A few thoughts on President-elect Donald Trump

By Caitlin Kelly

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The phone rang this morning at 8:30, waking me, waking my husband who got home at 4:30 a.m. after editing photos all night for abcnews.com.

“Come home!” said the caller, a friend of more than three decades, a woman slightly older than we are, who lives in my hometown of Toronto.

The emails started soon after that, from friends in Ontario and British Columbia — and New Jersey and California and many other places asking me…

What just happened?

Misogyny won

I stayed up last night only until 12:20 before retreating to bed, as it was already pretty obvious by 10:00 p.m. that Hillary Clinton was going to lose. All day long, there were line-ups at the Rochester, NY grave of Susan B. Anthony, who fought for women’s right to vote, piling flowers at her gravestone and covering it with “I Voted” stickers.

A secret, private Facebook group of millions of men and women, Pantsuit Nation, had sprung up to talk to one another candidly, movingly, about why this mattered so much to all of us; Sec. Clinton even alluded to it in her concession speech.

I watched it live, and , finally, wept.

For every young girl and woman who had spent the day in dizzy, glorious euphoria at voting, finally!, for a woman, her loss was a bitter, bitter defeat.

Yes, of course, someone had to lose.

But watching someone as supremely qualified for the job as she to a man with no political experience?

The idea of a woman at the helm of state was clearly deeply repugnant to many voters, a source, no doubt, of some amusement to those in Britain, Canada, Argentina, Iceland, Germany and many other states and nations with elected female leaders.

Fear won

Fear of economic chaos and further job loss or stagnation. Fear of the “other” — the woman in hijab or the man with a heavy accent, the child who had to swim into a boat to be rescued in the Mediterranean or fleeing the bombs that killed the rest of her family.

Fear of the unknown, as if anyone sitting in the Oval Office can, magically, make it all better.


The Presidency isn’t a game for amateurs

The President has access to nuclear codes.

The President can enact or veto legislation that affects millions.

The President is the face, literally and figuratively, of the United States; to have someone in the Oval Office soon who has assaulted women (and boasted about it), has lied to and cheated business contacts and who has never borne the tremendous responsibility of holding elected office?

This is the highest office in the land.

It is the greatest honor to be chosen to speak on behalf of all Americans; I’ve stood in the Oval Office, while Bill Clinton was in office as we knew someone who would allow Jose and I a few moments there.

It is, for many people, a sacred space.

And the person who sits behind that wooden desk? Their moral character matters, and deeply.

This man…

The media had no idea how strong Trump’s support is — and should have

I work as a journalist and have for decades, as does my husband as a news photographer and former photo editor for 31 years at The New York Times.

It is our job, and that of our bosses and colleagues and publishers, whether of digital, print or broadcast, to know what the hell is going on out there.

Not just what out friends say or what academics with tenure or at think tanks opine, or what so-certain pollsters tell us.

We would only have known some of this by leaving our safe, cozy, warm newsrooms and venturing into places that are physically, emotionally, intellectually and politically deeply uncomfortable for some of us.

Chris Arnade, who wrote for The Guardian, did some of this boots-on-the-ground reporting work, although he admitted he spoke primarily, (a serious oversight) to men.

A media landscape in chaos isn’t helping.

An industry increasingly filled with 22-year-olds with no experience beyond a few college classes — cheap, malleable, “digital natives” — isn’t capable of this.

You can’t “just move to Canada”

The website with information on immigration to Canada crashed last night because so many panicked Americans tried to use it.


My country of origin isn’t just a place to flee to and nor should it be; those with the best shot will be younger than 45, have a job offer in hand and speak fluent English, (and ideally some French as well.)

Irritated even then, I wrote this Salon column back in March when Trump was only starting to look like a more serious threat. (I was born and raised in Canada, and lived there to the age of 30):

If the growing prospect of President Trump scares the shit out of you, Canada might be looking like a nice cozy bolthole right about now. But it’s not just a kinder, gentler U.S. with better hockey and beer.

