Hard Choices by Hillary Rodham Clinton- Review

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No matter what side of the political spectrum you are on, you are going to want to read Secretary Hillary Clinton’s newest memoir, Hard Choices. Clinton released the new book about her time as the 67th Secretary of State in June 2014. She discusses what led into her taking the honorable position, her work promoting democracy around the world, and her methods and time diffusing crises around the world.

In Hard Choices, Clinton describes the reluctance she had at first to take the position. She was convinced that there were so many more qualified individuals that should have taken the job, but President-elect Barack Obama made the case to her. He pleaded that she could continue promoting women’s rights all over the world, build America’s international relations with allies, and that, frankly, the Administration would need her. She weighed her options, and then made her decision. The rest is history.

Clinton talks about working with nations in the Asian continent quite a bit. She discusses the reluctance of China to have any real diplomatic influence on its neighbors, and how some of the political leaders in that nation are as opaque as the political system. She also talks about how the fight for democracy in Burma was, at some points… interesting, to say the least. She wrote about what one of the leaders said, finding it just as humorous as when it first was spoken, “The Speaker of the Lower House of Parliament, Shwe Mann, another former general, met with me…’We’ve been studying your country trying to understand how to run a Parliament,’ he told me. I asked if he’d read books or consulted with experts. ‘Oh no,’ he said. ‘We’ve been watching the West Wing.’

European nations, and their long-standing relationships with America, are also discussed in Hard Choices. Clinton discusses why Europe’s alliance with the United States dipped before she was sworn in as Secretary. “Most of our European allies disagreed with the decision to invade Iraq.” But, as both America and Europe pursued common interests under the Obama Administration, trust, essential for democracy to thrive, was restored. During the stressful dialogue started with Iran on its nuclear program, on quelling the empty threats by North Korea, and in anti-terror operations, the United States and traditional allies, like Britain and France, regrew the relationship that has existed since the beginning of the Republic.

The operation to take down Osama bin Laden, and bring him to justice, came because of Clinton’s advocation. Her reasoning came because she is no stranger to the pain al-Qaeda brought upon America. As a Senator from New York, she helped secure the very significant $21 billion in funding to rebuild the World Trade Center site. She supported the invasion of Afghanistan, believing that it could simultaneously help root out terrorism and improve the condition of Afghani women. The opportunity to kill bin Laden was not one that came without plenty of patience, but when it did come, Clinton, “laid out the case, including the potential damage to our relationship with Pakistan and the risks of a blown operation.” She then added, “But, I concluded, the chance to get bin Laden was worth it.” The plan went forward, with US Seal Team Six storming the compound, taking down bin Laden, and recovering invaluable intelligence on future al-Qaeda operations. Clinton made the decision, along with President Obama, that trust could be placed in our troops, and it came out a complete success.

The crisis in the area of Gaza in 2012 was one that demanded undivided attention. A long-ensued battle between Israelis and Palestinians came to blows in the tiny 139-sq-ft strip on the Mediterranean one again. A fight that hadn’t been intensified to the point of mass conflict since 2008, when Israel ceased to occupy Gaza, Clinton was on the case from the very beginning. She worked hand-in-hand with (at the time) Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi to bring a ceasefire to the conflict. Over 100 people had already perished in the fighting, many women and children, both Israeli and Palestinian, and the condition of innocents has always gained the attention of Hillary Clinton. Negotiations between Morsi, Clinton, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu proceeded, where an agreement was reached that set out a comprehensive plan to end the fighting, and find a final solution to the conflict as a whole. Fighting ended after the agreement, and Clinton said that, “the ceasefire held better than anyone expected.” As now, an end to the current fighting in Gaza, where over 1000 people have died already, is being pursued along the lines of the 2012 ceasefire agreement.
Clinton discusses the issues we face in today’s world. She discusses the dire threat of Russian aggression, which she sees as Vladimir Putin’s goal of “reclaiming the Soviet Empire.” Clinton explains that, “we’re all in this together,” when it comes to Climate Change and energy. She wants the upcoming 2015 International Paris meeting on Climate Change to achieve real and beneficial reductions in our emissions, while helping to grow the US economy through green-collar jobs and new energy exploration, including solar, wind, and geothermal technologies. Finally, she discusses how Cold War-esque diplomacy will not work in the modern world, where both nations and groups pose threats. She explains what she calls “smart power,” which is the advocacy of democracy and freedom though the internet, technology, and human connections with everyday citizens.

