“Let us hope there is a wave of young women running for office in America, and let’s be sure we support them in every way we can.”
Hillary Clinton gave a moving speech on the rights and struggles of girls and young women during a charity luncheon for the nonprofit Girls Inc. in New York City Tuesday. There, as she called for the "glass ceiling breakers of tomorrow," she was awarded the 2017 Champion for Girls Award — and her words were a stark reminder of her powerful rhetoric ahead of International Women's Day.
Aside from being the first female to run as a major presidential candidate in U.S. history, Clinton has long advocated laws and programs to help women and children. Twenty two years ago, at the United Nations Conference on Women in Beijing, she famously told the world "human rights are women's rights and women's rights are human rights."
That simple but powerful phrase hasn't been forgotten. And at Tuesday's charity event, Clinton kicked off her inspiring speech by joking about her own need to refresh and rebuild after a devastating presidential election loss (despite winning the popular vote), saying "Now, the truth is, life hands all of us setbacks."
What followed were some eloquent takes on what it means to be a woman today, what needs to be done for women's rights and advancement, and what the future holds. Here are five of the best.
"If we are serious about building a better, stronger and fairer America, we need to be serious about supporting and nurturing our girls."
Clinton's version of a great America is one that treats women fairly, encouraging younger generations to reach as high as they can. "We have to teach every girl that she is valuable," she added, "powerful and deserving of every chance and opportunity to pursue and achieve her own dreams."
Clinton highlighted not just the social expectations girls and young women face, but laws that can help or hurt them. She mentioned Title IX — which prohibits discrimination against girls in federally funded education and athletics — as one cornerstone accomplishment in the fight for women's rights.
"Our country can only fulfill its potential when every single child — particularly, every girl — can fulfill hers,” she said.
"We need to do more to shine a light on women who have contributed to our country, but whose stories have gone untold."
To do this, Clinton mentioned the film Hidden Figures as "a great place to start." The women who have struggled and won in the face of adversity don't always end up in the history books. But a society that's better for women is one that celebrates and draws inspiration from these trailblazers.
“Let us hope there is a wave of young women running for office in America."
Describing the need to support this next generation "in every way we can,” Clinton applauded the future female politicians and leaders. "Let’s help them shatter stereotypes and lift each other up," she said.
"They are the history makers, the glass ceiling breakers of tomorrow. They are among the reasons I am so optimistic about our future.”
"You can't be what you can't see."
She called on women to be role models for younger generations and all those around them. "There are still too few women in the upper reaches of the private sector — academia, science, technology, not to mention politics and government," she told the audience. "And we've all heard the saying — you can't be what you can't see."
"So each of us should take it upon ourselves to do all we can to help more girls and young women see themselves at the highest reaches of every field."
"In big ways and small, the unfinished business of the 21st Century is the full equality of women."
Clinton touched on the many challenges women have historically faced, and the ones that lie ahead, saying "our work is far from over."
But she drew special attention to the obstacles girls and young women come across in day-to-day life.
"Too often, starting at such a young age, they hear messages — they aren't good enough, deserving enough, smart enough," she said. "The chorus of naysayers starts early, and that means we must too."
To wipe away the discouraging words of society, we have to lift up young girls with messages acknowledging their strength and potential, she said.
"We have to form our own chorus twice as loud convincing our friends, our colleagues, ourselves, that women are both smart enough and good enough."