Remarks to the Democratic Women’s Council in Columbia, South Carolina


Spoken by

Hillary Clinton

Well, this is so exciting, to be here with all of you and to be here for such an important cause, to make sure that the Democratic Party and particularly the Democratic Women’s Council recruits and trains and fields more women for public office right here in South Carolina. There are a lot of longtime friends here; I won’t try to mention everybody, but I do want to thank Susan and the entire board for DWC. And I want to thank Gilda, who I think has been in the state legislature since ’92, started in elementary school and worked her way up. Former Governor Jim Hodges, we’re delighted he is here, thank you. A national Democratic chair, a state Democratic chair, of course Don and Carroll Fowler, so happy to see them. Your candidate for the Senate last time, Joyce Dikerson, thank you Joyce.

I was thinking on the way down here that I first came to South Carolina as a young lawyer working for the Children’s Defense Fund, started by your own South Carolina native Marian Wright Edelman from Bennettsville. I came back many times going to Renaissance weekend, going to Hilton Head, then going to Charleston. Made a lot of friends, had a lot of good times, and am thrilled to be back, and I’m back because I want to support you.

You know, the theme of this day of events is how to build a party and how to build a party that really respects and includes women and gives women in this state a chance to not only be at the table but at the head of the table. Carrying with them their Democratic experiences and their life experiences. And you’re right, I am running to live again at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. But I don’t want to be there all by myself—I want Democrats elected from the local to the county to the state to the federal level, once again making the case that when Democrats win, Americans win.

I want to say just a few words about what’s happening to America’s families and what’s happening with our economy. Because I’ve always believed fundamentally that when families are strong, America is strong.

And we’ve come through some really tough economic times. I looked at the statistics and South Carolina has pulled itself up and other places have as well. American families have made a lot of sacrifices. People lost jobs, people lost homes, people had to put college on the back burner, retirement on the back burner. But everybody just kept going. It took a lot of determination, and across America we’re beginning to see the results of all that hard work. And I will say that there does seem to be a pattern, Democratic presidents, and there are two in particular that I’m thinking of, over the last 35 years, seem to inherit a mess of problems. Have you noticed that? So then they have to dig us out of the ditches they find themselves in and put us back on the right track, and of course I’m talking about Bill Clinton and Barrack Obama, but of course presidents don’t do it alone—they do it with the American people. It’s a partnership.

And today we are standing again, but we’re not yet running. And we face a choice: Are we going to hand over our country once again to people and policies that crashed our economy before and that will shred all the progress we’ve made?

[Crowd shouts NO!]

Well that’s obviously the right answer, but that’s what this campaign is going to be about. Because we’re going to have to stand up to the people who want to keep the deck stacked in favor of those at the top. We are going to fight to make sure that the success of our country is shared across the economy and that more families have the chance to get ahead and not just to get by but to stay moving forward with the kind of confidence and optimism that has always marked the best times in America.

It’s time to make the words “middle class” mean something again. They should represent a solemn promise that anyone willing to work hard can earn a decent living and a better life, not just get by paycheck to paycheck.

That’s the middle class I grew up in. My dad was a small businessman, and when I say small, it was small. He ran a small drapery printing business. And he literally had a print plant with big long tables that had silk screens, and sometimes my mother, my brothers, and I would help to pour the paint in and take the squeegee and then we’d walk down the table, print the fabrics, and then he’d go out and sell them. And it was a good decent middle-class life that he provided to my brothers and me. And I am so grateful, and there was never in my mind in fact that’s what so many of us believed when we were growing up. The future seemed so unlimited—of course we had to fix a lot of things in the country, starting with civil rights and human rights, but the opportunity ladder always was held out there.

I just came from Kiki’s Chicken and Waffles, which I highly recommend, and I was meeting with a group of African American businesswomen, and they were telling me what they needed to keep growing and build an even better future, it sounded so much like the conversation I remember around my dinner table. That’s what links us together past all the other differences that sometimes divide us.

Being middle class in America should mean you feel in control of your own financial destiny.

It should mean you have a little more, so you can worry a little less.

It should mean that you can invest in your future and the future of your children, putting aside some for education, putting aside some for retirement.

You should be able to go to sleep at night knowing that everything you’ve worked for won’t be lost in a flash because of decisions that are made or failed to be made in Washington.

So therefore, I want to be a president who makes corporations live up to the basic guarantee that when workers help produce record profits, those workers should get a real share of the rewards instead of it all going to those at the top.

And you know the statistic. Something is wrong when top CEOs earn 300 times more than a typical American worker, or here is my latest least favorite statistic, the 25 biggest hedge fund managers earn more than all the kindergarten teachers in America…combined. What does that say about our values and the importance of preparing our children through education to make it in a very competitive global economy?

Today, too many politicians who want to return to the same failed top-down economics are mouthing the words “middle class.” But this is something you have to believe in and something you have to be ready to fight for. If those words are going to have meaning again, they’ve got to be backed up by real solutions, not empty rhetoric. And those solutions have to speak to the ways that the economy has changed.

