Meeting Hillary Clinton

Mary T. O’Sullivan

By Mary T. O’Sullivan

A woman is like a tea bag – you never know how strong she is until she gets in hot water. Eleanor Roosevelt.

Hillary Rodham Clinton’ s style of directness, natural warmth, humor , and willingness to adapt, has always been an inspiration to many. I have admired Hillary since she first came to broad public attention in her now famous 60 Minutes interview during the 1992 Presidential campaign and the quote: “You know, I’m not sitting here – some little woman standing by my man like Tammy Wynette.”   Then just a few months later , Hillary’s comment regarding her career choices just about derailed her husband’s Presidential ambitions. With her usual candor and straight talk, she bluntly responded to criticism of her career at the Rose Law firm with this: “… I suppose I could have stayed home and baked cookies and had teas, but what I decided to do was fulfill my profession, which I entered before my husband was in public life”.

And  again,  Hillary’ s candor  materialized  when  she  was  faced  with  the embarrassment and shame of the Monica Lewinsky scandal. Confessing on the Tyra Banks talk show in January 2008, Hillary  admits: ” …  I had to decide  what I ought  to do; I think it is so important  to be able to hear yourself at a moment when it is hard … there are so many times when you  really have to listen  to yourself.” However, Hillary has evolved her style and over the years, she has learned to change her image.

After her marriage  to Bill Clinton  in  1975, Hillary insisted  on keeping  her  maiden  name, Rodham. This approach was considered somewhat scandalous at the time. However, during her husband’s 1982 campaign for governor, Hillary  began  to use the name Hillary Clinton, or sometimes “Mrs. Bill Clinton”, to alleviate the perceptions of Arkansas voters that Hillary was a radical feminist.

And when it was time to end her first Presidential bid, she did it with characteristic style, warmth, humor and grace. “‘ This isn’t exactly the party I planned but I sure love the company.” According to the Times of India, “Despite the hurt of being defeated in the hard-fought and one of the closest primaries in US history, Hillary Clinton was all grace and style as she plugged for Obama, telling her supporters that she had served with him in the Senate and “gone toe to toe with him in 22 debates and she had seen “his strength and determination, his grace and his grit.”

Hillary’s qualities of directness,  adaptability  and  natural  warmth  and humor  inspire, motivate, and delight crowds. In March 2008, I was fortunate enough to be among a crowd of supporters invited to meet Hillary at a campaign event. Hillary had been campaigning hard, and had just come from a speech given to several thousand people. My group all gathered at the restaurant and anxiously awaited the arrival of Hillary. Everyone had cameras ready. Upon her arrival, squeals of delight came through the room. People were told to stay in their seats, that Senator Clinton would be coming to every table. I watched Hillary work the room. She seemed so at ease. She smiled warmly and genuinely. She picked up babies and held them as only a mother could. She patiently posed for pictures with just about every person there. When she finally made her way to our table, we were so starstruck; most of us couldn’t even speak. I had brought one of her books with me, assured that she would sign it. I was told the protocol for asking for a book to be signed. I was to have a felt tipped pen at the ready, with the cap off. I was to ask her to sign the book immediately after shaking hands with her. Then she would pose with us for pictures. When Hillary finally made her way to our table, she was all charm, smiling as she asked, “Well, who do we have here?” However, suddenly, I had no voice. I opened my mouth, but nothing came out. I had to physically force air over my vocal cords to croak out the words, “It’s a pleasure to meet you.” What I meant was, “It’s a THRILL to meet you!” Asking for her signature on my book was even harder. Again, I had to force air out of my lungs to get the words out. And, my felt tipped pen . .. . failed. Hillary started to write her name, and the pen didn’t work. She patiently and dutifully tried it a second time, and thankfully, the pen brought forth ink! Then, we all scrambled up to have our picture taken….

edExcept for one person … my husband, who was a John McCain fan. So, there stood five people, struck dumb, waiting for him to do something,  get  up or take the picture.  Finally,  Hillary spoke up; she looked him straight in the eye and  with a lilt in her voice and  a gleam in her eye, said,  “Are you  going to  take the picture?”   Embarrassed  and  abashed  my husband , at last, reached over, grabbed the camera and took several shots for us . And as quickly as she had arrived at our table, Hillary turned and was on to delight yet another group of supporters.

