How Clin­ton’s child­hood af­fected her pol­i­tics

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

The two-storey brick house where Hil­lary Clin­ton grew up still stands at a street corner in the Chicago sub­urb of Park Ridge. Nearby, a sign reads “Rod­ham Corner” - an ac­knowl­edge­ment of the place in his­tory oc­cu­pied by this small ham­let near the city’s O’Hare air­port. It is a place that im­pacted and shaped a young Hil­lary Rod­ham be­fore she went off to col­lege, mar­ried Bill Clin­ton, and be­came the Demo­cratic Party’s pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee in 2016. “My child­hood in the 1950s and the pol­i­tics of the 1960s awak­ened my sense of obli­ga­tion to my coun­try and my com­mit­ment to ser­vice,” Clin­ton wrote in her 2003 mem­oir “Liv­ing His­tory.”

Dur­ing that pe­riod af­ter World War II, Park Ridgea sub­urb that was all-white, Repub­li­can and con­ser­va­tive-was the cen­ter of Clin­ton’s world. “My par­ents felt com­fort­able in Park Ridge among all the other vet­er­ans who chose it for its ex­cel­lent pub­lic schools, parks, tree-lined streets, wide side­walks and com­fort­able fam­ily homes,” Clin­ton wrote. As a child, she was ex­posed to both tra­di­tional Repub­li­can be­liefs and com­pet­ing view­points from the out­side es­pe­cially from the civil rights move­ment. “My fa­vorite mem­ory is walk­ing home from school with Hil­lary, and the many op­por­tu­ni­ties we had to talk,” said Ernest Rick­etts, who at­tended kinder­garten through high school with the for­mer sec­re­tary of state. “She was al­ways very in­ter­ested in cur­rent events. She was in­ter­ested in his­tory.” Clin­ton’s crit­ics of­ten crit­i­cize her con­sis­tency on the is­sues, say­ing she is a chameleon who changes her be­liefs based on po­lit­i­cal winds. But her child­hood in Park Ridge of­fers a clue into Clin­ton’s world­view, which evolved through dis­cus­sions and de­bates with those on both sides of the ide­o­log­i­cal spec­trum.

Clin­ton’s fa­ther Hugh Rod­ham was a staunch Repub­li­can. The owner of a drap­ery busi­ness and the prod­uct of a work­ing-class fam­ily, he be­lieved in small govern­ment, in­di­vid­ual re­spon­si­bil­ity and work­ing hard for what you get. Clin­ton’s mother Dorothy Rod­ham was a Demo­crat. Aban­doned by her par­ents as a child and forced to start work­ing at the age of 14, Dorothy in­stilled in Clin­ton em­pa­thy for peo­ple caught up in cir­cum­stances out­side their con­trol. At the din­ner ta­ble, Clin­ton’s par­ents de­bated the is­sues, with young Hil­lary of­ten po­lit­i­cally in the mid­dle. “I grew up be­tween the push and tug of my par­ents’ val­ues, and my own po­lit­i­cal be­liefs re­flect both,” Clin­ton wrote in her mem­oir. She ad­mired her fa­ther’s sense of “rugged in­di­vid­u­al­ism,” she told The Wash­ing­ton Post in 2007, dur­ing her first run for pres­i­dent-a pri­mary bat­tle she lost to Barack Obama. “But it didn’t ex­plain enough for me about the world, or the world as I would want it to be,” she said.

Mother a ‘huge in­flu­ence’

Clin­ton’s mother was a vo­ra­cious con­sumer of books, and en­cour­aged the same in­tel­lec­tual cu­rios­ity in her daugh­ter. “Hil­lary’s mom was a huge in­flu­ence,” said Clin­ton’s child­hood friend Judy Os­good. “Her mom was just al­ways there and in­ter­ested in what we were do­ing.” Clin­ton’s par­ents en­cour­aged their daugh­ter to think be­yond the nar­row path young women of their time were ex­pected to pur­sue. She was pushed to fol­low her in­tel­lec­tual in­ter­ests, as well as play sports an en­deavor dom­i­nated by boys. Her mother’s dif­fi­cult past in­spired Clin­ton’s work as a politi­cian. “Learn­ing about my mother’s child­hood sparked my strong con­vic­tion that ev­ery child de­serves a chance to live up to her God-given po­ten­tial,” Clin­ton said in her mem­oir.

An­other big in­flu­ence was her child­hood min­is­ter Don Jones, who ex­posed Clin­ton to the so­cial is­sues of the day - tak­ing her and her church youth group in 1962 to hear civil rights leader Mar­tin Luther King Jr speak in Chicago. “He gave us a world­view that we didn’t have be­fore,” Rick­etts said of Jones’ ef­forts to ex­pose Park Ridge’s mid­dle class chil­dren to the larger world. Clin­ton main­tained ties with Jones un­til his death in 2009, and con­sid­ered him a ma­jor in­flu­ence. She also still main­tains con­tact with sev­eral of her child­hood friends in Park Ridge. “She’s very much the same per­son, es­pe­cially with all of her high school friends,” said Mike An­drews, who at­tended Maine South High School with Clin­ton. But the im­pact of decades in the pub­lic eye, and the var­i­ous con­tro­ver­sies swirling around her in­clud­ing the re­vived FBI in­ter­est in her use of a pri­vate email server while at the State Depart­ment-have taken a toll on her im­age, even in the city where she grew up. Ear­lier this year, in her first visit to Park Ridge in more than a decade, Clin­ton drew hun­dreds of sup­port­ers, but also some protesters. “Tra­di­tion­ally, this has been a Repub­li­can town, and there are peo­ple here who are diehard Repub­li­cans,” long­time res­i­dent Teresa Nuc­cio told the Chicago Tri­bune at the time. “Be­ing from Park Ridge doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily mean ev­ery­one will sup­port you.” — AFP

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Kuwait

© PressReader. All rights reserved.