Today, 40 percent of mothers are the sole or primary breadwinners in their household. And more Americans are working multiple jobs just to make ends meet. Parents are rushing home from work to get their kids home from school and maybe get them off to practice or rehearsal. They are squeezing every minute out of a 24-hour day with barely enough time to breathe, let alone relax.

I remember when I was a practicing lawyer back in Little Rock, and around 3 o’clock every afternoon all of the women who worked in the firm were hunched over their phones kind of whispering into them and at first I didn’t know what was going on, and then I realized they were checking to see if their children got home safely.

Many people today can’t count on relatives to pitch in because so many families now are scattered across the country. Now I happen to be extremely lucky because my amazing 8-month-old granddaughter lives near me, so I get to see her a lot.

But nobody expects everything to come easy, that’s not part of life, we know that, but it shouldn’t be quite so hard to get ahead and stay ahead.

So I do believe that everyday Americans and their families need a champion. A champion who will fight for them every single day. Not for some Americans but for all Americans. And I want to be that champion. I want to get up every single day going to work for you, standing up for you, making a difference for you.

Now, take the issue of equal pay. I don’t think I’m letting you in on a secret when I say, too many women still earn less than men on the job. And women of color often make even less. And then there’s the so called, motherhood penalty, with many women taking a pay cut when they have children. All this lost money adds up. For many families, we’re talking about thousands of dollars every year. That’s money that could go for rent or groceries or a new car or into the college fund. Now we could fix this. If Republicans would get on board, we in fact could fix this today but they won’t.

One Republican candidate dismissed equal pay as “a bogus issue.” Another said Congress was “wasting time” worrying about it. One even said that efforts to guarantee fair pay reminded him of the Soviet Union.

And to that I say what century are they living in?

But thankfully the American people know the truth. And the truth is that when any parent is short-changed, the entire family is short-changed. And when families are short-changed, America is short-changed. And therefore this is not a women’s issue this is a family issue and an American economic issue.

And here’s what we should do instead to close the wage gap. First, we should pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, which gives women the legal tools we need to fight discrimination at work.

I introduced this legislation in the Senate back in 2005 and kept sponsoring it again and again. Well it’s time to get this done, once and for all.

Second, we should promote pay transparency across our economy to ensure women have the information they need to negotiate fairly. You can’t stand up for equal pay if you don’t know whether you’re paid equally. You remember the Lilly Ledbetter case, she didn’t know for the longest that she wasn’t being paid the same as her male coworkers doing the same jobs. Postings for new jobs or promotions should come with salary ranges. Large companies should report on how fairly, or not, they’re compensating workers, male or female.

And we should applaud those businesses and communities that are leading the way with best practices and real accountability. I think transparency when it comes to pay is our friend. The more we can bring it out from under the table to put it on top, the more information we can have to advocate for ourselves and advocate for each other.

Third, we need to raise wages for the lowest paid jobs in America — which are, they are disproportionately held by women, especially women of color—we need to make it easier for more women to enter higher paying fields like science and engineering and technology. But I want to say something that a lot of people may not know even in this room full of activist and well informed democrats.

In most states today, waitresses, bartenders, hairstylists, and others who rely on tips are paid even lower than minimum wage.

Some are paid as little as two dollars and thirteen cents an hour. And they are also more likely to face exploitation, wage theft, and sexual harassment. Think about somebody you may know, think about the mom trying to succeed at work and give her kids the support they need with a job that pays her $2.13 an hour. And forces her to put up with some pretty awful behavior by clients or customers or bosses to try to get those tips to at least push it up to the federal minimum wage level.

And finally, we need workplace policies like paid leave and flexible scheduling that allow parents to take care of their obligations at home without sacrificing pay at work.

Now, it’s no secret that on equal pay and so many other issues, we’re up against some pretty powerful forces, political and economic, that will do say and spend whatever it takes to advance a very different vision for America. I’m here to tell you I’m not afraid to take them on.

You know I’ve spent my adult life going to bat for children, families, and our country.

And I do know how hard this job I’m seeking is. I have seen it up close and personal. You’re not going to catch me wondering what it’s like. Instead I’m spending my time planning for what I will do for you when I get there.

All our Presidents come into office looking so vigorous. Think about what they look like on inauguration day and then we watch them they grow grayer and grayer, and by the time they leave they’re as white as the building they live in.

Well, let me tell you, I may not be the youngest candidate in this race. But I have one big advantage. I’ve been coloring my hair for years. So you’re not going to see me turn white in the White House. And you’re also not going to see me shrink from a fight. I think by now people know I don’t quit.

So I hope you’ll join me. I hope you’ll help me build this campaign, make it your own. Tell your friends to go to, sign up to volunteer.

This election is not about me. It’s about us. And it has to be about what we will do together to restore faith, confidence and optimism in the future and the country we love.

I want to end with a story, some of you might remember we had a pretty vigorous campaign in 2008.

I vaguely recall. And both President Obama and I worked really hard and he won and I lost and then I went to work to make sure he’d win. And I was so relieved, I was just so relieved when finally November 2008 came around and he did.

