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Column - Hillary continues to be a trailblazer

It's about time Hillary Clinton is receiving the widespread admiration she always deserved.

She is, once again, on the top of the list as the world's most admired woman.

It's a wonder she was able to endure all that baiting, hounding, heel-nipping and blind hatred aimed at her all through the 1990s when her husband was president. She not only endured it but bounced back to become an acclaimed U.S. senator and, currently, a brilliant secretary of state.

In the political world, Clinton advanced the cause of women - and all people - more than any other leader since one-of-a-kind Eleanor Roosevelt. Clinton's combination of insight, toughness, intelligence, energy, determination, courage and humor - in the face of great odds - helped her to triumph again and again.

Her efforts as first lady to help initiate a universal health-care plan will place her in the history books as a trailblazer, even though the plan was defeated. It wasn't by any means a perfect solution. It was, unfortunately, too watered down by compromises made necessary by the clamorous demands of money-mad interest groups. Still, Clinton saw how lopsided is the access to our health-care system, how unaffordable it is for millions and she bravely tried to do something about it. All the while, she was belittled and pelted with contempt by her detractors.

As U.S. secretary of state, one of Clinton's sterling qualities is her willingness to work so hard on very difficult problems - the nitty-gritty of weary negotiations. Such work is not "sexy" news or headline-grabbing, and Clinton could care less. It's the work she cares about - not its limelight potential. That quality - working hard without fanfare - is rare in public servants these days when so many politicians, like Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann, seem to work harder to be media "stars" than on the jobs they were elected to do.

As a public figure for nearly half a century, Clinton is practically a textbook example of what women have been up against in their struggle for equality, not to mention equal pay. In the "old" days of the "Women's Liberation" movement, females fighting for equality were considered by so many people - even by most passive women - to be silly, fickle, shrill and discontented shrews. Blatant stereotypes reigned. If a woman cut her hair short, she was likely to be pegged as a wannabe man. Those were the days when pros like Barbara Walters had to fight their lonely battles to rise to the top of their professions.

Eventually, on a road of many setbacks, the feminist movement did make great strides - to the point where women senators, women doctors, women lawyers and women executives are a matter of course, though there is still a long way to go.

Clinton fought and survived all of those battles. If she showed emotion, they called her too weak. If she spoke her mind forcefully, they called her too harsh or - worse - the "b" word. Many haters (like the ones who despise Obama) could never tolerate the fact that Bill Clinton was elected president, so they took it out on Hillary, treating her as a behind-the-scenes Lady Macbeth.

First ladies, even in the 1990s, were supposed to be White House charmers and tea-party hostesses who raise awareness for good causes. And most succeeded brilliantly in doing just that. But being a policy activist, like Hillary, was tantamount to a government take-over in the eyes of stick-in-the-mud reactionaries.

Even first lady Barbara Bush was knocked at times for being too outspoken. First ladies, then, were supposed to be bright, but not too bright.

Clinton probably will not run for president in 2016. What a shame. But, if someday a woman is elected as president of the United States, Hillary Clinton will be lauded as the pioneer who paved the way, who made it possible.


Dennis Dalman, a former reporter for the Echo Press, is a regular contributing columnist to the Opinion page. He is currently the editor of the St. Joseph Newsleader. He can be reached via e-mail at