The final discussion in Hard Choices is focused upon human rights, which Clinton calls the “unfinished business” of the 21st Century. Back in 1995, in a famous speech in Beijing, Clinton proclaimed that, “human rights are women’s rights and women’ rights are human rights.” She also discusses the fact that the growth in women’s job holdings in the US from 37% in 1979 to 47% in 2009 attributed to “more than $3.5 trillion in GDP growth over four decades.” Another argument that is made in Hard Choices is the fact that when women are a part of peace processes, “they tend to focus discussion on issues like human rights, justice, national reconciliation, and economic renewal.” Hillary Clinton, as she has done for her entire life, is nowhere near stopping now in her work pursuing rights for women here in America and abroad.

All in all, Secretary Hillary Clinton’s memoir of her time as Secretary of State is candid, revealing, and truly a testament to the challenges we face in today’s world. Time will tell if future ambitions exist, but one thing is certain: Clinton isn’t done yet.

Author Biography- Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton:

Hillary Diane Rodham Clinton served as the First Lady of the United States to the 42nd President, Bill Clinton. She went on to become a U.S. Secretary of State and U.S. Senator from New York. In the 2008 election, Clinton was a leading candidate for the Democratic Presidential nomination. (Credit to The White House)

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My Choices For The Most Influential People Of 2014

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We’ve seen a lot this year. Some amazing accomplishments, but also some horrific tragedies. The fact is, the actions of people with a lot of power influence our daily lives.

To end 2014, I have compiled a list of 15 people who I believe are to be the most influential of the year. Ranging from world leaders to artists, I have taken everyone into consideration and this list is uniquely mine.

The List:

15) Xi Jinping

The premier of China, Jinping took office last year. He has taken moderate steps to reduce corruption and to lessen the grip the government has on the people, though we must wait to see how much of this continues. Will the Umbrella Revolution in Hong Kong influence any of his decisions?

14) Prime Minister David Cameron

Cameron, Prime Minister of Great Britain, has faced opposition from both the Labour Party and his own Conservative Party. However, Cameron has stood firm for Britain and her interests in the Middle East, and is a key player in the ongoing Russian conflict.

13) Abdul Fattah Al-Sisi

After overthrowing Muslim Brotherhood President Mohammed Morsi in July of 2013, General Al-Sisi has been an uncertain rock that Egypt has stood on. Elected as President in June of 2014, we must wait to see if Al-Sisi is a democrat or another dictator for a weary Egypt.

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12) Michael Brown

Michael Brown’s death in 2014 at the hands of Officer Darren Wilson reopened the debate on race, poverty, the use of force by police, and the justice system. It also revealed that, sadly, we are very much the same country we were 50 years ago when it comes to race, except just less blatantly.

11) Lebron James

Lebron James made by far the biggest sports news (yes, bigger than Ray Rice) by announcing he was returning to the Cavaliers. There, he has helped the team accumulate a 18-13 record, and has proven that, even at the age of 30, he is still the greatest basketball player of the 21st Century.

10) Jennifer Lawrence

Starring in the 2014 films “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1” and the critically-acclaimed “X-Men: Days of Future Past” Jennifer Lawrence is on a mission to prove that acting is not a lost art along with empowering women. Her influence is not likely to go anywhere but up.

9) Angelina Jolie

An influential mainstay, along with being one of the greatest actresses in Hollywood history, Angelina Jolie has not gone anywhere in 2014. Starring in “Maleficent” and continuing her work with refugees through the UNHCR has easily earned Jolie a spot on this list.

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8) Jimmy Fallon

The greatest comedian to come out of Hollywood since Johnny Carson, Jimmy Fallon now hosts that legend’s “Tonight Show”. Fallon has proven he is a comedic legend himself many times over, and is a breath of real comedy in the (luckily ending) Age of Adam Sandler. I believe that 2014 may be the start of the new Comedic Age Of Jimmy Fallon. Thank God for that.

7) Pope Francis

The most influential leader the Catholic Church has had in decades, Pope Francis proves time and time again that his commitment to make the Church a place of greater compassion and tolerance should inspire us all.

6) Janet Yellen

After taking over as Chair of the Federal Reserve, Yellen became the first woman to hold that position. Yellen’s influence will truly be felt in 2015 as the economy begins to return to more normality after the Great Recession.