A former co-worker who once worked in the Clinton White House,  has given me some insight into Hillary as a real person. I remarked that I found her to be so outgoing and that she had that wonderful quality of humor and the ability to put people at ease. I questioned him about his interaction with her in her White House days. He affirmed that Hillary had always, without fail been warm, friendly, caring and funny; that she was absolutely wonderful to work for, always caring about those around her. This image was nothing unusual, despite the bad press she had received. Her toughness was always tempered by her warmth and caring. No doubt, Hillary has matured her public image over the years. And as a pragmatist, she knew this evolution had to take place in order for her to achieve her goals. And those who know her have real affection for her. In a Parade Magazine article, the interviewer notes that Hillary goes through the line at the employee cafeteria nearly once a month. When she appeared in the line on the day of the the Parade interview, ” many state department employees stood and burst into applause.

It’s easy to see how Hillary became a success. During her husband ‘ s early campaigns, she learned that it wasn’t going to be enough for her to be smart and hard working . She was going to have to re-tool her image. Hillary being as savvy as she is, knew she needed to project that warm image publically. This is seen in her recent dropping of “Rodham” and being known simply as “Hillary”. Larry Sabato, a University of Virginia political scientist, said he thinks Hillary is “using her first name more often to convey warmth , something lacking from her earlier persona . He pointed to her studiously informal “I’m running for president” webcast, in which Clinton — seated on a couch, amid floral pillows — cheerily asked voters to join her “conversation. Kathleen  Hall  Jamieson,  University  of  Pennsylvania  communications professor  and  director  of the Annenberg Center  for Public  Policy,  offered  another  theory –  “a  one-word  name is simply good political branding”.7 Just like Cher or Roseanne … I still  have my “Hillary  2008” pin and  a nice “Hillary”  sweatshirt  as well.

Obviously, Hillary’s ethos has been tempered by her expressions of Emotional Intelligence . Using the singular name “Hillary” is a good example. “But. .. , as a presidential candidate, she’s Hillary Clinton — or just Hillary — and some analysts say it makes sense for her to streamline her name . Dropping  Rodham, they contend, would erase feminist overtones and soften her image, taking the edge off one of the more sharply polarizing figures of the last two

What I’ve learned  from  my brief encounter with Hillary back in 2008  is  that often  her  hardworking  and  independent image can be misconstrued, and that her natural warmth and humor  needed  to blend  with  her other qualities.  An observer of  her 2008 campaign  image commented:  “Clinton  is doing everything in her power to be down to earth and to connect with people”. “Her strategists say she has to do that. She has an image of  being brittle and aloof  and a tough  nut to crack.”

Hillary sums it up perfectly in this quote:

“Our lives are a mixture of different roles. Most of us are doing the best we can to find whatever the right balance is … For me, that balance is family, work, and service.” – Hillary Clinton

References supplied upon request.

Mary T. O’Sullivan, Master of Science, Organizational Leadership, International Coaching Federation Professional Certified Coach, Society of Human Resource Management, Senior Certified Professional. Graduate  Certificate in Executive and Professional Coaching, University of Texas at Dallas. Member Beta Gamma Sigma, the International Honor Society. Advanced Studies in Education from Montclair University, SUNY Oswego and Syracuse University. Mary is also a certified Six Sigma Specialist, Contract Specialist, Certified IPT Leader and holds a Certificate in Essentials of Human Resource Management from SHRM.

Mary O’Sullivan has over 30 years experience in the aerospace and defense industry. In each of her roles, she acted as a change agent, moving teams and individuals from status quo to new ways of thinking, through offering solutions focused on changing behaviors and fostering growth. In additional, Mary holds a permanent teaching certificate in the State of New York for secondary education and taught high school English for 10 years in the Syracuse, NY area. Today, Mary devotes her time to helping good leaders get even better through positive behavior change.

To contact Mary email her at mary@encoreexecutivecoaching.com or chat at https://www.encoreexecutivecoaching.com/contact/

Mary T. O'Sullivan

Mary T. O’Sullivan, Master of Science, Organizational Leadership, Member, International Coaching Federation, Society of Human Resource Management. Candidate, Master’s Certificate in Executive and Professional Career Coaching, University of Texas at Dallas. Member Beta Gamma Sigma, the International Honor Society. Advanced Studies in Education from Montclair University, SUNY Oswego and Syracuse University. Mary is also a certified Six Sigma Specialist, Contract Specialist, IPT Leader and holds a Certificate in Essentials of Human Resource Management from SHRM. Mary O’Sullivan has over 30 years experience in the aerospace and defense industry. In each of her roles, she acted as a change agent, moving teams and individuals from status quo to new ways of thinking, through offering solutions focused on changing behaviors and fostering growth. In additional, Mary holds a permanent teaching certificate in the State of New York for secondary education, and taught high school English for 10 years in the Syracuse, NY area.