Hillary Clinton: The Guardian person of the year 2016
Love trumps hate. Good trumps evil. Light trumps darkness. Knowledge trumps ignorance. And hope will always trump despair. When Donald J Trump, the narcissistic real estate businessman, beat Hillary Rodham Clinton, former first lady and secretary of state to the presidency of the United States of America in the 2016 elections, a lie was practically put to almost all of those assertions.
With uncommon dignity, she ran a campaign of ideas for the future. But her opponent was and is a misogynist, a demagogue whose own ideas, to the extent that he had any, were warped, racist and downright insulting of our collective humanity. The appeal of Trump’s campaign to the American electorate is still a phenomenon under scrutiny but it is enough to say he found listening ears in a people who, in despair, chose to accept his retail of fear instead of Clinton’s message of hope. So, Trump trumps Clinton. But America is the loser. She lost to a man whose definition of the truth is its exact opposite, one whose skyscraper of empty promises on the way to that electoral victory dwarfed the flagship of his real estate holding.
Hillary Clinton had auditioned for the job of President of the United States of America all her adult life, beginning with voluntary work for women and children even as an undergraduate student. She was not the first female Secretary of State. That honour belongs to Madeline Albright, whom her husband, the eternally charming William Jefferson Clinton appointed.
Donald Trump has, however, successfully insulted his way to the White House and denied the world the joy of the first woman, the first First Lady and perhaps the best person for the job in the Oval Office. Certainly, every rational being’s idea of what a mother, a sister, a wife, a partner, a daughter should be, the idea of Hillary Clinton as leader of the free world truly engaged the imagination and that missed reality is so excruciatingly painful to bear without daily wondering what might have been.
Cerebral, hardworking and hugely versed in the workings of government, not many people were as prepared to lead America as she was. Dignified in carriage, humble in spite of her great guts, thoughtful and very wise, she was the inevitable philosopher-queen. Her tenacity in public and in private lives is the stuff of legends. She withstood haranguing by the leading lights of the opposition party who did their best to cast her as corrupt and dishonest. She endured the humiliation of a troubled marriage and steeled her heart to save it. In the campaigns, she was held to standards sometimes humanly, but certainly manly impossible to meet. She not only discharged herself creditably, she captured the imagination of the world. That she lost to a man who is as comprehensive in his ignorance as he is relentless in his arrogance to put it on display underlines a certain rot in the heart of their society.
With her life-long fight for women, children and families, with her incredibly brilliant run for the American presidency, Hillary Clinton sent a message of hope and dignity to the world, especially to the girl-child, from China to Chibok, that there is no limit to the heights she can reach; that the world pollutes its joy, tames its own flight and shackles its progress by keeping girls or women in poverty or in captivity; that the world can be made more wholesome in happiness by women in leadership.
Baskets on their heads or babies on their backs, the crushing burden women carry with so much stoicism is the hallmark of their natural leadership. It is no accident that the McKenzie Institute has come up with the finding that 26% of today’s global GDP, meaning more than 24trillion dollars, could be added to the world economy by 2025 if women played exactly the same role as men in leadership and in the economy around the world.
With her life of service, Clinton shines with glittering accomplishments that the 2016 electoral loss cannot darken.
For making history as the first woman to get that close to the American presidency, for standing out among men and women, for standing up for her beliefs and standing against the dark forces of discrimination and oppression, for being a banner of hope to all women of all races or colour around the world and an inspirational force for the girl-child, Hillary Rodham Clinton is The Guardian’s PERSON OF THE YEAR 2016.
A woman of great grace, her story of trials and triumphs is told by Dr Tony Okeregbe, a member of our Editorial Board.
— Debo Adesina