Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she “wore out several pairs of pumps” in the shoe-leather diplomacy that has taken her almost a million miles around the globe as the top U.S. diplomat.
The results are beginning to pay off, she told admirers last night as she accepted a public service award at a dinner held by the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington.
“Careful diplomacy” persuaded the United Nations Security Council, including Russia and China, to impose “crippling sanctions” on Iran over its nuclear program, Clinton said. Similar diplomatic efforts “stopped a massacre” in Libya and ousted dictator Muammar Qaddafi, she said.
“Without America’s high-level diplomacy, cajoling, hand- holding and arm-twisting, the coalition that protected Libyan civilians never would have come together or stayed together,” Clinton said.
Time and again, Clinton has pushed women’s rights in dealing with crises around the globe. She criticized Egypt’s transitional government in December for a “systematic degradation of Egyptian women.” The treatment “dishonors the revolution, disgraces the state and its uniform and is not worthy of a great people.”
Last month, Clinton said any peace deal in Afghanistan that excludes women or tries to roll back their rights is “a figment that will not last.”
As she completes what she has said will be her final year in public office, Clinton, 64, has begun reflecting on her tenure at the State Department.
“By next January, I’ll have traveled a million miles and visited more than 100 countries,” she said. “I’ve learned a lot about what works and what doesn’t. And today, I am more convinced than ever that smart power is the right strategy at the right time.”
Critics such as Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee who regularly accuses the Obama administration of “apologizing for America,” might disagree.
Still, Clinton’s tenure has been widely regarded as successful, reflected in her standing in public opinion polls. A Washington Post-ABC News poll this month found 65 percent of Americans rating her favorably, a record for that survey.
Christine Lagarde, the former French finance minister who now heads the International Monetary Fund, last night called Clinton “a great public servant, a great global leader, a great inspiration to women all over the world.”
‘So Many Bridges’
“She has made U.S. aid more effective around the world,” Lagarde said. “She has crossed so many borders and built so many bridges.”
In accepting the service award, Clinton underscored two broad themes that have dominated her tenure: an intensive engagement with governments and civil societies and the importance of improving the lives of women around the world.
The State Department in December created the Women in Public Service Project to identify and train emerging female leaders around the world. In June, the department will begin an annual summer institute for women in a partnership with the so- called Seven Sisters colleges, which include Barnard College in New York City and Clinton’s alma mater, Wellesley College in Massachusetts.
“Women can lift up not just themselves, but their communities and entire societies,” Clinton said. “That’s why, over the past three years, we’ve made women a cornerstone of American diplomacy and development.”
For all her emphasis on diplomatic engagement, Clinton said there are times when the U.S. must continue to act alone, as it did in the killing a year ago of former al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.
“That day sent a clear message: America will continue to lead,” Clinton said. “We have to. It’s who we are. It’s in our DNA.”
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