14 Things You Didn’t Know About Hillary Clinton
Policy + Politics

14 Things You Didn’t Know About Hillary Clinton

Reuters/Jim Young

In case you hadn't heard, the new Hillary Clinton memoir, Hard Choices, landed Tuesday morning with a thud across scores of reporters’ desks (the hardcover book clocks in at 636 pages and weighs 2.4 pounds). As professional pundits and politial followers parse every line of Clinton’s book about her four years as Secretary of State in the Obama administration, occasional bits of personal revelation and insight reward the diligent reader, all as the 2016 presidential election looms ahead.

Clinton has long been in the public eye and the basic biographical details of her life are of course well known. Here, though, are some of the noteworthy personal takeaways sprinkled throughout the book:

1. She got a kick out of one off-the-cuff suggestion for the title of her book: The Scrunchie Chronicles: 112 Countries and It’s Still All about My Hair.

2. After Obama won the election in 2008, she was never interested in being his vice president and “heartily approved of the choice” Obama made. She found Joe Biden’s “warmth and humor very welcome during long hours in the White House Situation Room.”

Related: 9 Takeaways from Hillary Clinton’s New Memoir

3. Neither was she interested in serving in the cabinet. “I liked being my own boss and setting my own schedule and agenda. Joining the cabinet would mean giving up some of that autonomy…. To be honest, I was looking for a more regular schedule after the long campaign.”

4. So she was “floored” when Obama offered her the position of Secretary of State, “despite all the whispers, rumors and point-blank questions.” She suggested Richard Holbrooke or George Mitchell instead. “But the president-elect would not be put off… That impressed me.”

5. During her term as Secretary of State, she spent more than 2,000 hours in the air over four years, “traveling nearly a million miles. That’s 87 full days of recycled air and the steady vibration of twin turbofan engines propelling us forward at more than 500 miles per hour… [In this] home in the sky, I told the staff to dress casually, sleep as much as possible, and do whatever they could to stay sane and healthy.”

6. Asked by a young woman in South Korea how she would describe love, Hillary Clinton explains, “I laughed and said that I now officially felt more like an advice columnist than Secretary of State… Then [I] said, ‘How does anybody describe love? I mean, poets have spent millennia writing about love... It is such a personal relationship. I’m very lucky because my husband is my best friend, and he and I have been together for a very long time, longer than most of you have been alive.”

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7. On being criticized as a public servant: “First, if you choose to be in public life, remember Eleanor Roosevelt’s advice and grow skin as thick as a rhinoceros. Second, learn to take criticism seriously but not personally. Your critics can actually teach you lessons your friends can’t or won’t.” 

8. On being criticized as a female public servant: “There is a persistent double standard applied to women in politics – regarding clothes, body types and of course hairstyles – that you can’t let derail you. Smile and keep going.”

9. On the differences between her wedding to Bill and her daughter Chelsea’s wedding to Marc Mezvinsky: “When Bill and I got married in 1975, the ceremony took place in front of a few friends and family in the living room of our little house in Fayetteville, Arkansas. I wore a lace-and-muslin Victorian dress I had found shopping with my mother the night before. Times had changed… Chelsea and Marc [had long] planned an unforgettable weekend for their families and friends in Rhinebeck, New York.” 

10. On getting to know George W. Bush a little bit better: Aboard Air Force One during the flight to Nelson Mandela’s funeral, “George, Laura and I talked about ‘life after the White House,’ and George described his newfound passion for painting. When I asked him if he had any photos of his work, he fetched his iPad to show us his latest subjects, bleached animal skulks found on his ranch. He explained he was practicing how to paint different shades of white. It was clear he had a natural talent and had worked hard to learn the art. The atmosphere was warm and relaxed. Regardless of politics, we’ve had a unique experience.”

Related: Clinton Cries Poor and Twitter Explodes with #HillaryIsSoPoor

11. On playing the piano back at the hotel, after the public ceremony for Mandela: “I’m no Condi Rice on the piano, but [rock star and activist] Bono was generous enough to let me sit next to him and hit a few keys, which delighted my more musical husband.”

12. On the Middle East: “It is impossible to watch the suffering in Syria, including as a private citizen, and not ask what more could have been done. That’s part of what makes Syria and the broader challenge of an unstable Middle East such a wicked problem. But wicked problems can’t paralyze us.”

13. On losing her parents: “When I lost my father in 1993, it felt too soon, and I was consumed with sadness for all the things he not would live to see and do. This [her mother’s death in 2011 at age 92] was different. Mom lived a long and full life. This time I wept not for what she would miss but for how much I would miss her. I spent the next few days going through her things at home, caressing a piece of beloved jewelry. I found myself sitting next to her empty chair in the breakfast nook and wishing more than anything that I could have one more conversation, one more hug.”

14. On life’s challenges: “Never rest on your laurels. Never quit. Never stop working to make the world a better place. That’s our unfinished business.”

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