinton’s use of a personal email server. The emails were reportedly sent by Huma Abedin, Weiner’s wife and Clinton’s top aide, to Clinton’s personal server, but the content of the emails was unknown. The timing of Comey’s letter, just 11 days before the election, was unprecedented and critics called for the FBI to release more information. A bipartisan group of almost one hundred former federal prosecutors and Justice Department officials also signed a letter criticizing Comey. “We cannot recall a prior instance where a senior Justice Department official — Republican or Democrat — has, on the eve of a major election, issued a public statement where the mere disclosure of information may impact the election’s outcome, yet the official acknowledges the information to be examined may not be significant or new,” the letter stated. 

On November 6, just two days before the election, Comey wrote another letter to Congress stating that Clinton should not face criminal charges after a review of the new emails. "Based on our review, we have not changed our conclusions that we expressed in July," Comey wrote in the letter. 

Trailblazing Nominee

On June 6, 2016 Clinton was hailed as the presumptive presidential nominee for the Democratic Party and the first woman in the United States' 240-year history "to top the presidential ticket of a major U.S. political party," according to the Associated Press. The assessment was based on Clinton winning the support of a combination of pledged delegates and superdelegates needed to win the nomination.

On June 7th, the night of the final Super Tuesday primary, Clinton delivered a speech from the Brooklyn Navy Yard, acknowledging the historic achievement. It was eight years to the day since she had conceded her loss to Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential race.

“Tonight’s victory is not about one person,” Clinton told a crowd of supporters. ”It belongs to generations of women and men who struggled and sacrificed and made this moment possible. In our country, it started right here in New York, a place called Seneca Falls in 1848 where a small but determined group of women and men came together with the idea that women deserved equal rights and they set it forth in something called the Declaration of Sentiments and it was the first time in human history that that kind of declaration occurred. So we all owe so much to those who came before and tonight belongs to all of you.”

Clinton also acknowledged the impact of her Democratic opponent Bernie Sanders’ campaign: “I want to congratulate Senator Sanders for the extraordinary campaign he has run. He’s excited millions of voters, especially young people. And let there be no mistake: Senator Sanders, his campaign, and the vigorous debate that we’ve had—about how to raise incomes, reduce inequality, increase upward mobility—have been very good for the Democratic Party and for America.”

She also addressed the campaign of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, whom she called “temperamentally unfit to be President and Commander-in-Chief.” “He’s not just trying to build a wall between America and Mexico; he’s trying to wall off Americans from each other,” she said. “When he says, ‘Let’s make America great again,’ that is code for ‘Let’s take America backwards.’ Back to a time when opportunity and dignity were reserved for some, not all.”

Clinton personalized her rhetoric when she spoke about her mother Dorothy, “the biggest influence in her life,” who died in 2011: "This past Saturday would have been her 97th birthday. She was born on June 4th, 1919 and some of you may know the significance of that date. On the very day my mother was born in Chicago, Congress was passing the 19th amendment to the constitution. That amendment finally gave women the right to vote. And I really wish my mother could be here tonight . . .I wish she could see her daughter become the Democratic party's nominee."

On July 12, 2016, just two weeks before the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, Bernie Sanders endorsed Clinton at a rally in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. "This campaign is not really about Hillary Clinton, or Donald Trump or Bernie Sanders, or any other candidate who sought the presidency," Sanders told the crowd. "This campaign is about the needs of the American people and addressing the very serious crises that we face . . . And there is no doubt in my mind that, as we head into November, Hillary Clinton is far and away the best candidate to do that." 

He added: "I intend to do everything I can to make certain she will be the next president of the United States."

Clinton acknowledged the contribution Sanders and his supporters made to the presidential race and the political process. "Senator Sanders has brought people off the sidelines and into the political process," she said. "He has energized and inspired a generation of young people who care deeply about our country. To everyone here and everyone cross the country who poured your heart and soul into Senator Sanders' campaign: Thank you." 

"We are joining forces to defeat Donald Trump," she added. "I can't help but say how much more enjoyable this election is going to be when we are on the same side. You know what? We are stronger together."

On July 22, 2016, Clinton announced via text message to her supporters that she had selected Tim Kaine, a Virginia senator and former Virginia governor and mayor, as her vice presidential running mate. She also tweeted the announcement.

DNC Email Leak

In July 2016, on the eve of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, Wikileaks published over nineteen thousand DNC emails that revealed how officials seemingly favored Clinton over Sanders and sought to undermine his campaign.

The leak also showed the bitter tension between DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Sanders' campaign manager Jeff Weaver, the collusion between the DNC and the media, and the ways in which officials persuade big money donors.

As a result of the leak, Wasserman Schultz announced she would not be speaking at the convention and would step down as DNC chair.

During this time, an FBI investigation was underway to discover who was responsible for the leaks, although intelligence was already pointing to Russia being behind the cyberattacks. 

