Since Hillary Clinton is looking for a fresh start – a start characterized by the words “small” and “humble” – I suggest she change her first lady role model. Not that there is anything wrong with admiring Eleanor Roosevelt, who is still one of the most admired women in America. But there is another first lady, one who was once admired for her leadership, who appeared on the cover of Time magazine even before her first lady years, and who set the precedent for first ladies getting coverage in Vogue magazine, who merits a closer look by Hillary. And this first lady’s personality and outlook embody the very traits of ‘small’ and ‘humble’ that Hillary Clinton would like to project.
Before I name my suggested new icon, let me add a few more details about the character of my recommendation. She was not a Democrat, which, of course, would easily explain why Hillary would not initially want to look at her more closely. She was fiercely Republican, and proud of it. She was so modest, that she refused to manipulate the press to call attention to her many accomplishments. Yet, this first lady was bold without being brash; complex, but straight-forward; endearing while still being authoritative. She was the first woman to get a degree in Geology from Stanford University. She translated an important mining treatise from the Latin, for which she was awarded a gold medal. She built a network before the phrase was even something to be defined in the dictionary.
When World War I broke out, she was immediately on the scene, offering support from her personal finances and lending her managerial expertise to organize stranded Americans, keep them fed, and help them find a way home. As the war dragged on, her organizational and philanthropic efforts helped wounded British soldiers and kept Belgians from starving.
In the United States, she took the floundering Girl Scouts and turned it into a successful organization that promoted the values which Hillary Clinton embodies: Independence; Self-Assurance; Confidence. This same first lady also opened the door for women to compete in sports at a collegiate level – another measure of her commitment to women’s rights and equal opportunities.
So, who is this paragon that Hillary would do well to emulate? She is Lou Henry Hoover, Eleanor Roosevelt’s immediate predecessor. Eleanor’s many prodigious accomplishments have cast a long shadow over Lou’s, and unfairly so. Lou deserves her time in the sun. Hillary wants this to be the time she basks in the sunlight, too. To make that happen, I suggest she study up on Lou.