Clinton bids to smash ‘hardest glass ceiling’

The next president of the USA? Hillary Clinton is favourite to win next year’s election © PA

Hillary Clinton has officially launched her marathon campaign to be the first woman to hold the most powerful job on Earth. But does the wife of the former president represent true progress?

Since George Washington was unanimously elected to the US presidency in 1879, the world’s greatest power has had 45 leaders. Some have been lawyers, some generals and others Hollywood actors; there have been 16 have been Democrats and 18 Republicans alongside assorted Federalists and Whigs. But in one respect they are all alike: every one of them is a man.

Hillary Rodham Clinton is on a mission to break that streak. She has already come close once when, in 2008, Barack Obama snatched the nomination of the Democratic Party from her at the final minute of a bitterly tight campaign. Yesterday Clinton formally announced what millions had suspected for years: she will run for president once again in 2016. ‘Americans need a champion,’ she said in a tweet, ‘and I want to be that champion.’

American elections are uniquely long and gruelling. The country’s most high-flying and ambitious politicians will traverse the country for months in an attempt to persuade their party’s supporters to nominate them, with individual elections in each of the 50 states — and that is before the election proper even begins. Yet with 18 months remaining before election day, Clinton is by far the favourite to succeed her former rival Obama.

Clinton’s presidential potential has been evident ever since she was a student. Yet when she rose to national fame, it was due to her husband’s exploits rather than her own. Bill Clinton was elected to the presidency in 1992. He gave his wife a key role in government and she supported him even in the midst of a vast scandal over his affair with a White House intern.

Since then, Clinton has risen in stature every year. In 2000 she was elected to the senate. In 2009 she was appointed by Barack Obama as Secretary of State — the person responsible for America’s foreign relations. Now, she is determined to break what she calls ‘that last, hardest glass ceiling’ — the presidency itself.

Not ordinary woman

Millions of women and feminists all around the world are rooting for Hillary Clinton in 2016. Nothing would project a more powerful message for gender equality, her supporters say, than a woman at the head of the greatest democracy and the most powerful army in the world. And nobody is better placed to fulfil that dream than a brilliant, driven and hugely experienced woman like Clinton.

But can a candidate who has spent 25 years at the centre of politics really represent progress and change? Some think not. A female president would be great, they say, but the message would be possible if the first woman to claim the role wasn’t so strongly associated with a powerful man. Progress is about what a leader does and what they represent, not who they are.

You Decide

  1. Would a leader’s gender ever make a difference to whether you supported them?
  2. Is there anything wrong with many people from the same family leading a country?

Activities

  1. ‘No country that has always been ruled by men can claim to be truly equal.’ Hold a debate on this proposition and put it to a vote.
  2. Prepare a presentation about a woman from history or the present day who has advanced the cause of gender equality.

Some People Say...

“Women are the largest untapped reservoir of talent in the world.”

Hillary Clinton

What do you think?

Q & A

I’m not American, so why should I care who the president is?
The USA is the world’s most powerful country by far, and the decisions made by its president affect people everywhere. The next US president will set the tone for America’s relationship with countries like China and Iran and play a major role in conflict zones. And beyond these concrete things, she (or he) is popularly perceived as the face of the democratic world.
So what kind of a president would Clinton be?
In her youth Clinton was very conservative, and although she now belongs to the more left-wing American party she is among the more moderate Democrats. In her previous roles she has emphasised women’s rights, healthcare and international cooperation — although she has favoured military intervention more often than Obama.

Word Watch

Federalists and Whigs
American politics has always been dominated by two parties, but their identities have changed over the years. In early days it was Federalists and Whigs, then Whigs and Democrats. Since 1860, however, Democrats and Republicans have fought for power.
Nominate
In US politics, each party nominates a candidate for president. Others can stand as independents, but without the backing of a major party they rarely attract enough votes to make an impact.
Student
Clinton was the first student at her university to give a graduation speech. She received a seven-minute ovation and became a spokesperson for the American youth.
Scandal
Bill Clinton’s extra-marital relationships almost toppled his presidency after a grand jury ruled that he had lied about them under oath. But in spite of the scandal he left office as a hugely popular president.
Glass ceiling
A common metaphor referring to the idea that less privileged groups in society (especially women) face invisible but powerful obstacles that prevent them rising to the very top of the social or economic hierarchy.

Subjects

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