Hey, it’s close, civilized, a quick flight from the Northeast. They speak English.

But it really is a foreign country.

A nation almost 100 years younger than the U.S., Confederation was in 1867, creating the first four provinces. For all its vaunted socially liberal policies, it’s also a country with its own history of submission and domination – English over French, the 150,000 First Nations, Metis and Inuit children forced for decades to attend brutal residential schools, the unresolved murders of 1,200 indigenous women, prompting the recent allocation of $100 million by Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne to investigate and address the issue.

While Canada recently welcomed 25,000 Syrian refugees, don’t be too quick to assume there’s an equal welcome for thousands of panicked Americans eager to flee a political scene they find abhorrent.

The immigrant’s dilemma on Election Day

By Caitlin Kelly


In a few days, American citizens will choose their new President, (and other elected officials, which tends to get lost in the fray.)

Some of us who chose to come to the United States — and not those (blessedly) fleeing war, oppression, terror, economic disaster — are now, nervously, wondering…what next?

Will we stay?

If not, where will we go?


This is not unique to me; here’s a comment on a recent piece in The Economist:

An American friend who has 2 children to raise and educate has already emigrated, to Australia in this case, because his wife is Australian. And then a few Asian dual-citizenship friends already left. In their words, “America is not a good place to raise kids – too many guns, and too many strange xenophobes. It’s not worth it.” They are all bilingual, bi-literate, high-skilled professionals. I certainly am packing too if Trumps wins.

I’ve avoided much discussion here about this election, although I will say clearly I do not want Donald Trump to win and am very, very fearful of the effects, domestically and globally, his election would create.

I’m disgusted and appalled by the way he dismisses and demeans women, Muslims, Mexicans (my husband’s heritage), the disabled and others.

I chose a country I then believed welcoming to “the other”, a place where your background and beginnings mattered less than your education, skills, drive and ambition.

This no longer feels true to me.

I have not become a citizen, so I will not be voting. I will accompany my husband to the polling station, proudly, as I did last time.

Choosing to emigrate to the U.S. places you in an odd few buckets.

The word “immigrant” is too often conflated with “illegal” or assumed to be someone whose choices elsewhere were so utterly barren that we had to come, have to stay and have no better options back at home — or in any other nation.

The true picture is much more  varied.

There are immigrants who’ve made millions of dollars. There are those stuck in low-wage, menial jobs, sometimes for decades.

But there are also millions of us who thought coming to the United States, making a deliberate choice, was worth a try, maybe later in life or mid-career, maybe having to persuade a dubious spouse or children to create a fresh start here.

There are many of us, especially those with multiple language skills and the ability to work in other languages or cultures, those of us with cross-cultural fluency, who could leave, returning to our homeland or trying yet another country.

I left Toronto, and Canada, a nation with cradle-to-grave government supplied healthcare, (versus the $1,400 I pay every month here in NY, thanks to self-employment and corporate greed), a country whose very best universities offer a year’s tuition for less than $10,000 — not the $50,000 to $60,000 plus charged by the U.S.’s top private schools.


I came to the U.S. at the age of 30; then as now, I had no children to worry about.

Nor did I mind leaving my family of origin behind as we’re not close emotionally and returning, in need, is a quick 90 minute flight.

But my decision was still terrifying!

I knew very few people. Had no close family here — cousins in California with whom I have virtually no contact.

Had no job. Had no graduate degree nor the Ivy League education and social capital I would (belatedly!) learn are essential to elite success in the crazy-competitive Northeastern enclaves of publishing and journalism.

I now own property here. I’m married to an American. I have long-standing friendships and deeply love the region I chose, the lower Hudson Valley.

But the prospect of a Trump Presidency is making me, and many, many others deeply anxious.

Those of us with portable skills and multiple passports and/or citizenships do have options.

Thanks to my paternal Irish grandfather, I can also apply for Irish citizenship and an EU passport; I already speak fluent French and decent Spanish.

