Secretary of State Clinton talks diplomacy, human rights to SU crowd

Hillary Clinton addressed a packed Hendricks Chapel on Monday afternoon with her speech on foreign policy.

It was a busy Monday morning for the top leaders at the White House. Vice President Joe Biden gave a speech on restoration on the Everglades. President Barack Obama delivered a speech at the Holocaust Museum.

And Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited Syracuse University.

Clinton was on campus to speak to political science students and participate in a foreign policy discussion in speech titled “America and the World” at Hendricks Chapel.

Photo: Elizabeth Reyes
Clinton engages with the host of the event, James Steinberg, dean of the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs and the former Deputy Secretary of State before coming to Maxwell.

James Steinberg, dean of the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, hosted the event. Steinberg was Clinton’s former top deputy at the State Department before coming to Maxwell. Clinton said that he was deeply missed in the state department but believed he was in the right place.

Those waiting to see the former First Lady braved the late April snow, standing outside as early as 6 a.m. By 9 a.m., the line was to Hinds Hall. Student frustration ran high as many of the bottom floor seats were roped off for VIPs. But minutes before she was to speak, students from the back of the line were admitted to the front seats.

Hendricks, which seats 1,100, was at full capacity. At 12:11 p.m., a smiling Clinton appeared in a hot pink blazer to a standing ovation from the audience.

Clinton navigated through the issues, hitting upon the economic crisis, energy diplomacy, women's empowerment, human rights and young people taking part in foreign service.

Clinton said the first priority in foreign policy is to focus on domestic policy. America could not go forth and argue for its ideals if people didn't think it would remain a strong nation, she said.

“The world will be well served if America's leadership remains,” Clinton said.

America also does a lot of foreign policy work because it furthers American security interest, she said.

Clinton then discussed diplomacy. There is difficulty in diplomacy and explaining democracy in a multilateral world, she said. Clinton defined the pillars of democracy as more respect for minorities, judicial independence and the protection of the free press.

One area where difficulty in explaining democracy is an issue is in human rights, she said. It’s easy to criticize a country about human rights, but there needs to be a delicacy in dealing with a government who doesn’t hold the same viewpoint as the United States. Otherwise, people can’t be protected, Clinton said.

“If we're going to judge the rest of the world, we have to judge ourselves first,” she said.

Clinton illustrated this with an example about a country that outlaws the LGBT community and wants to murder them. The dialogue begins with, “Why do we have to kill them?” The dialogue on the other side might turn into “OK, maybe we will put them in jail.” Clinton said that’s the type of discussion that needs to happen.

“I'm trying to save lives and change attitudes,” she said. “It’s always challenging when you see problems that you think must be addressed and you can't get political process to respond.”

But it is a moral obligation to help people in need, she said. And in times of crisis – such as the earthquake in Haiti and the flood in the Philippines – the American people met that obligation, Clinton said.

A group of about 15 people protested the speech outside Hendricks Chapel. SU's chapter of the Act Now to Stop War and End Racism Coalition planned the protest.

The group protested because Clinton advocates an imperialist system that has brought unnecessary war to countries such as Syria and Libya, they said. Derek Ford, one of the main organizers and a graduate student at the School of Education, said he believes his group succeeded in getting their message out.

“One of the purposes of protesting is to interrupt the mainstream dialogue surrounding the event,” Ford said.

He said the overwhelming response from students was that of interest and support for his group’s message.

“The Secret Service and Syracuse public safety tried to move us but they failed because that would have been violation of our rights to peacefully assemble and our rights as students” Ford said.

The students inside, though, said they appreciated Clinton’s speech. Carrie Sunde, a public relations sophomore who attempted to watch the livestream online, thought that Clinton was respectful and courteous towards SU students, faculty and staff.

“Politics is so black and white,” Sunde said. “She really brought some color to the conversation.”

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