MODERATOR: Hello, I’m Leigh Sales. Welcome to this ABC News special, Hillary Rodham Clinton: An Australian Conversation. Let me explain today’s format. The Secretary of State will address our audience here in Melbourne for about 10 minutes or so and I’ll briefly interview her afterwards. I’ll then open the floor to questions from our audience will go for about three quarters of an hour. In our discussion, we’ll also include a handful of the hundreds of questions we’ve received from all around the country by Twitter and Facebook and also on video. To introduce the Secretary of State, here’s the University of Melbourne’s Vice Chancellor, Professor Glyn Davis. (Applause.)
MR. DAVIS: Leigh, thank you. Foreign Minister, Ambassador, Chancellor, colleagues, friends, good morning and welcome to the University of Melbourne. It‘s an enormous pleasure to welcome you on what‘s going to be a very special event. It’s a special honor to welcome an outstanding global policy maker and leader, the United States Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to our campus this morning. This is an extraordinary opportunity to hear from and to engage with Secretary Clinton who is in Australia for the regular military, political, and security talks between governments of Australia and the United States starting tomorrow. Today’s direct engagement with the Secretary suggests a welcome openness to dialogue and discussion.
In our customary fashion, I’ll begin by acknowledging the traditional owners of the land on which we meet, the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin nation and pay respects to their elders past and present. I want to acknowledge the Asia Society which has played a crucial role in bringing about today’s gathering. And I want to acknowledge Asia Link chaired by Sidney Myer, led by Jenny McGregor here at the University of Melbourne and Leigh Sales as well and the ABC for all of the work that’s made today possible.
This morning we’ll hear from Secretary Clinton who is traveling through the Asia Pacific to promote this strong engagement between the United States and many of Australia’s regional neighbors. On her current trip, Secretary Clinton has experienced distinctive regional culture including Cambodia’s remarkable Angkor Wat, Papua New Guinea’s native culture, and some of New Zealand’s wonderful ceremonial greetings, and now, this, her first visit to Melbourne. We look forward to the Secretary’s reflections on the United States-Asia Pacific relations as well as her perspectives on the future of the Australian-American alliance, which has been central to our interests since the signing of the ANZUS Alliance almost 60 years ago.
So it is a great pleasure to ask you to join me in making welcome our most distinguished guest. Please welcome the United States Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. (Applause.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you. Thank you. It is wonderful to be here today and I want to thank Alex Chernov the Chancellor and Glyn Davis the Vice-Chancellor for their warm welcome. I want to thank Sidney Myer the Asia Link Chairman. I see my colleague and friend your Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd here and I thank him for working so closely with us. And I am delighted that in a few minutes I will be able to sit and talk with (inaudible) and so for me this is a special occasion to be with you in Melbourne at this great university.
I’ve had the extraordinary pleasure of visiting Australia before, spending time in Sydney, snorkeling at the Great Barrier Reef, going to Canberra, meeting crocodiles and kangaroos — (laughter) — and I am very pleased that finally I’m here in Melbourne, which I first glimpsed on my family’s very small black and white television screen during the Olympics in 1956 and before you do all the calculation, that was a really long time ago. Like many Americans, when I was growing up, what I knew about Australia was great, open spaces, lots of exotic flora and fauna, really hardy people kind of like the wild west, but with better beer and a lot more of a sense of pioneering spirit at that time. And of course, I’m sure that for many of you from afar, the United States looks as though every American is living his or her own reality TV show.
And part of what I’m doing as Secretary of State is not only meeting with the leaders of government like yours here in Australia, but also meeting with the citizens, particularly young people because I want the American outreach around the world to go far beyond the government halls and all of the official back and forth and to have the chance to hear what is on your mind (inaudible) will be to ask me questions.
Our two countries have a lot in common. We are both pluralistic democracies founded by immigrants and pioneers and dreamers who didn’t take no for an answer and refused to accept limits on what they thought was possible. We have been and I hope always will be nations that are ready to face the future without fear, rolling up our sleeves and getting on to whatever the next challenge might be. Now, of course we have differences and we may go into some of that during this question and answer period. I’ve never understood why you would ruin a perfectly good slice of bread with Vegemite. (Laughter.) But I’m sure you have some of the same reactions when you travel to our country and see what we eat.
SECRETARY CLINTON: I had hoped to be here last January, but I was on my way when the earthquake in Haiti struck and felt compelled to turn around and go back and help supervise and organize our relief efforts there. And of course, I knew Australian would understand because Australians have responded with such generosity to disasters among your neighbors. After the tsunami in 2004, Australia sprang into action sending rescue teams, doctors, supplies all over the region. And more recently, Australian medical teams have helped the people of Pakistan cope with the devastation of the terrible flooding there.
I think that is one of the most important qualities we have in common, an impulse of generosity that is imbedded deep in our national character regardless of political affiliation. Both Australia and the United States work to advance not only our own interests as we see them, but also to protect friends and allies to work toward the causes of peace, prosperity and justice for people everywhere. It’s just who we are, it’s in our DNA, and it helps to explain the enduring bond between us. And today in a time of such complex challenges from climate change to nuclear proliferation, the world needs nations like ours that accept the responsibility of working together to solve shared problems.