Does this country, in an era of growing global competitiveness — when American schoolchildren rank lower than other nations — really want a potential brain drain of some of the most highly educated and highly skilled workers, thinkers and innovators it needs most?


Of those once sufficiently seduced by that elusive American dream to wave goodbye to everything, and everyone, we knew before?

No matter who we vote for, we can still vote with our feet.

Will we need to go?

Will we want to?

We’ll know soon enough.

College Students Super-Stressed, Women Especially

Indra K. Nooyi, Chairman and Chief Executive O...
Indra Nooyi, CEO, Pepsico. Image via Wikipedia

I found this recent report interesting, if unsurprising — that today’s freshmen are more stressed than ever.

What I really found intriguing, though, was how important to women’s mental health it is for their professors to take them seriously.

From The New York Times:

Linda Sax, a professor of education at U.C.L.A. and former director of the freshman study who uses the data in research about college gender gaps, said the gap between men and women on emotional well-being was one of the largest in the survey.

“One aspect of it is how women and men spent their leisure time,” she said. “Men tend to find more time for leisure and activities that relieve stress, like exercise and sports, while women tend to take on more responsibilities, like volunteer work and helping out with their family, that don’t relieve stress.”

In addition, Professor Sax has explored the role of the faculty in college students’ emotional health, and found that interactions with faculty members were particularly salient for women. Negative interactions had a greater impact on their mental health.

“Women’s sense of emotional well-being was more closely tied to how they felt the faculty treated them,” she said. “It wasn’t so much the level of contact as whether they felt they were being taken seriously by the professor. If not, it was more detrimental to women than to men.”

She added: “And while men who challenged their professor’s ideas in class had a decline in stress, for women it was associated with a decline in well-being.”

For many young women, college is their first experience of being taken seriously by an adult teacher, and one whose personal and subjective ranking of them can affect their future career — certainly for anyone hoping to enter medicine, law or other professions.

Yet those professors aren’t subject to parental interference or suasion, sometimes thousands of miles distant from any intervening influence.

It’s then up to young women to stand up for their own ideas and opinions, fighting for them verbally and in writing. Alone.

If you’ve been raised, as many young women still are, to defer to authority and especially male authority, challenging it can feel terrifying or even impossible. But any woman with serious intellectual or political ambitions must acquire this essential skill.

One reason women still shy away from STEM work (science, technology, engineering and math) is the paucity of female professors whose own behavior, and intellectual confidence, serve as powerful models. I’ve had young w0men write to me personally in despair after having male classmates, or professors, scoff or sneer at them in these male-dominated classrooms. The easiest choice is to flee, a choice that only deprives us all of terrific talent and diversity down the road.

Look at a Hillary Clinton or Nancy Pelosi or Indra Nooyi or Carol Tome or Angela Merkel. Every woman who hopes to attain and exercise power and authority must become comfortable expressing her ideas publicly — which often includes hearing them torn to pieces — and figuring out the next step after that.

Bright, confident women scare the hell out of many people.

But staying silent and docile is not an option.

Ladies, speak up!

Can Feminists Be People Whose Views You Hate?

This handout image received on September 8, 20...
Image by AFP/Getty Images via @daylife

Love this thoughtful and insightful rant (they can be all those at once) about the death of third-wave feminism — by Mark Morford at sfgate.com, commenting on an Atlantic magazine think-piece by a woman:

It is something to behold. Right now I’m vainly attempting to cross-reference Hanna Rosin’s fascinating mixed-bag article from the Atlantic that ran under the delightfully obnoxious headline “The End of Men: How Women are Taking Control of Everything,” and mixing it with all the feverish stories about California’s landmark political races, Carly and Meg and Pelosi, too, influenced by everyone’s favorite winkin’ ditzball from hell, Sarah Palin.

