U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who steps down as America's top
diplomat Friday, has repeatedly been seen by the public as the world's
most admired woman, according to surveys by the Gallup organization.
Clinton steps down from her State Department post, having worked to
rebuild relationships damaged by wars in Afghanistan and Iraq while
pivoting U.S. assets to the Asia-Pacific. But she says the cause of her
life is empowering women.
"It is just foolish to try and build a strong economy or a stable
democracy while treating half the population as second class citizens at
best, as some other species at worst," she said. "And yet in too many
places that is exactly how women are treated, they have few or no
political rights, they are subjected to terrible violence, their health,
even their lives are disregarded."
Human Rights Watch deputy Washington director Sarah Margon says Clinton
put women's rights at the center of foreign policy.
"Her willingness and, in fact, eagerness to meet with civil society
groups is a real indication that foreign policy is no longer just about
government-to-government relations. It's about engaging all kinds of
groups," said Margon.
In sub-Saharan Africa, Center for Strategic and International Studies
analyst Jennifer Cooke says Clinton pushed for accountability for abuses
against women in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
"She leaves a strong legacy of diplomacy whether it's in Kenya, whether
it's in Cote d'Ivoire, whether it's in Senegal, tackling these big
issues in DRC," Cooke said.
But Clinton also has detractors. In the case of Syria, she has been
criticized for not doing enough to help opponents of President Bashar
And she has drawn criticism for security failures in Libya -- at the
U.S. mission in Benghazi where four Americans were killed in a terrorist
attack last September.
"Certainly, the loss of American lives in Benghazi was something that I
deeply regret and am working hard to make sure we do everything we can
to prevent," Clinton said. "When you do these jobs, you have to
understand at the very beginning that you canít control everything."
On balance, says Cato Institute analyst Malou Innocent, Clinton's time
at the State Department will be an asset if she makes a second run for
as foreign policy wonks in Washington D.C. we can sort of dissect here
and there, but for the majority of the American people they are going to
look at her resume, which has been stunning. So certainly that will help
her in 2016," Innocent said.
Having lost her party's nomination in 2008, Clinton says she is not
thinking about running again.
"It is up to me to make a decision on my own future," Clinton said. "I
right now am not inclined to do that, but I will do everything I can to
make sure that women compete at the highest levels not only in the
United States, but around the world."
Clinton jokes that the first thing she will do after she leaves
Washington is catch up on 20 years of sleep deprivation.