A giant, 800-pound bronze plaque that the Washington Post's Al Kamen says was once the centerpiece of a "shrine" to Hillary Clinton is returning to the Ronald Reagan Building after having been removed during George W. Bush's administration.
The plaque -- 9 feet tall by 6 feet wide -- was installed on a marble wall 12 years ago in the lobby of the U.S. Agency for International Development in the Reagan Building. The engravings on it include an excerpt from a Clinton speech about "expanding the circle of human dignity" and this over-the-top remark from the USAID administrator at the time: "May all who pass through these portals recognize the invaluable contribution to worldwide development made by the First Lady of the United States, Hillary Rodham Clinton."
During the Bush administration, the plaque was sent to a warehouse and was eventually replaced with a memorial to USAID workers who died in the line of duty. Early last year, Clinton joked about reinstalling the plaque. She later told the Washington Post that she wanted no public funds to go toward reinstallation. Today Kamen writes, "But now they've apparently raised the money (not clear from whom), because workers have been on scaffolding preparing the wall to hold the plaque."
Thank goodness private -- not public -- funds are apparently being used to rehang the plaque (on another wall in the lobby, so as not to disturb the memorial). And nothing personal against Clinton, but no living person should be glorified in this manner. (As for someone who's deceased and whose legacy has stood the test of time, that's another matter.)
FYI: Secretary Clinton will be hosting a town-hall meeting on Wednesday, Dec. 15, at 11:15 a.m. (U.S. Eastern time) on the release of the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR), themed "Leading Through Civilian Power." At the start of the meeting, to be held with State Department employees, the QDDR will be made available for downloading at www.state.gov.
This afternoon, Secretary Clinton and Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, South Africa's minister for international relations and cooperation, signed a PEPFAR partnership framework agreement, a five-year plan of cooperation for fighting HIV/AIDS in South Africa. PEPFAR (the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief) is a U.S. government initiative, begun under George W. Bush's administration, to work with other countries to combat HIV/AIDS worldwide.
At the signing ceremony, Clinton said, "We are here at a moment when South Africa is turning the tide against HIV/AIDS.… And what South Africa has done is to make a tremendous commitment by doubling its investment, now covering 60 percent of the total spending. There is so much that's being done at the grassroots level on prevention, efforts against discrimination, treating people with HIV, and doing so much more to put together a comprehensive strategy."
JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images
Here's an amusing anecdote that Secretary Clinton told during her speech last week at the TEDWomen conference. It illustrates how education and economic empowerment can slowly, but surely advance the well-being of women and girls:
I love this story about a teenage girl and a cow, which drives home the challenge but also the opportunity that we face today. This teenage girl's father expected to force her into an early marriage, but she had been to school and she received a cow, perhaps through the Heifer Project, designed to encourage her to stay in school. When her father demanded that she drop out of school and get married, she said no. When he insisted, she insisted right back. And finally, she pulled out her trump card -- "If I leave and get married, I'm taking my cow." (Laughter.) "That cow belongs to me." So, guess what? She stayed in school. She was spared an early marriage all because her father couldn't bear to part with the cow. (Laughter.)
But the lesson goes beyond the human nature of the story. Even a small intervention can change a girl's life.
Clinton didn't say what country the girl was in, but the give-a-girl-a-cow program appears to at least exist in Bangladesh. The information provided with the 2008 Getty photo above of a teenage girl in rural Bangladesh says that she acquired her cows through a program that provides financial investment for adolescent girls and is funded by the Bangladeshi NGO BRAC (Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee) and the Nike Foundation.
Brent Stirton/Getty Images
When asked about the firing of Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki yesterday (and whether it was because he snubbed her recently), Secretary Clinton responded, "Whether one person or another is foreign minister is not as important as to what the policy of the Iranian government is in dealing with the international community on [its nuclear program]." She also said, "Our relationship toward Iran is not toward any individual. It is toward the country, the government.… So I don't really have any insight or comment."
Regarding policy, it appears that Iran has no intention of changing its policies, including those pertaining to nuclear talks, with the Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman telling reporters at a news conference, "With the change, we will not see any alteration of Iran's basic policies."
Clinton make her remarks during a news conference yesterday while in Canada for the North American Foreign Ministers Meeting. On Iran, she also said, "The recent meeting in Geneva of the P5+1 was a good start. It was just that. It wasn't more than that, but it was a good start to a return to a serious negotiations between Iran and the international community. And they agreed on a second meeting in January. We remain committed to pursuing every diplomatic avenue available to us and our international partners to persuade Iran to forgo a nuclear weapons program."
The video of the exchange starts at 29:00 in this video:
Speaking a short time before she learned of Ambassador Richard Holbrooke's death yesterday evening, Secretary Clinton recalled him as a "giant of the diplomatic corps for almost 50 years" and said he was "practically synonymous with American foreign policy of that time period." She joked, "He's a fierce negotiator. I'm sure there are some shoulders here tonight that are still a little bit sore from his arm-twisting." Clinton made the remarks (in their entirety below) while greeting a holiday reception for chiefs of diplomatic missions to the United States.