And I’m tossing in a dash of pop culture, all the MIAs and Lady Gagas and Miley Cyruses, the Kathryn Bigelows and the ditzbombs of “Sex and the City,” trying to parse and understand and see some sort of through-line.

I am not having much success. Most women — and many of us men — are cheering madly at all the newfound roles, powers, titles, successes and attentions, from Hillary’s stunning presidential run to Bigelow’s Oscar to (even) Meg Whitman’s pile of billions that could very well buy her the election.

But…many are…entirely furious that many of third-wave feminism’s cornerstone values — abortion rights, humanitarianism, anti-racism, don’t kill stuff — are being violently, stupidly co-opted, inverted, perverted, repackaged…

In short, most progressive women are right now discovering a brutally painful truth, one that men have known for millennia: With power, glory and long overdue cultural advancement, comes a whole delightful s–bag of downsides, drawbacks, jackals and bitches to poison the party. Fun!

See, long was it believed, via some utopian/naive vision held by “enlightened” men and women alike, that if and when the feminist movement — all three waves of it, really, from Virginia Woolf to Betty Freidan, bell hooks to riot grrls — finally started to get everything it desired, there would surely be some wonderful sea change in the culture, a new paradigm to replace all the ugly, outdated structures of power and ego erected by old white men, something far more fluid and interesting, liberal and heartfelt and, well, nonmasculine.

Well, as if!

One of the delightful issues with power — wanting it, buying it, voting for it, getting it, keeping it, getting it back after you’ve blown it — is…you have to flex some serious muscle to get, own and keep it. Whether that power is physical, emotional, financial, political, intellectual (and they’re usually fairly entangled) sexual, or spiritual, some of it, if not all of it, is going to freak out and piss off a bunch of other women who think naked raw power — and showing how much you really want it — is a male thing.

That women are de facto gentler and kinder and all dance to the moonbeams’ glow. Snort.

While some women have been exercising whatever limited powers were granted to them (sexual, emotional) from the dawn of time — resentful others have silently seethed in the corner for having less-to-none of it.

If there’s anything more annoying than not having the power you so crave, it’s watching women whose behavior and values you loathe have tons of it and mis-using it. The economics of scarcity make it ugly.

But…claiming (your) power takes guts, putting your value out in front of others to judge. They may very well find you wanting.

That’s the price of admission to the boxing ring of power. Someone’s going to punch you in the face and you need a skilled and loyal cut man to keep you in the game.

Which is why I loved Hilary Swank in the 2004 Clint Eastwood film “Million Dollar Baby”. It’s nominally about a female boxer and her trainer but it’s just as much about finding a man (could be a woman) who knows what it takes to hit your peak and will push you to achieve it.

I hate Sarah Palin, Lady Gaga and many of the women who keep attracting media attention for polticial views I loathe, rampant stupidity and/or and tacky, skanky behavior.

But that’s the price of feminism, isn’t it? Everyone gets to play.

The 'Mighty Minority',Teen Feminists, Hungry For Role Models; Who's Yours?

Black & white portrait photograph of Hillary R...
Is she one? Image via Wikipedia

Here’s a cri de coeur from one of my favorite websites, Fbomb.org, written by teen feminists:

Teenage feminists are a mighty minority. You may find us in the malls, mingling amongst girls who carry bags plastered with the image of a naked torso and the word “Abercrombie.” We’re even at football games, willingly crushed between excited pubescent bodies. Maybe we’re the girls in the hoodies rolling our eyes as the cheerleaders jump around, but we are there. The fact is: we’re not always the hairy-legged girls with makeup-less faces scowling through the daily grind of the high school experience, clutching a battered copy of The Second Sex. Sometimes we are. But we’re not always that easy to spot.

Why? That image is a stereotype most feminists, let alone teenagers, don’t fit. We can be the girl at the game, the girl shaking her ass at homecoming, or even the “girl next door.” So, why can’t you recognize us? Most teenage feminists don’t even know that they are teenage feminists. How could you?