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5) Malala Yousafzai

Recipient (along with Kailash Satyarthi) of the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize (its youngest recipient), Malala Yousafzai has proven that her work for children and women around the world is only just beginning. I consider her to be one of the bravest and courageous people currently living on this Earth. Her influence will only increase.

4) Angela Merkel

From dealing with the affairs of the European Union to those internally in Germany, Angela Merkel has been waist-deep in every international conflict of 2014. She will be one to watch when the Second Cold War picks up next year and beyond.

3) Hillary Clinton

From the publication of Hard Choices to a campaign being run for her even without her officially running yet, Hillary Clinton has proven truly how influential she is to the world. Voted as the most admired woman of the year for the 19th time in a row, Clinton will be gearing up for the beginnings of a presidential campaign next year.

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2) Beyoncé Knowles

2014 has cemented Beyoncé as the greatest artist ever, surpassing Michael Jackson. From the most successful (5 million+ copies sold), well-crafted, and most-original album since Thriller being released at the very end of 2013 to the On The Run Tour to the legendary VMA performance, Beyoncé has proven herself to be way above any other artist. Worth more than any other black artist at almost $500 million, the most Grammy-nominated artist in history, and her stand as a humanist (real equality for men and women) has made her the greatest artist in history. And she’s only 33.

Now, 1 is a tie between:

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1) Barack Obama

Unhindered by any future election or by what other people think, Obama kicked 2014 into high gear by accomplishing all possible in his power on immigration, civil rights, and the economy. With job numbers almost at 11 million, Obama has proven to be the most courageous leader we have had since Kennedy. He has stood for all free people when it comes to Russian aggression, and defends American interests by leading the fight against ISIS. I am excited to see what he accomplishes in 2015.

And:

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1) Vladimir Putin

I have covered the Russian invasion of Ukraine on this blog, writing a total of 17 articles on it. Vladimir Putin, the ex-KGB agent, has embarked on a campaign to “restore Russian greatness”. From the loss of 298 innocents in the downing of MH17 to the systematic expulsion or elimination of any opposition to his administration, Putin has succeeded in starting a Second Cold War. Listen to me when I say that Crimea is only the beginning.

All of these choices are my own.

Personal Letter And Autograph From President Bill Clinton: Is This Real Life?!

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President Bill Clinton Doing What He Does Best: Bringing People Together. Oslo Accords, 1993. L-R: Yitzhak Rabin, Clinton, Yasser Arafat

Recently I had sent letters to both Secretary Hillary Clinton and President Bill Clinton. I wrote about my ambitions, and the cause I am to make my life’s work: poverty. A couple months ago, in early February, I had received a letter and autograph from Secretary Clinton (which I wrote about here.)

This month, though, I was lucky enough to get a response from the Office of Bill Clinton at the Clinton Foundation:

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It is a personal letter from him, along with a signed bookplate. I was honored to receive both of these, as I hold him as a hero of mine. It also meant a lot to me what he said in the letter, which included:

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“I was especially inspired by your passion for promoting racial and economic equality.”

“I can tell that you’re already…thinking thoughtfully about how to empower others to live their best life stories.”

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And in an allusion to the title of his autobiography, he said:

“Good luck onto your life.”

Bill Clinton was one of the greatest Presidents we have had, and has emerged as a true statesman. I am truly grateful for the time and energy he put in writing me back, and it is something that I will hold with me for a very long time. Both Secretary Clinton and President Clinton are figures that I admire greatly, and they “may” (wink) both be making firsts in 2016

Ukrainian Crisis: Crimea Votes To Join Russia

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Russian Flags Wave Behind A Statue Of Lenin. Credit To CNN

Today, March 16th, Crimeans took to the polls to vote on their future. In a region of 2 million people, the referendum had only 2 options, either independence or joining Russia. The status quo of staying part of Ukraine was not an option. 93% of the vote went to seceding from Ukraine and joining Russia.

Voters had to be 18 or older, and present some form of ID. Journalists report, however, that some went in with solely a passport, and some voters cast multiple votes.

The Russians are very happy with this outcome, with Crimea back under Moscow’s control. They maintain that this was a legal referendum, and that they were saving ethnic Russians in Crimea from “fascists”. President Putin calls the ousting of former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych unconstitutional.

The United States and Europe effectively unanimously agree that this is illegal. The West maintains that this vote violates Ukrainian and International law. The US Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power said territorial referendums legally have to be held “across the entirety of Ukraine and not just in a sub-region like this.”