Leadership from countries like Australia and America and the strength of the alliance that binds us is more important than ever, not only regionally, but globally as well. Australia has always understood and accepted this responsibility. It has increased the military cooperation between Malaysia and Singapore, provided crucial assistance in Timor Leste’s transition to independence and led stabilization forces in the Solomon Islands. And your efforts to promote sustainable development around the world reflect an understanding of how important it is to lend a hand to those in need. And your sending peacekeepers to dangerous missions in troubled lands sets a very good model. For our part, since the first days of the Obama Administration, the United States has reaffirmed our commitment to be an active partner and leader in the Asia-Pacific. We’re practicing what we call forward-deployed diplomacy, sending our diplomats and our development experts across the region.
This is my sixth visit to the Asia-Pacific as Secretary of State. The President is making his second; as we are here in Australia, he’s in India, then he goes on Indonesia, then to the G-20 meeting in Seoul, Korea, and then the APEC meeting in Yokohama, Japan. We are working very hard to build even stronger our historic alliances with Japan, South Korea, Thailand, the Philippines, and of course, Australia. And we know that the relationship and the treaty alliance between us has really been forged in war, but it is founded on our shared love of peace.
Yes, our soldiers have fought side-by-side from the trenches to World War I to the mountains of Afghanistan in defense of democracy and our common values. And Americans will never forget that after the terrorist attacks of September 11th, Australia invoked out treaty alliance. That meant a great deal to us. And we grieved with you after terrorists murdered 88 Australians in Bali and we have renewed our determination not only to defeat violent extremism, but to offer alternatives and a different vision of the future to people who might otherwise be unwilling to pick sides. So the United States has no better friend than Australia. And it is a partnership that we have to keep evolving. We can’t just look to the past and say haven’t we been great together; we have to say what we do now need to do going forward.
Let me just mention a few issues. First on security, our future security depends on our abilities to adapt to emerging threats and unexpected challenges. So today, that means cooperating to keep the seas safe from piracy, protecting our computer networks and infrastructure from cyber attacks, and finding more effective ways to prevent and respond to natural disasters. That’s especially important here where earthquakes, typhoons, and tsunamis continue to batter our friends and neighbors as I experienced with one of the aftershocks in Christchurch at 2:43 in the morning the other day.
We know that this will be continuing set of very difficult problems and we need to be smarter about how we address them. Unfortunately, if climate change continues unchecked, natural disasters may only become more frequent and more deadly. And I want to thank the people of Australia for being leaders in trying to figure how best to deal with climate change. I think it’s understandable, because in this region of the world, including here in Australia, you’re subject to some of the worst effects from rising ocean levels and extreme weather to drought and mass migration. Later this month, the nations of the world will meet in Cancun to continue the work we started in Copenhagen. And it’s especially important to recognize that the very existence of a lot of our small Pacific Island neighbors is at stake. So we want to step up our work together on climate change and later today I will go the Prime Minister to look at some of the renewable energy programs that you are doing here.
We need to do more to work with our Pacific Island friends and last week I was pleased to announce that our development agency, USAID, will open a new office in Fiji to serve as a base for work throughout the region. And we will work on health, we will work on women’s empowerment, we will work on good governance, but we will pay special attention to a new fund we’re creating of $21 million for these small island nations to adapt to climate change. And we’re going to be working together with Australia to persuade the military government in Suva to meet its commitment to bring democracy back to Fiji. In the short term, we would like to see steps that advance political freedom such as allowing professional civilians to return to key government ministries.
But we’re going to look for new opportunities and the Foreign Minister addressed some of those in our press conference yesterday. We want to forge a close, working relationship on development needs between the United States and Australia, particularly on education, health, women’s empowerment and a sustainable economic development as well as championing democracy and human rights. Increasing trade and spurring economic growth is one of our additional major goals. We think it’s a win-win for Australia and the U.S. Our free trade agreement has boosted jobs in both countries and I will see more of that when I do an event about trade between Australia and the United States later this afternoon.
To continue this progress, we are both pressing ahead on something called the Trans-Pacific Partnership. It’s an ambitious multilateral free trade agreement that would bring together many more nations of the Pacific Rim. Australia and the United States are helping to lead those negotiations and we’re also working through APEC, which the United States will host in Hawaii in 2011. We see that as a pivotal year to drive progress on internal economic changes that will open more markets and make sure that any growth is more sustainable and inclusive. And finally, we believe that the United States and Australia have been at the forefront of organize the entire region for the future.
It’s not enough just for us to have a strong bilateral relationship. How do we interact with everyone else? And Kevin Rudd has been one of our best consultants on how best to do this helped convince both President Obama and me to join the East Asia Summit, because we think being part of the regional architecture in the region is absolutely essential. Today we’re engaging emerging powers like China, India, and Indonesia and with burgeoning partners like Vietnam, Singapore, and Malaysia. Clearly, China’s rapid growth in recent years is among the most consequential developments in the Asia-Pacific, indeed, in the world. And both the United States and Australia reject the zero sum view that some have that one country’s rise means another country’s decline. We’re actually working to build a positive cooperative and comprehensive relationship for China. This relationship between Australia and China, between the U.S. and China, and among the three of us is one of the most consequential that we have. So we’re committed to getting this right.