How are we supposed to identify as feminists when most of us don’t even know what a feminist looks like? Role models are important. They help us figure out who we are as we sit in a cafeteria full of people who are defined by a single word. Prep. Jock. My favorite: Slut. Role models help us figure out what we want to be rather than what everybody else has labeled us.

But who are our role models? Most teenage girls don’t know who Gloria Steinem is, or they believe that Hillary Clinton is a whiny bitch (like this winner), because that’s how the media portrays her. It’s sad but true. If these women are even on our radar at all, they’ve probably already been made unpopular by the media. And nobody wants to be unpopular at sixteen. We fear the hatred of others like our parents fear taxes.

Female Diplomats' Challenge — The 'Trailing Spouse': One, Who Left The NYT, Speaks Out From Mozambique

View of a market in Maputo, Mozambique
A Maputo marketplace. Image via Wikipedia

One of my fantasy careers — until I totally flunked Canada’s Foreign Service Exam — was working overseas as a diplomat. I love to travel and explore new cultures, but it quickly became clear to me that the life demands tremendous commitment to a larger set of goals, not your own agenda of seeing the world.

One of the many challenges, especially for women serving in these essential roles, is that of finding a partner both willing and able to table or shelve his own career ambitions to follow the demands of your new employer. So I read with interest this great piece in the Financial Times what life was like for Britain’s first female foreign service employees.

Then I remembered I actually know a “trailing spouse” and asked if he’d be willing to share some of his life with us. I’m delighted that he agreed; his answers to my many questions are below.

Michael Barrientos started out as a photo editor for The New York Times, which is how I know him. He and his wife are heading back to D.C. soon for two years, awaiting their next posting. I have always wondered what it’s like to be(come) the trailing spouse and know that many ambitious women with global careers and ambitions face these issues as well.

As you might imagine, it requires tremendous flexibility and grace to manage a marriage, two careers and kids while moving from one unfamiliar nation and culture to the next. Thank heaven for such men!

Many thanks to Michael for his time and candor…

I’m a professional photographer and photo editor, age 41, born in Compton, California and grew up in Paramount (Long Beach area in Los Angeles County.)  I graduated from Cal State Fullerton with a degree in communications.  I became interested in photography late in college and did a photo internship at the Pasadena Star-News in my final year of college.  In 1993 I took my first newspaper job as a staff writer at the Porterville Recorder, a small daily newspaper in the San Joaquin Valley.  I was asked to be a full-time photographer by the executive editor after I did a number of photo essays.  A new position was added for me.

I was drawn to photography in my first photojournalism class which I admittedly took as what I thought would be an easy elective.  The turning point came during a class trip to the National Press Photographer Association’s flying short course when I saw Donna Ferrato and several other documentary photographers.  I changed my concentration.

After my time in Central California, I moved to the U.S./Mexico border to take a job in McAllen, Texas.  I worked as a staff photographer for the Monitor newspaper.  I left the paper to study Spanish in Guanajuato, Mexico.  I began freelancing for the AP and moved to San Antonio where I worked for the San Antonio Express-News.  After that, I took a job at the Sarasota Herald-Tribune in Florida, a New York Times newspaper.  I spent six years there:  three as a staff photographer and three as deputy director of photography.  I then went to The New York Times.

Neither my family nor I had any foreign service family or background.  My parents were blue-collar:  my father is a retired truck driver and union activist, and my mother continues working as a hair dresser, an admission clerk at Kaiser Permanente in Los Angeles, and a longshoreman.  My only preparation was occasional family trip to Tijuana.   The transient lifestyle of journalism, however, made it a good fit.  My background moving around the country working at newspapers or on assignment, particularly during my time on the U.S./Mexico border, along with personal travel helped.

This is my wife, Sarah’s, third posting.  She served her first post in Algiers when I was still at the Times. Her second post was Lisbon, where I first joined her after our first child Thomas,  4, was born in Washington, D.C.  Our second son, Charles, 2, was born in Lisbon.