Jose Manuel Barroso (@BarrosoEU), the President of the EU Commission, tweeted “#Crimea referendum illegal and illegitimate. EU will not recognize its outcome.”

The G7 said that if Moscow does not stop trying to change Crimea’s status, “further action” would occur.

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Voting Booth In Crimea. Credit To CNN

The Western condemnation of this referendum is obvious, and widespread. Both Britain and the United States said that additional sanctions will be put in place if this vote goes through. British Foreign Minister William Hague stated that “If there is no progress on these things in the next few days then we will move to the next stage of Europe’s response to this crisis, which will involve travel bans and asset freezes on individuals in Russia.” Now that the vote has gone through, both Washington and London must work together to isolate Russia.

On Sunday’s Fareed Zakaria GPS, on CNN, the Polish Foreign Minister stood strong for the EU, saying that, “Russia is leaving us no choice. And the European Council has decided, if there is no movement on Russia’s part to correct the position, then I’m afraid we’ll have no – no choice on Monday.”

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Ballot Box In Crimea. Credit Here.

I believe that Crimea is the only chance Russia has to exert international influence. In the planned Eurasian Union, made up of Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan, Crimea would be valuable as it would be the only warm-water port. Crimea allows for influence in the Middle East, Europe, Africa, and Asia. This Eurasian Union, it is the planned joining of Russia and other former Soviet satellites.

I have come to the conclusion that Russia has taken this military action in Ukraine because Ukraine will not be part of the Eurasian Union. As Vladimir Putin said, regarding the Eurasian Union, that it would build upon the “best values of the Soviet Union.” This is the reforming of the Soviet Union. Russia has said that it has taken over Crimea because Ukraine is still Russian, so, if Ukraine shows any opposition to Putin…you see what happens. If Putin cannot get Ukraine to join willingly, he will take it forcefully, starting with the most valuable land: Crimea.

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Then-Sec. Hillary Clinton With Putin in 2010. Credit Here

This is why Hillary Clinton compared this action to Hitler invading Sudetenland. “The claims by Putin that they had to go into Crimea, because they had to protect Russian minorities, is reminiscent of claims that were made back in the 1930’s.” and, “Germany, under the Nazis claimed they had to protect German minorities in Czechoslovakia … and throughout Europe.” She was supported in her statement by former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski. Two of the greatest foreign policy minds alive agree that the takeover of Crimea seems a lot like it is 1938 again.

The Eurasian Union will be the reincarnation of the Soviet Union. Hillary Clinton, as Secretary of State, spoke about that too. “It’s not going to be called that [USSR]. It’s going to be called customs union, it will be called the Eurasian Union and all of that, but let’s make no mistake about it. We know what the goal is and we are trying to figure out effective ways to slow down or prevent it.” Crimea is the start, and Sunday, March 16th will be remembered like May 14th, 1955, when the Warsaw Pact was signed. It is up to us if it leads to a Second Cold War.

A Package With A Letter And Photo Came To My Doorstep Today From Hillary Rodham Clinton!

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Today I came home to a surprise, a package that was obviously not filled with a book. As someone who writes letters to my heroes, I am used to getting packets back, with autographs from some people such as Senator John Glenn, Walter Mondale, and NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, but was not expecting this! I opened the packet with my trusty letter opener, and knowing that I had last sent letters to both Clintons, knew that it may have come from one of them.

I pulled out the 2 items in the envelope and was really happy: A letter and photo from Hillary Clinton!

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I looked at the photo first. I was happy that it was my favorite shot of her, and that it was personalized with my name.

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I then looked at the letter. It made me feel good that someone read my letter because it mentioned some of the things I had written to her about. She encouraged me to “bring my energy and ideas to the public square” and “I also admire your ambition”. I also have suspicions that she may have actually signed it herself, due to my careful eye developed over time to spot real and machine autographs. The blue Sharpie ink was on top of the “m” in type in the typed signature, not printed under it, and was comparable to ones that were signed at events from people who watched her sign it.

I will frame both and keep them both in excellent condition and will treasure them all my life. I look forward to hopefully working as an organizer for her campaign in 2016 “if she runs“. It was a refresh knowing that one of our people in power are still in touch with the people, along with the President (who tries to personally reads around 10 letters from everyday citizens every night) and I look forward to reviewing the confirmed book about her time as Secretary Of State in June, published by Simon and Schuster.