And as you can see, we have a full plate of issues that we’re addressing every single day. But what’s most important to me is that the bond between our people runs so deep. We are a very future-oriented set of peoples and I travel the world as Secretary of State and I go into many countries that are ridden by conflict having great difficulty addressing the needs of their own people in part because they cannot leave the past behind. They cannot say we have to move forward together; we need a different approach to how we’re going to build an inclusive society, create better economic opportunity and so much else.
We look at Burma today holding flawed elections that once again expose the abuses of the military junta and it’s heartbreaking because the people of Burma deserve so much better and Australia and the United States will continue to work together to establish an international commission of inquiry to hold those leaders in Burma accountable for human rights violations, continuing persecution of ethnic minorities, and we hope that perhaps out of these elections, some leaders will emerge who know that Burma has to take a different track, that they cannot continue to do the same thing, and realize the potential of their people. Because at its heart, our alliance is one of values and as we look to the future, we have no greater responsibility than staying true to those values and expanding fundamental freedoms to places where they are denied. So we must redouble our efforts to advance democratic reforms and human rights, especially women’s rights throughout the Asia-Pacific and the world.
And over the years, we have fought side by side, not just because our shores were threatened or our interests were at risk, but to defend these core values that make us who we are. We are both countries that attract many immigrants. And as I look at this audience, I assume there are some here or the children of immigrants who came to Australia for a better life, who came, yes, for the economic opportunity that a free market economy provides, but also came for the freedom to be oneself, to express one’s opinions, to worship as one pleases. That is at the core of what we believe. I’ve been to the war memorial in Canberra. I’ve walked the Hall of Memory and I’ve paid my respects at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. We have similarly hallowed places in America.
Now, inevitably time will weather the monuments and thin the ranks of the veterans who march in the parades. I’m particularly hopeful that young people who I fervently wish never have to go to war will understand that you are here at this place at this time because of all the sacrifices of those who went before. It is our job, and not just those of us who serve in public service, but it is our job as citizens of free countries to make sure that those values are understood, respected, and passed on from generation to generation. Our alliance demonstrates a commitment to doing that. Yes, we’re looking back to make sure we never forget, but we’re also looking forward to make sure we envision and then produce a future worthy of your dreams. Thank you all very much. (Applause.)
MODERATOR: Madam Secretary, welcome. I think you can see how thrilled our audience is to have you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: I’m very thrilled to be here. Thank you. And besides, they get a break from studying for exams, so — (laughter).
MODERATOR: Well, exactly. You’ve done these forums all around the world. What is it that you like about them and what do you feel that you’ve learned from doing them?
SECRETARY CLINTON: What I like about them is it gives me a chance to stand up or sit up on stages like this and look out at audiences that are primarily of young people and to then have a chance to answer as many questions as we have time for and the questions are always informative, the perspective that people have. I’ve been asked nearly everything from one end of the globe to the other and I learn a lot about what’s going on. I’ll give you an example. I was in Cambodia just a few days ago in Phnom Penh at an event like this with about 5-600 young people, mostly students, and what was on their minds was very much in line with what we see as great potential for Cambodia — economic opportunity, more emphasis placed on democratic reforms and political freedoms and so when you hear it from people in unscripted settings like this, it does give you a sense of what’s really going on, what people are talking about, and it also gives me the opportunity in my discussions with leaders to make the talk about human rights or political reform or anything else more contextual. So I get a lot from these settings and hope that the audience does as well.
MODERATOR: You mentioned in your speech that the Australia-U.S. alliance is a partnership we have to keep evolving. Our Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd said in your press conference yesterday that Australia welcomes the U.S. making greater use of our defense facilities. Does the U.S. consider that it needs an enhanced military presence in Australia?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think what the Foreign Minister and I were discussing yesterday is the decades-long tradition of the United States sharing facilities, being invited by the Australian government and military going back many years to train, to work together on projects. And take just one example of forward deployment to respond to disasters. We know they’re going to get worse even if we all did everything we believe we should tomorrow on climate change, we believe that the long-term weather forecasts are such that we’re going to have a lot more displacement. So we need to be smarter about how we work together. And so we’ll be discussing at this AUSMIN which is foreign ministers and defense ministers tonight and tomorrow how better to do that. Or take joint cooperation and space, something that we think should be reserved for peaceful uses and how can Australia and the United States advance our partnership on that. So there are many ways that we will build on what has been a cooperative joint relationship going back in the past to make us stronger, better prepared in the future.
MODERATOR: On the climate change that you mentioned, you’ve been traveling during the U.S. midterm elections, but President Obama has said in the wake of that result that cap and trade on carbon emissions is dead as a policy for the United States. Where to next then on climate change?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Leigh, I think that there are a number of different approaches. The President tried very hard and passed through one house of the Congress a very effective framework for cap and trade. But the political winds have shifted and there will not be the support in the Congress to move forward with that. So what we’ve been doing in the meantime — and I don’t know that this is a particularly well-understood program — is that the President has been using the tools of the presidency through regulation to make significant changes increasing the mileage of automobiles, working to require utility plants to do more to limit their own pollution and so much else. So I’m sure the President will continue on that page.
