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Five things we learnt from Hillary Clinton's new memoir

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Even if you’re sick to death of the 2016 election, What Happened is readable, witty, informative and often really, really sad

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By Lily Peschardt on

For someone who has a problem with her “likeability”, in her new memoir about the 2016 election, What Happened, Hillary Rodham Clinton is remarkably likeable. This is Clinton with nothing left to lose, no campaigns to worry about, no agenda to sell – and to be honest, while there are truly extraordinary moments from this extraordinary women, so much of her seems...well, wonderfully ordinary.

  1. Hillary Clinton is really into inspirational quotes. There are over 50 of them littered throughout the book, quotes from Maya Angelou to Friedrich Nietzsche/Kelly Clarkson, to one that is literally just attributed to “A sign that hangs in my house”.
  2. She takes serving her country very seriously. Even when she’s describing the morning she attended the inauguration ceremony and watched Donald Trump be sworn in as President she writes, “This is the right thing to do...Breathe out. Scream later.” It’s a message that’s repeated a lot throughout the book: serve the country first, your emotions can wait. “I wear my composure like a suit of armour, for better or worse. In some ways, it felt like I had been training for this latest feat of self-control for decades.”
  3. Hillary Clinton can back anything up with data – even her friendships. She talks lovingly and at length about her family, but when it comes to her girlfriends she explains, “My girlfriends are something else entirely.” Female friendships, especially amongst highly successful women are often depicted as catty and superficial but the relationships Clinton describes are nothing like that, they’re honest and healing. In many ways, the way Hillary urges other women to seek out friendships is a perfect example of who she seems to be as a person – kind, witty, and above all else, practical: “If you’re unconvinced that friends are worth it, consider the data. (Here is where my friends would say, ‘Of course Hillary has data.’)”
  4. She attributes the loss of her campaign to a multitude of factors, but she does take some time to talk about how society sees women. Clinton left her role as Secretary of State with a 69 per cent approval rating, but within months that had evaporated. “Now people seemed to think I was evil,” she explains. “Not just ‘not my cup of tea’ but evil.” While she attributes most of this to Trump’s repulsive rhetoric, she’s sure some of it had to do with her gender. “People like me in a supporting role: campaigning for my husband, serving as a member of President Obama’s Cabinet. It’s okay for me to be a fierce advocate in those capacities. But when I stand up and say ‘Now I’d like a chance to lead,’ everything changes.”
  5. Despite it all, she would do it all over again. When Clinton went back to her alma mater, Wellesley, a few months after losing the election, she listened, enraptured, to a new graduate give a rousing speech: “If this was the future,” Clinton wrote, “then everything had been worth it.”


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Hillary Clinton

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