Historic Moment: Hillary Clinton Accepts Democratic Nomination for President

The release of the emails by Wikileaks during the Democratic National Convention was a blow to what Party officials had hoped would be a time to unify and energize their base of supporters. The scandal reinvigorated the ire of Bernie Sanders' supporters, many of whom felt the DNC had rigged the election for Clinton from the start. Nonetheless, even amid protests, Clinton received an array of support from political allies, delegates, celebrities and everyday citizens in a series of convention speeches, including Barack and Michelle Obama, actresses Meryl Streep and Elizabeth Banks and former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg. After being introduced by daughter Chelsea, Clinton utilized the DNC's final night to officially accept her party's nomination for president, a historic achievement for women in the U.S., and then delineate aspects of her platform and national vision.  

Historic Newspaper Endorsements

In September 2016, The Arizona Republic made a surprising announcement: it was endorsing a Democrat for the first time in its publication's history. The editorial board's decision to support Clinton was explained as follows:

“Since 'The Arizona Republic' began publication in 1890, we have never endorsed a Democrat over a Republican for president. Never. This reflects a deep philosophical appreciation for conservative ideals and Republican principles.

This year is different.

The 2016 Republican candidate is not conservative and he is not qualified.

That’s why, for the first time in our history, The Arizona Republic will support a Democrat for president.” 

The paper's unprecedented announcement came on the heels of The Cincinnati Enquirer and The Dallas Morning News' similar decision to break with their longstanding Republican roots by endorsing Clinton over Trump. 

Election Upset & Concession

As the returns rolled in, Clinton’s path to victory faded. Late into the evening her defeat became clear when Trump earned the required majority of electoral votes. Breaking with political tradition, she declined to give a concession speech when the race was called, but phoned ex-Apprentice host Donald Trump to concede.

The following afternoon Clinton delivered an emotional concession speech in which she congratulated Donald Trump and said she "offered to work with him on behalf of our country."

"Our campaign was never about one person, or even one election," Clinton told her supporters. "It was about the country we love and building an America that is hopeful, inclusive, and big-hearted. We have seen that our nation is more deeply divided than we thought. But I still believe in America, and I always will. And if you do, then we must accept this result and then look to the future. Donald Trump is going to be our president. We owe him an open mind and the chance to lead. Our constitutional democracy enshrines the peaceful transfer of power."

As she continued, she acknowledged her painful defeat and encouraged her supporters to continue to participate in American democracy. “This loss hurts, but please never stop believing that fighting for what's right is worth it,” she said.

Clinton also addressed falling short of becoming the first female president of the United States: "I know we have still not shattered that highest and hardest glass ceiling, but someday, someone will, and hopefully sooner than we might think right now."

"We need you to keep up these fights now and for the rest of your lives and to all the women and specially the young women who put their faith in this campaign and in me, I want you to know that nothing has made me prouder than to be your champion," she said. "And to all the little girls who are watching this, never doubt that you are valuable and powerful and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world to pursue and to achieve your own dreams."

Clinton concluded her speech quoting Biblical scripture. "You know, scripture tells us, let us not grow weary of doing good, for in good season we shall reap. My friends, let us have faith in each other, let us not grow weary and lose heart, for there are more seasons to come and there is more work to do."

Despite Trump winning the electoral votes, Clinton won the popular vote by almost three million more votes. Outside of Obama's 2008 presidential election victory, Clinton currently holds the record for winning the most votes than any other presidential candidate in U.S. history.

Russia Discovered Behind Email Leaks

For months prior to the U.S. presidential election, well over a dozen U.S. intelligence agencies unilaterally concluded that Russia was behind the email hacks that were given to Wikileaks. In December 2016 the CIA, the FBI, and the National Intelligence Agency publicly concluded that Russia and specifically, Vladimir Putin himself, were behind the cyberattacks at the DNC and of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta's personal email account. The three agencies asserted that not only was Russia trying to undermine the U.S. presidential election but were also aiming to harm Clinton's campaign and to tip the scales for her Republican opponent Donald Trump.

Soon after these assessments came out, Clinton spoke about Russia's impact on her campaign at a private event. She blamed both Russia's email hacks, as well as FBI Director James Comey, who issued a letter concerning an investigation over her email server just days before the election. 

On Putin, she said: "Vladimir Putin himself directed the covert cyberattacks against our electoral system, against our democracy, apparently because he has a personal beef against me," Clinton stated via The New York Times. (The "beef" she refers to goes back to her speaking out against Putin's unfair parliamentary elections in 2011 when she was secretary of state.)

She added: "Putin publicly blamed me for the outpouring of outrage by his own people. And that is the direct line between what he said back then and what he did in this election." 

Clinton also gave light to the larger, more pressing issues at stake. “This is not just an attack on me and my campaign... This is an attack against our country. We are well beyond normal political concerns here. This is about the integrity of our democracy and the security of our nation.”

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