But I’m going to be looking with my former colleagues from my time of eight years in the Congress to see if we can’t come up some different approaches that will get political support. There are different ways of pricing carbon. There are different ways of limiting its impact. We’re going to explore everything, because the Obama Administration continues to believe that this is a serious problem. It’s not going away whether people — people can believe in it or not, but it’s not going away and we’re going to have to deal with it and the consequences will be more and more pressing on countries like the United States and Australia. So we’re going to be consulting and then figuring the way forward.
MODERATOR: You’ve just come from New Zealand and while you were there you were asked a question which led you to rule out presidential runs in 2012 or 2016. A lot of your supporters would be disappointed to hear that. Why do you rule it out?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think first of all, it is a great honor to have run for the presidency of the United States and to have put those 18 million cracks in the glass ceiling and now you have a woman prime minister and we’re seeing that around the world. Brazil just elected a woman president. So I am very committed to enhancing the empowerment and the roles of women in politics and every other aspect of society. And I hope to see a woman elected president of our country. It’s — as those of you who followed — an incredibly intense and contentious political system. But I’m very happy serving as Secretary of State and there are other things that I want to do in my life in the future. So I think I’ll be a strong advocate for whoever throws his or her hat into the ring.
MODERATOR: I think we should talk to the audience.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Okay.
MODERATOR: All right. Let’s take our first question from Adrian McMillan.
QUESTION: Do you think politics has moved beyond a contest out of ideas to a straight popularity contest?
SECRETARY CLINTON: It’s a good question and it’s always been a little bit of both and sometimes ideas are predominant and sometimes personalities are. It has to remain in a democracy a combination. Otherwise, I think it’s hard for someone with the best ideas who cannot communicate or connect with people to get elected to implement those ideas. And it’s hard if all you have is a great personality and no ideas to govern. So somehow there has to be a meeting of the minds. I believe strongly that we need balance and balance in mature democracies like ours requires that you have the core of ideas and plans and policies and that when you compete in the electoral system, you learn, if you don’t already know how, better to communicate what you believe so that people do have something of a roadmap as to what you will do should they all vote for you.
We have a very famous saying from one of our well known political leaders in America, former Governor of New York Mario Cuomo who says that you campaign in poetry and you govern in prose. So you get out there and you don’t know what you’re doing, but you’ve got a great way to get people to vote for you and then you wake up the day after and you say, “Oh, my goodness, now what?” It’s like the dog catching the car. You have to get to work and actually implement a policy. So we need in today’s very media centric world people who can do both.
I mean, I do somehow worry that in my own country could Abraham Lincoln have been elected President in the 21st century. He was awkward and gawky looking. He was so tall. He had what were called in those days bouts of melancholia which we might call depression. Could he have withstood not just the 24/7 news coverage, but everybody being their own reporter with a cell phone? I don’t know. And what are countries like mine or yours or any other losing out by if we don’t take politics seriously enough to get beyond what is sort of the flash and the celebrity part of it to really get into understanding who these people are and what they stand for. So I hope it stays a combination and that we hold our elected officials to a standard where, yes, they have to be able to communicate, but they also have to have a platform.
MODERATOR: Our next question is from a political science student, Alex Maschmedt. Where are you?
QUESTION: Well, thank you for your time today, Madam Secretary. My question is, do you think the Republican takeover of the House will effect the timeline for the drawdown of troops in Afghanistan next year?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Really another good question. And it’s one that we — we hope not because we think we have a good plan going into the NATO ISAF meetings in Lisbon in about two weeks time. We think that striking the right balance — you’ll hear me say that word a lot, balance — striking the right balance between moving and expecting the Afghan Government to do more for its own defense, but not being hasty in our transition to their lead in security, is what we’re attempting. And we think that’s well understood and accepted by the majority of members in Congress, but until the new Congress gets assembled into session early next year, we’re not going to know exactly what their points will be in their discussions with us.
Just one final thing on that,I’m very grateful for Australia’s support to the mission in Afghanistan. You have the largest non-NATO contingent of troops serving, and by everyone’s estimation doing an excellent job under very difficult circumstances.
And we are seeing progress. I mean, again, sometimes it gets lost in the headlines of everything that can and does go wrong. But if you talk with the people who are on the ground actually putting together the defense forces, both the army and the police, looking at the increasing buy-in from local leaders to their own defense, we are making progress. So we hope we can keep a steady course, hold ourselves to our own benchmarks and the make the progress that we need between now and July 2011 when we do begin a transition.
And then President Karzai and the Afghan Government have said they want to have complete control by 2014. Now, I want to underscore that certainly the United States and NATO will remain in a noncombat supportive role as a partner of the people and Government of Afghanistan, which has gone through a traumatic 30 years of invasion and civil war and warlordism and Talibanization and so many of the other challenges they’ve faced. We don’t want to abandon the people of Afghanistan. So we will take this step by step.
MODERATOR: We’ll take one of our Twitter questions, Madam Secretary. Art Zigler, who’s 21, asks, “What do you see is the biggest international relations challenge my generation will have to overcome?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh my. (Laughter.)