Preparation is not required for spouses but there is training, classes and other resources available for any family member interested.  I learned Portuguese and took other university-level courses at the Foreign Service Institute in Arlington, Virginia.  You are given security briefings about the countries you go to in preparation for a posting.  The State Department makes an effort to make trailing spouses satisfied with jobs and activities.  The training I have received was invaluable.  The State Department’s Foreign Service Institute was an invaluable experience with their famous language training.

The toughest challenge has been leaving my job and career.  I really loved working at The New York Times. I had the highest regard for the newspaper, what we did, the people I worked with, and hated to step away.

We had a lot of conflict early on.  I was resentful about leaving a job that I deeply enjoyed and was very satisfied in.  It was a hard transition to becoming an instant stay-at-home father and trailing spouse.  Gradually, I have adapted and gotten used to it.  I had been in newspapers for so long that it was tough to get used to being out of the industry.   There were a number of issues at play, such as Mexican-American family pressure and lack of full support of my decision to step away from my career.

I had told my wife that I would open to joining her at some point overseas, but I honestly never expected that we would come to that point and especially not so soon or abruptly.  Cultural differences were at play.  My experience with my own mother, my three sisters and extended family was that women left their jobs especially when a baby came along.  Yet, I have been a big supporter of women’s rights and have been a mentor to women photojournalists.  I was active in recruiting and hiring female photographers.

My newspaper in Sarasota, Florida was hailed in the industry while I was there for having a female publisher, executive editor, managing editor and AME/Visuals who were all women.  I admired them; they were great teachers and mentors.  I had pushed my own sisters to advance themselves.  It would be have been hypocritical of me and sent a bad message to a lot of people, especially my wife, if I would have pounded my chest and rescinded my agreement.

Oddly enough, during the 2008 presidential campaign, I got a lot of comfort seeing Todd Palin and Bill Clinton standing back and supporting their wives.  If anything, it shows how the Foreign Service is changing and, more broadly, the workplace.   It was amusing watching the film Julie & Julia about Julia Child.  Much of it revolves around her staying busy as a trailing diplomatic spouse, which is actually instrumental in her ultimately becoming who she became. It is an arcane look at what the foreign service used to be and shows how far women have come in the modern diplomatic corps.  There is a growing number of male trailing spouses which in the grand scheme of things is a good thing.

I have adapted to the life and just finished a Master’s program through University of the Arts, London.  I have started a new life as a freelance photographer and have changed my outlook on photography where I used to be entirely focused on newspaper photography.  I just had my first two consecutive solo photography exhibitions ever in Maputo.   Advantages for a photographer in diplomatic life are becoming clearer.

Maputo has been a good post for us.  I’ve adapted to the Foreign Service lifestyle and being a trailing spouse.  I am a freelance photographer and am represented by Polaris Images and do stock photography for Corbis and Alamy.  I also do contract work for the embassy producing their newsletter and other occasional projects, have spoken and presented workshops, and taught classes here on freelance work.   I’ll now be focusing on a new use of my background and education looking at the potential of the Internet, news agencies and the rapidly changing journalism field.

Advising a Foreign Service spouse would be difficult.  It’s an individual decision and not everybody is cut out for it.  I have seen a number of spouses and foreign service officers who could not handle the changes in lifestyle, culture and being away from family and friends.  I had grown accustomed to it over my career despite growing up in a tight-knit family.

Work, weather and culture took getting used to.  Maputo is what is known as a hardship post.  The weather is hot and humid like Florida and South Texas.  Culturally, my only comparison is Mexico with a huge disparity of wealth with extremes of wealth and severe poverty, endemic corruption, infrastructure problems, crime, pollution, and other problems.

Maputo is a former Portuguese colony that gained its independence in 1975, suffered through years of civil war which ended in 1993 and is still one of the poorest countries in the world.