Upon learning of Holbrooke's death later in the evening, Clinton gathered at George Washington University Hospital with dozens of other State Department officials as well as current and former Holbrooke aides, according to Laura Rozen over at Politico. Rozen wrote late yesterday night:
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and about forty senior State Department officials, and Holbrooke aides past and present spontaneously gathered at George Washington Hospital tonight when they heard the news that the veteran diplomat had died, and later shut down a nearby hotel reminiscing about him.
Secretary Clinton "was incredible," the official continued. "She pulled everyone together."
Clinton's complete remarks about Holbrooke from yesterday's reception, made before learning of his death:
He is practically synonymous with American foreign policy of that time period. He's taken on the hardest assignments, from Vietnam to the Balkans to Afghanistan and Pakistan. And this week, his doctors are learning what diplomats and dictators around the world have long known: There's nobody tougher than Richard Holbrooke. He's a fierce negotiator. I'm sure there are some shoulders here tonight that are still a little bit sore from his arm-twisting.
But he is a fiercer friend and a beloved mentor and an invaluable counselor. He has been a friend of mine for many years and I am deeply grateful for his presence and support. When I came to the State Department, I was delighted to be able to bring Richard in and give him one of the most difficult challenges that any diplomat can face. And he immediately put together an absolutely world class staff. It represents what we believe should be the organizational model for the future - people not only from throughout our own government, but even representatives from other governments all working together. And we know that with Richard, loyalty runs deep and it runs both ways. So tonight, our thoughts and prayers are with Ambassador Holbrooke, his wife Kati, their family, who are here with us as well.
SHAH MARAI/AFP/Getty Images)
Upon the passing yesterday of Richard Holbrooke -- U.S. special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Foreign Policy editor from 1972 to 1977, and chief architect of the 1995 Dayton Accords -- Secretary Clinton mourned him as one of America's "fiercest champions and most dedicated public servants." In a statement, she described him as a "consummate diplomat, able to stare down dictators and stand up for America's interests and values even under the most difficult circumstances."
It's so hard to believe he's no longer here. Just two weeks ago, on Nov. 30 at our Global Thinkers gala, FP paid a special tribute to Holbrooke for his many contributions to foreign policy -- and Foreign Policy. (The video of his remarks is below, followed by Clinton's complete statement upon his passing.)
Holbrooke's death leaves a huge hole in the United States' strategy regarding the Afghanistan war. A Washington Post article today reports:
Holbrooke's death is the latest complication in an effort plagued by unreliable partners, reluctant allies and an increasingly skeptical American public.… As the glue that held the enterprise together, his absence is likely to increase the already formidable challenge the administration faces.
Clinton's complete statement:
Tonight America has lost one of its fiercest champions and most dedicated public servants. Richard Holbrooke served the country he loved for nearly half a century, representing the United States in far-flung war-zones and high-level peace talks, always with distinctive brilliance and unmatched determination. He was one of a kind -- a true statesman -- and that makes his passing all the more painful.
From his early days in Vietnam to his historic role bringing peace to the Balkans to his last mission in Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard helped shape our history, manage our perilous present, and secure our future. He was the consummate diplomat, able to stare down dictators and stand up for America's interests and values even under the most difficult circumstances. He served at every level of the Foreign Service and beyond, helping mentor generations of talented officers and future ambassadors. Few people have ever left a larger mark on the State Department or our country. From Southeast Asia to post-Cold War Europe and around the globe, people have a better chance of a peaceful future because of Richard's lifetime of service.
I had the privilege to know Richard for many years and to call him a friend, colleague and confidante. As Secretary of State, I have counted on his advice and relied on his leadership. This is a sad day for me, for the State Department and for the United States of America.
True to form, Richard was a fighter to the end. His doctors marveled at his strength and his willpower, but to his friends, that was just Richard being Richard. I am grateful for the tireless efforts of all the medical staff, and to everyone who sat by his side or wished him well in these final days.
Tonight my thoughts and prayers are with Richard's beloved wife Kati, his sons David and Anthony, his step-children Elizabeth and Chris Jennings, his daughter-in-law Sarah, and all of his countless friends and colleagues.
TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty Images
Today is a shameful day for China, which refused to allow imprisoned Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo to receive his award in Oslo, Norway. The ceremony went on, but with Liu's absence marked by an empty chair, on which was set his Nobel Peace Prize diploma and medal, as seen in the photo above.
Liu Xiaobo, this year's Nobel Peace Prize winner, helped author Charter '08 calling for peaceful political reform in China and lost his freedom for the cause. On this Human Rights Day, I reiterate our call for his immediate release.
Clinton also hailed the world's "citizen heroes," from Cuba to Zimbabwe, and said "their courage to persist is a testament to all that is good in the human spirit." Click below to read Clinton's complete statement.
ODD ANDERSEN/AFP/Getty Images
Madam Secretary is an obsessive blog about all things Hillary Clinton. From her policies to her pantsuits, Madam Secretary delivers up-to-the-minute news, analysis, and gossip about America's top diplomat.