MODERATOR: An easy one, isn’t it?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh yes. Well, there’s also a lot of political science students in this crowd who may have a more personal view of this. Let me just mention a couple of intersecting ones and put it into kind of a framework. I think the biggest challenge that people 21 are going to face is how to ensure that the nations of the world work productively together to meet shared challenges, that the world is coming together, not falling apart; that the forces that are forces of negativity and disintegration are matched and overcome by the forces of integration and positive development.
It’s especially important when one looks at many of the countries that are under tremendous pressure internally because of extremist activities. How do you evolve democratic forums, give people voices, improve economies, so that the huge percentage of the population that is under 25 in most of the developing world believes they have a chance to have a future of positive and successful development? So this is a large, overarching issue, but if one looks around the globe today and you see the conflicts – not just in Afghanistan but in the neighbor Pakistan, through much of the world going toward North Africa with Somalia and Yemen being two examples, it’s a real – it’s a really hard question. And everyone needs to be thinking about how to work toward some answers.
I also, it will not surprise you to hear, believe that one of the biggest pieces of unfinished business in this century is the empowerment of women. And if you look at extremist regimes and ideology, there’s a pattern. It doesn’t matter what religion they claim to represent. Extremists often, at the very first, undermine the roles of women in their societies, and that is intolerable in the 21st century. Women should be given the opportunities to make their own choices about their education, their contribution to the society of which they are a part.
Then the climate change environmental degradation that is going on exacerbates all of these issues. Tribal, ethnic, religious conflict, which is related to them, makes development very hard and sometimes, actually, impossible. Leaders need to have more pressure on them from their populations so that they’re accountable and not abusive and responsive to the needs of their people. And I’ll just end with this: I mean, I am hopeful that the changes in technology that promote social connectivity will help to hold governments accountable. And it’s really someone like the young man’s age and some of the students here who are going to determine whether or not that’s the case.
But we’re beginning to see some positive signs of using Twitter and Flickr and YouTube and Facebook and all the other manifestations. In fact, I have a whole unit in the State Department that is devoted towhat we call 21st century statecraft or 21st century diplomacy, and we’re using outreach, young people to young people, to not only tell you to connect with your friends and talk about pop culture or make arrangements to meet up, but talk about what’s going on in your society. There was a recent example in Syria which I found especially interesting. Students who were being physically abused by some of their teachers in the state schools began filming that and putting it on YouTube. And all of a sudden, the government could not ignore what had been constant complaints about abusive teachers in the classroom, and those teachers were dismissed.
We’re working with young people who are creating applications in Africa to help farmers get real time weather information and prices of their crops so that they can build a better harvest for themselves and their families. There are many examples like that, and I think that may be one of the biggest changes, if used correctly, where we can open up governments and hold them to account.
MODERATOR: We’ll go back to our audience. Michelle YuanZiling what would you like to ask the Secretary of State?
QUESTION: Thank you. My question is how do you handle the stress of being a U.S. Secretary of State, because I cannot even handle the stress from my exams very well. (Laughter.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, good luck on your exams. (Laughter.) Actually, I think being Secretary of State is less stressful than taking exams. (Laughter.) First of all, I feel energized by what I’m doing on behalf of our country. It’s a great honor to come to Australia representing the United States of America, representing President Obama, making the case for closer cooperation not just between our governments but between our peoples.
And I think like any job in the 21st century, it seems, compared to these jobs in the past, much more stressful, because it’s a 24/7 job. I read about my predecessors who had a lot more time to think and to consult, and they weren’t expected to be available around the clock to answer questions from the press or talk with a world leader across the globe. So you just have to adapt to it; it’s part of the environment in which we work. But it is energizing. So I am very grateful that I get to do this job at this point in American history, and I’ll be doing it as long as I can to try to make a difference.
MODERATOR: One of your biographers has noted that even as an adolescent you were self-confident. Do you ever have self-doubt?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, of course, everyone does. I mean, if you don’t, I would worry about you. (Laughter.) But just don’t overdo it. (Laughter.) I think that maybe because I have now lived a lot longer than most of the people in this auditorium, I look back on my 20s and just so many hard questions – what was I going to do and how was I going to do it; and as a young woman what were the barriers that I needed to get around, over, or through; and what about relationships and was I going to get married, not get married, what did that mean, was I going to keep my name, not keep my name? I mean, I think the 20s are among the most stressful time in anybody’s life – (laughter) – because you’re in formation. You’re trying to figure all these things out.
And yet I also hope that young people don’t – how can I say this? – don’t be too hard on themselves. You are – it’s so easy to compare yourself now in this totally media-saturated environment with everybody else, everybody else who’s smarter, everybody else who’s more attractive, everybody else who does this or that. And get over it. I mean, be the best person you can be and take stock of you who you are and deal with whatever challenges you have. And try to be as open to new experiences while staying on a course that gives you a level of satisfaction and reward.
And the other thing is you will likely live so much longer than most people that preceeded you in your families going back generations that you’ll have chances to make different choices along the way. I have dear friends – women – who had their first baby at 18 and their first baby at 45. That was impossible 50 years ago. Women’s lives are so much more adaptable and flexible than certainly my mother’s was. And for young men the same thing: So many more choices are available to you.