I have made local friends.  My closest friend, Carlos Litulo, is a Mozambican photojournalist.  My wife and I have become good friends with a Mozambican businessman married to a former British diplomat.  Our family travels to the U.S. once a year during our mandatory “R&R” which is paid for to our home city there,  but many families return more often on their own dime.  We try to do leisure travel but it can be difficult with small children.  We take regular trips to South Africa to take a break from the harsh aspects of Mozambique.  Being able to drive on a pot hole-free road or walk through a mall can be a great relief.

Mozambique is not known for its cuisine outside of the availability of fresh seafood.  The Portuguese did not leave cuisine behind like the French did in their former colonies, however, they did leave their café culture.  You can’t drink the water (we are issued a water distiller), and we do most of our shopping on monthly trips to South Africa.

Our income has been affected.  I was paid well at the Times and it was tough giving up two incomes to become a dependent while contributing with my supplementary freelance money.  Our marriage has had tough challenges.  Not having support of family and friends is tough.  The Internet helps tremendously with Skype, social media like Facebook and Twitter, blogs and e-mail.  We stay involved in the diplomatic community and established a daily family routine.  Families in the Foreign Service are often close because of its nomadic nature.

As far as the places we live, I do have a say in her choice of postings.  In the past, diplomatic spouses used to be part of an officer’s evaluation.  It wasn’t long ago that how well you entertained and presented yourself to the diplomatic community were points taken into consideration for promotions.  Family still has influence on whether one gets a posting.  We discuss it intensely taking a number of factors into consideration.  Posting lengths vary but generally they are between two to three years.  On occasion they can be extended or for a non-accompanied hardship post like Afghanistan, Iraq or Pakistan, they can be only a year.

Hillary Clinton's Bully Pulpit Spotlights Women Worldwide — "It Feeds My Heart," She Says

Hillary Clinton
Image by Center for American Progress Action Fund via Flickr

While way too much attention was paid to her tart reply in a press conference on her recent 11-day Africa trip, Hillary Clinton is showing a deep and ongoing commitment to helping women there and elsewhere, says this Washington Post piece about her new global initiatives for women, such as tripling, to $250 million, the amount given to programs for Afghan women and girls.

According to UNICEF, only 15 percent of Afghan women are able to read and write; programs like this one, for $45 a month, pay the salary of a teacher who can reach 10 to 15 girls. She’s facing a steep uphill climb in many places, where Western democratic feminist ideals fall on stony ground.

Mrs. Clinton has named Melanne Verveer as the State Department’s first global ambassador for women’s issues; Verveer has worked with her on these issues since 1995, when Mrs. Clinton addressed a women’s conference in Beijing, where she was greeted with cheers, a “transformative moment”, Verveer told the Post. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) was recently named to the first Senate Subcommittee on Global Women’s Issues.

Mentioned this year in Marie-Claire and New York Times writer Nick Kristof’s columns, I’d never heard of Vital Voices, a 10-year-old initiative founded by Clinton, which has trained 7,000 emerging women leaders worldwide. Its board of directors includes bankers and former ambassadors as well as better-known names like Diane von Furstenberg, Carly Fiorina and Sally Field.

I think it’s fantastic, and way overdue, that a powerful voice like Clinton’s be heard not in shrill, vitriolic scripted debates or reduced to stupid soundbites but in helping women worldwide. That so-essential work does looks hopeless in some places — like South Africa, where one in four men say they’ve committed rape — which makes her decision to put women’s real, pressing, costly needs in the spotlight even more laudable. She’s not going for the easy win, as those are few when working with nations where women live, marry and reproduce within cultures and histories that often value them only for their silence, domestic work, spousal and filial obedience, their fertility and producing and raising children, males best of all. In places where women often have softer, weaker institutional voices, little education or economic power and loud, powerful, patriarchal men dominating the political and economic decisions affecting them, women need and deserve someone smart, articulate — and listened to — with a highly visible bully pulpit. I can think of few more valuable, potentially life-changing ways for our Secretary of State to focus her energy.