And then a few days after the election, my husband and I were taking a walk in a little forested area near where we live, and his phone went off, and he answered it, and it was the president-elect, who said, “Bill, I need to talk to you, and I want to talk to Hillary.” And Bill said, “Well, we’re in the middle of a forest, but as soon as we get home we’ll call.” So we did, and the president-elect talked to Bill about the ideas he had and the cabinet and economic problems that he was all of a sudden being confronted with that he hadn’t even been told about to the extent they were. So Bill talked to him and then hands me the phone, and the president-elect says, “I want you to come to Chicago to meet with me.” And so I said, “Certainly, when would you like me to come?” And he says, “As soon as you can come.” And I thought he wanted to talk to me about what I would do in the Senate to try to support what he was going to be championing as president.

So I went a few days later, go into this big office building and sit down with the president-elect, and he says to me, “I want you to be my secretary of state.” And I said “Well, Mr. President-elect, I’m honored, I’m flattered, but there are so many other people,” and I gave him names of people that I thought would have been great secretaries of state. And he says, “No, no, I have to spend all my time dealing with this economy, it’s worse than we were even told, and yet we have all these problems around the world and I need somebody who I can send out there to go anywhere to talk to anyone, and I want it to be you.” I said, “Well, I can’t tell you how moved I am, but I have to go back to the Senate.” And he said, “Now, I don’t want to hear from you until you say yes.” So I go back to the airport and get on the plane. I go back to New York and I’m thinking, you know, the right thing for me is to stay in the Senate, the people of New York had had a rough time. I became senator, and eight months later we had 9/11, and so I had spent most of my first term trying to help people and rebuild our city and protect it and everything and I just thought I needed to go back.

So I called the president-elect and said, “You know, again I cannot tell you how honored I am, and I will support you in any way I can, but I need to go back to the Senate, and so I must say no, Mr. President elect.” He said, “I told you I didn’t want to hear from you until you’re ready to say yes.” And so I say to my husband, you know, “Can you believe this? I mean the president-elect has asked me to be secretary of state, I told him no twice, and he says he’s not going to give up until I say yes.” Bill says, “Well as I remember it, I asked you to marry me twice before you said yes. He said you might stop and think that maybe there is a pattern here.” So I stayed up all night ,and I thought, you know, suppose it had been reversed, and I had been fortunate enough to win, and I wanted somebody to be in my cabinet that I knew I could rely on and I had asked the president-elect. I would have wanted him to say yes, because the country was facing some very serious decisions. So I called him back the next day, and I said “OK, Mr. President, I am honored, I will be your secretary of state,” and from that moment on we began to talk and to work together.

Fast forward to my first trip I go to Asia in February 2009, and I go because when I started calling presidents, prime ministers, and foreign ministers. They all said we didn’t know what to expect because nobody’s been paying a lot of attention to us. And I said well that is going to change, because the president and I see Asia as a very important priority, and I will come, so I was on my way.

One of the countries I was going to was Indonesia, and I agreed to do both the private meetings with the leaders and press conferences, the kinds of things you see on TV, and to do a lot of what’s called public diplomacy, where we would reach out to people, and we would basically say, we care about you we’re back we want to work with you. Let’s try to find ways that we can be partners and send a different message.

So I agreed to go on this show in Jakarta called the “Awesome Show.” And it was the early morning show, and it was unlike anything I’ve even seen on our TV, and you know you see anything on our TV these days, people are jumping up and down, they’re singing, they’re dancing, and I’m sitting here thinking, “Oh my gosh, I hope they don’t ask me to sing or dance”. But thankfully they didn’t. They did an interview, and then they said the audience, “Does anybody have any questions?” So somebody raised a hand and was called on. So this person said, “I want to ask you something. We followed your election.” I found that people overseas followed our election, in some ways closer than some Americans, really followed it, and so this questioner said, “We followed your election, it was really a hard, long-fought election” because as you know our elections last forever compared to most other countries which have elections. And he says, “We saw you and President Obama going at it, he was saying bad things about you, you were saying back things about him, and then all of a sudden you end up as his secretary of state? How does that work?” And I thought, you know this is a really serious question, because in lots of places you run against somebody, you can be exiled, imprisoned, or killed, not made Secretary of State, so I thought that there was a moment here that if I could rev my brain up that maybe could reach particularly young people because Indonesia is a relatively young democracy. So I said, “You’re right, we ran a very hard campaign against each other. He won, I lost, and then I went to work for him because he and I shared many of the same positions about what should be done in the next presidency and then he won and then he asked me to be Secretary of State for the same reason, we both love our country.”

And no matter how hard this election or any election becomes we should remember that at the core we can have disagreements, and we will, we have different governing philosophies, we have different views about what works, what the evidence shows works about economic policies, that’s all fair game, but we should show more respect toward each other and we should remember why we’re doing this, because we love our country, and we want it to be the country of hope and potential for our children and our grandchildren that many of us saw come into being over the last decades so as I run for President we’re going to have some very difficult challenges. We’ll have disagreements, we’ll have debates, but I want you to know that I will be remembering what I think should be at the core of every political campaign, how we treat one another, and how we care for this gift we’ve been given, the United States of America. Thank you very much.