And so I hope that you learn techniques for dealing with the stress and that it doesn’t overwhelm you and kind of tear you down, and instead you really find a way to be satisfied with who you are and what you’re doing.
MODERATOR: We’d like you to give us a quick response to a video question next on education. It’s from South Australia: “Hi, my name is Penny Marshall (ph)* from Adelaide and I’m in training to be a primary school teacher. My question to you is based on your opinion, ‘It takes a village to raise a child.’ How do you think it is possible to achieve community-based education in an increasingly overprotective and cautious society?”
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Penny, thank you for deciding to be a teacher, number one, particularly a primary schoolteacher. But that’s a really interesting question also because it is the case that we are perhaps limiting our young children’s opportunities to explore, make mistakes, learn from them, pick themselves up, dust themselves off, go on. Many families in the United States don’t want their children walking to school alone, don’t want them riding a bike, don’t want them out of their sight, don’t want them playing outside, want them in organized activities instead of free play, using your imagination.
And I think it is hard to deal with what are the legitimate fears and anxieties that are often stoked by the press. One terrible case of a kidnapping when that’s one out of 30 million, but still it just makes any parent just – their heart constrict with fear. We then overreact and we prevent our children from taking what are the normal risks of growing up. I think about my own childhood and I know it was very different the way I was raised, and then obviously because of circumstances the way my daughter was raised, but even her friends. We have to be careful that we don’t too early kind of confine kids into structures that don’t give them the chance to explore and find out who they are and what they’re good at.
So I hope that in the context of community schooling and support for it that you can find the answer to that as you begin your career as a primary teacher. But it’s a good question because it’s very different. We are exposing our kids to so many more things than children have ever been exposed to in the past. They are in some way more, quote, “worldly-wise but less personally experienced,” because they don’t have to take care of themselves as much as younger generations of kids had to do. So we’re kind of conducting an experiment and I think we have to be very careful that we are not somehow undermining the natural stages of children developing a sense of confidence and ability to cope that is the basis of being a successful adult.
MODERATOR: Let’s try to whip through a couple of audience questions. I’d like to call on Azmeena Hussein.
QUESTION: As an Australian born Muslim that wears a head scarf, I’d like to know your opinions on those that claim that the hijab and burka is un-Australian, and more importantly, your opinion on a woman’s right to dress as in how she pleases.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I am aware of the difference between a headscarf and a burka and a hijab, and I think that there is a difference. I think that a headscarf is a very appropriate manifestation of a woman’s choice, so long as it is her choice, which is a premise of my answer. But I think we have to face the reality that in a society where there is a legitimate threat of terrorism, not being able to see one’s face, not being able to have some sense of communication in that way, is for many societies a challenge. So I understand the dilemma and I think it is a legitimate dilemma.
I know, for example, in Pakistan many of the men who are conducting suicide bombing missions arrive covered in a burka. And if you are a Pakistani police officer respectful of the women of your culture and that’s being abused and misused by the suicide terrorists, that causes a real dilemma.
So if you are looking at other countries that are understandably nervous about extremist activity, like France and other European countries, I think it’s a close question. I think it’s a hard question. If we were able to wheel the clock back several decades where we were not facing these security threats from packages put on airplanes or like what we saw in Mumbai and the rest, I’m not sure people would be so concerned about it. So that’s my answer.
MODERATOR: Patrick Clark, it’s your turn to ask a question.
QUESTION: In your opinion, Madam Secretary, how close are we to achieving true gender equality here in the Western world?
SECRETARY CLINTON: We’ve made a lot of progress and we are constantly in societies like Australia’s and America’s pushing forward. So on balance, again, I think we’ve made a lot of progress. But if you look at much of the rest of the world, that progress has not moved forward. I was recently in Papua New Guinea and met with a large group of women leaders there, and the violence against women in that society is debilitating. It interferes with girls going to school, it interferes with women being able to be productive members of their families and communities. And it was one of the most important issues that the women raised with me.
If you look at many other societies where women are not given the right to go to school, to get healthcare, to get access to credit, where they are diminished, marginalized, where crimes against them are considered marginal if at all, we have a lot of work to do. And why do I emphasize that? Because I think that there’s very clear evidence, it’s irrefutable at this point, from the World Bank and other respected international organizations, that societies that do not expand opportunities for women are societies that are more prone to authoritarianism, more prone to extremism, less likely to develop, more likely to be left out of the 21st century’s opportunities.
I also think there’s a lot of unfinished business about the LGBT community. We believe strongly that there needs to be more attention paid to the persecution and abuse of LGBT people around the world.
MODERATOR: Just explain what that means.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender people. That’s what we call sort of our shorthand in the United States. And we’re very concerned about legislation, in some parts of Africa in particular, that actually calls for the death penalty for people who are LGBT. A lot of persecution, a lot of terrible abuse.
So the human rights agenda is a very active one and needs to remain so. Because I do think when any group of people or any individual, as we’ve seen with the recent Nobel Prize winner in China, are persecuted for either who they are or what they say or what they believe, as opposed to what they do, that diminishes freedom far beyond the individual cases.
