I could hardly believe my eyes. The Secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton was sitting only a few rows ahead of me. Without aid of television or photograph, I was looking at arguably one of the most powerful women in the world. Well, maybe I was only looking at the back of her head, but still poise and vigor emanated from her as she testified before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.
Despite being fresh off a plane flight from discussions on Libya in Switzerland, Secretary Clinton argued passionately for her budget priorities. As Senators grilled her on money going towards poverty relief and global warming initiatives, she held her ground and clearly explained how vital and necessary these policies are not only to advancing U.S. interests, but also to the lives of millions around the world. As I sat there awed by the sheer presence of such an important figure in international politics, I was inspired by her dedication under duress.
As I left the hearing after a grueling four hours (far more so for her than for me), I remembered her valiant fight even in face of foreign aid budget cuts totaling $3.8 billion. Working in an advocacy office, I find it easy to be discouraged by how infrequently positive change occurs and even more so by efforts to reverse gains that have been made. It is always inspirational to see a powerful and influential person fighting on the same side we are.
Later that same day I was invited to go to an award ceremony for Assistant Secretary Gottemoeller thanking her for her work in passing the START Treaty. After months of working on projects and rarely seeing tangible results, it was amazing to see how efforts have paid off, thanks to the help of the Assistant Secretary. I could see how the combination of passion and influence had changed the course of such an important treaty. With Secretary Clinton on our side in the budget battle, I thought it just might be possible to win the budget fight as well, as long as we take a page out of her book never let go of our zeal for social justice.