Friday, February 20, 2009

Third Stop: South Korea, cont.

After her press conference with South Korean officials, Secretary Clinton visited Seoul's Ewha University, the world's LARGEST all girls university in the world. This, I feel, is an extremely important stop on her trip. It wasn't that long ago that women were discouraged from attending college in Korea back in the 60s and 70s. At Ewha University men who are not employed by the school are NOT allowed to enter the school grounds (except a few extremely lucky guys: exchange students from outside Korea). Ewha was established when women getting any education was highly disapproved. No man, not even the father of a student, could come into the school and stop a women from getting an education here. The rule survives today. Amazing story, huh?

Another reason this visit is important is because this is a part of her outreach to ordinary citizens in addition to meeting with formal heads of state and such. This style of gathering mirrors the countless town halls of her campaign days; a format Hillary feels quite comfortable in. About 2,000 students gathered to see her speak. They gave a standing ovation as she entered the hall and frequently interrupted her speech with applause.

All but one question during the hour-long town hall meeting were personal, having to do with her upbringing, family and career. She said, "I feel more like an advice columnist than a secretary of state," she said. It's been reported that her book, "Living History" was very popular here; which probably sparked so much interest in her personal life.

"No country has yet achieved full equality for women. There is still a lot ahead for us to make sure that gender equality becomes reality... Part of my mission as the secretary of state is (making sure) the United States is committed to enhancing the rights of women."
Clinton expanded on women's issues saying society still makes it very hard for women to balance family and work. She called for more flexible working hours. She reminisced about her own experience working for the Rose law firm when male colleagues pretended not to know she was pregnant. After she had Chelsea, she received a call from a colleague asking when she was coming back to work. According to Hillary, the guy didn't understand the concept of maternity leave.

One questioner asked Clinton to describe her relationship with her daughter Chelsea. The response she gave was, "We could be here for hours!"

The best question, and the one that is getting the most attention in the media was about Bill. When asked how she knew that ex-president Bill was and is her one true love, she responded: "How does anybody know about love? If you can describe it, you may not fully be experiencing it. My husband is my best friend. We have an endless conversation ... we never get bored... I just feel very fortunate that I have a relationship that's been so meaningful to me in my adult life." She continued to speak about love saying "personal relationships are really what's important in life." She quoted a dying friend, a scientist, summing up her life: "I've loved and been loved. And all the rest is background music."

After the discussion, she waded into crowds of students despite nervous glances from her security detail (note the guy in the blue tie hehe). She worked the rope line and happily taken time to pose for photos with pretty much anyone who has gotten close enough to ask for one. The enthusiastic response from the crowd of students seem to energize her despite the extremely harsh and tiring travel. She also shook hands with South Korea's first astronaut Yi So-yeon and signed copies of her book during a meeting with female leaders that took place at the University.

Later that night, she arrived in the capitol city of China: Beijing. She was greeter by two senior officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. She will be making this a three day long visit in Beijing. With bated breath, I am waiting, and the world is waiting for what is to happen the next few days. This is going to be intense!

Watch raw footage of Hillary arriving at the airport in Beijing here.

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