So, we are making progress on these human rights agendas, but I think it’s everyone’s business to not only expect your government to try to put into place a framework for regulatory protections, but to stand up against sexist jokes or homophobia or prejudice against people with head scarves, whatever you see that is really chipping away at someone else’s humanity, to say, “No, we don’t do that. We don’t do that in Australia. We don’t do that in the United States.”
So, it’s not just a government-to-government thing with a lobbying pass, but it changes the attitudes of how we interact with each other on a daily basis.
MODERATOR: We have a video question that relates to some of what you have talked about there, so let’s have a look at that. It’s from regional Victoria.
QUESTION: My name is Jack Hagerty, I am 20 years old, and I live in the Latrobe Valley of Victoria. We know from several surveys that an inequality in marriage legislation often translates to an inequality of self worth. Madam Secretary, what is your view on same-sex marriage?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I have been a strong supporter of ending discrimination, and particularly focusing on hate crimes and workplace bias and the like. And in our country, the issue of same-sex marriage, which is a — is a matter left to each state, each state sets the rules — is proceeding on a state-by-state basis. I think that is the best way for it to proceed.
I have not supported same-sex marriage. I have supported civil partnerships and contractual relationships. Yet I am supportive of our states taking actions that they believe reflects the evolution of attitudes about this.
It is a signature issue. And as the young man just said, for many people it is sort of a symbolic issue, that if you don’t support that you don’t support equality between people, and particularly for the LGBT community. But I am very comfortable saying that we, in the Obama Administration, fully support every kind of equality, opening up opportunities in the State Department, which is my province of jurisdiction, and we will continue to support states making their own decisions about this.
I imagine, given the evolution of this issue, that it will not be a big issue in 20 or 30 years. I think it will have moved on. And if you look at surveys, we want — I personally want to see gays serving openly in our military, and young members of the military have no problem with that. People older are still somewhat resistant to it.
So, I think it’s like anything else — it is a new change, a new mind set of what it means to be fully respectful of another person — that you will see that evolve.
MODERATOR: Let me invite Wayne Bergmann, the Executive Director of the Kimberley Land Council, to ask his question.
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, given the history of Indigenous people, Native Americans in America, and the Obama Administration’s what I call uncompromising commitment to engage with that leadership, can Australia learn from those experiences when engaging with aboriginal people here?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we have a long history of the mistreatment of our Native American population in the United States. It’s a series of sad chapters in our history. We have now what we call sort of sovereign relations. Our Native American tribes, which were given land or are otherwise recognized by the federal government, are in a government-to-government relationship with the United States. And we are really focused on doing everything we can to improve lives in Indian Country.
There have been some positive changes, giving more authority over the use of that land to tribes, creating opportunities for them to exploit natural resources, to start casinos — which, for a number of tribes, is a great economic development tool — so we are going to continue to try to develop a more respectful, responsive relationship.
I don’t know enough about the situation here in Australia. I am obviously well aware of the debate that you have had in this country over the appropriate approach and treatment of the aboriginal people. I thought that the apology for the treatment going back in history that Kevin Rudd gave as Prime Minister was very important. Because you do have to recognize that there was mistreatment and abuse. And the history is not one that in my country I can just dismiss, and I am sure cannot be dismissed in Australia, either.
We still have a lot of social issues that have not been effectively dealt with among our Native American population. We have a higher degree of unemployment, a higher degree of dropping out of college, a higher degree of alcoholism, and all kinds of issues that we just have to do better at addressing. And I would assume the same is true here. And I would hope that, whatever the government is, whoever is in positions of responsibility, continues to work in a cooperative fashion to empower aboriginal people, to be part of making the decisions that will give them the support they need to go forward.
MODERATOR: Natalie Sykes-Hutchins, a labor candidate running for office, has our next question.
QUESTION: It’s an absolute honor to have you here in the room with us today in Melbourne. My question is a little bit of personal advice. My husband is an Australian Senator, and I have been preselected to run in the state election in a few weeks’ time. And I waswanting to get a little bit of advice about how to balance a successful political career and a happy marriage. (Laughter.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, you are both going to be serving at the same time, is that right, if you are elected? Well, that’s going to be interesting at home. (Laughter.)
I think — I mean, look, every person is different. Every marriage is different. Every political career is different. But trying to work out routines so that you can actually see one another, despite your busy political careers, is important, and maybe having some ground rules going into it, as to what you will and won’t discuss. Because it is challenging, especially if you by any chance have slightly differing points of view.
So, it would be my hope that you could have a very straightforward conversation about how you are going to manage this, and how you are going to organize your time in order to keep the private marriage part of your life going, while you’re both out there doing all the politics. Because it can be all-consuming, I mean you can — in political life it can be just — you never will answer enough questions, see enough constituents, do what you have to do, if you are — don’t draw some lines and some boundaries as to where your political day stops and the rest of your life starts.
MODERATOR: Speaking of life around politics, we have a Facebook question from Yaya Zoe. What do you and President Obama talk about outside of the political spectrum, and how do you unwind?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, President Obama and I talk about raising children in the White House, since he has two daughters, and we had our daughter from the age of about 12-1/2 until 20, with her father being President. So we talk a lot about that. And he is a very active parent, as is Mrs. Obama.
MODERATOR: And what’s your advice to him on that?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, early on, before they took office, I spoke with both the President and Mrs. Obama. They talked to me about the school that Chelsea went to when she was in Washington, and they ended up with both of their girls going to that school, in part because it’s a very supportive environment, but one where the girls get treated like everybody else. It’s not some big deal, where they’re kind of on a pedestal, which is deadly for young girls and boys who are trying to find their own way.
We talked about what it’s like living in the White House, where you have 138 rooms and hundreds of people who are doing everything, how you maintain some semblance of a normal life, with your children doing chores and being expected to do their homework, and all the other things that you would do if you were not living in the White House. And it’s been — they have done a great, great job in being fully involved parents, going to soccer games and basketball games and parent-teacher conferences, and drawing the line so that their children are not exploited for the press or for politics, but giving them the chance to enjoy the experience, so that when we have a state visit, for example, when Prime Minister Singh from India was there, we have a small gathering on the second floor of the White House before you go down to the state floor for all of the official evening. And the girls came in to meet Prime Minister Singh and his wife and his daughters who were there.
So, we talk a lot about how you, again, keep that balance. It’s a wonderful experience. You get to go places, meet people, see things that are truly unique.
MODERATOR: And what about you unwinding, the second –
SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, for me? I get away from it as far as I possibly can.
MODERATOR: But you don’t have any anonymity. How does that –
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well –
MODERATOR: If you had an hour of anonymity, what would you want to do with it?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I do — don’t tell anybody, but — I work in Washington, but Bill and I live in New York. And our daughter and her husband live in New York. So, whenever I can, I go home to New York. We have our house about 50 minutes from New York City. We go out to dinner, we go for long walks. We take our dogs into the nature areas around our home. We go to movies. We just do normal, everyday things to unwind and just to catch your breath.
And when I travel, it’s hard. But if I have a minute I will go for a walk. I went for a long walk along the waterfront in Wellington when we got in to New Zealand and went for a walk in the rain in Christchurch. And I hope to be able to go for a walk, if our schedule gets a little more forgiving some time in the next two days here.
But it’s just to try to literally let your breath out, to take some time to not think about all of the problems. And, especially out in nature, just being outside and feeling like you’re part of something much, much bigger than the to and fro of politics and international diplomacy.
MODERATOR: Michael Keks, who is a law student here at Melbourne University, hello.
QUESTION: Hi. Secretary Clinton, many extremely significant figures in American history have occupied your office. What do you hope your legacy will be?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, you are right. A lot of very significant people — and it’s probably too soon to really tell, and it will take some time to reflect, but I can tell you what I am trying to do. I am trying to reform the way that the State Department and the United States Agency for International Development do business.
I have commissioned the first ever quadrennial diplomacy and development review. Our defense department has done that for years, and they look at everything they’re planning and project into the future. Our diplomats and our development experts have not. So we are going to, next month, roll out this two-year study about how we make our diplomats more expeditionary, more capable of dealing with the full range of issues that we now confront.
You can’t just go to Canberra and meet with your counterparts as our ambassador. You have to run big missions with hundreds of people representing the full range of the United States Government involvement in the country, so you have to be more of a chief executive.
Our development experts are now called on to operate in conflict zones and post-conflict situations. We want to be much smarter about what works and doesn’t work, and quit doing what doesn’t work, look to see how we get more effectiveness for the taxpayer dollars that we invest in diplomacy and development.
So, we are looking at everything from personnel policies and procurement to how we can take the lessons learned from academic work and real-life experiences in preventing conflicts and responding in conflict areas, how we do better on disaster response so we don’t have to keep reinventing the wheel. After the terrible earthquake in Haiti, we had learned a lot from the Tsunami here in Asia, but we need to be much quicker and more flexible in responding.
How our civilian and military forces work together. When you look at the work we are doing in Afghanistan, it’s not a surprise that the Taliban is targeting international and Afghan aide workers, because — take agriculture, for example. A lot of — I mean export agriculture stopped during the Taliban period. Farmers are going back into their fields, they’re producing their crops, they’re starting to export again. International development workers have been instrumental in that. But how do we send people out into dangerous areas without providing them adequate protection?
So there is a lot of issues that are really at the forefront of cutting edge thinking about diplomacy and development that we are trying to address. And changing any bureaucracy is hard, but I am determined that we are going to put into place the kinds of changes that we are going to need, going forward.
And, at the same time, obviously we are trying to project American influence and power in a different way than it was projected the last — the prior eight years. We know that we need more partners, we don’t believe that relationships are premised on only our differences. We want to have more comprehensive agendas. Yes, we will have differences, but we will continue to work with countries and societies with whom we have differences, where we can find common ground. So there is a lot of tumult in the international diplomacy field, to try to figure out how we can be more effective in everything from technology to the deployment of our human resources.
MODERATOR: I’m sure everyone would love to keep going, but you have many other engagements that you have to get on to, so we will have to wind it up here. I know our audience here very much appreciates your time and engagement. So thank you for your company, Madam Secretary, and thank you to all of you who have taken part, too.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you all, very much. (Applause.)