MODERATOR: Thank you very much, Mrs. Clinton. That was, absolutely...I don't know how anybody in the room could not sign up immediately.
As I mentioned, we're going to take some questions. And I'd like to read the questions, and then have you respond. We've received...I think the stack of questions was probably about an inch think. So thank you all for your active participation in this case, but we had to narrow them down to just a few.
First question, what advice would you give to a woman, in the earlier phases of her career, who is trying to balance a commitment to her profession, with her role as wife and mother, or can you really have it all, and if you can, do you really want it? (Laughter.)
MRS. CLINTON: That's not only a good question, it's a question that at least every woman, and probably the majority of men, in this room have asked in some form or another.
Well, the first advice that I would give to anyone is the advice I give myself, and my friends and I give each other. And that is, you have to listen to your own heart. And you have to make the choices that are right for you. And you cannot permit yourself to be pressured in one direction or another, but to stick to what you believe is best for your life. That is what I think the glorious opportunity of being a woman in the late twentieth century of America gives us. (Applause.)
You know, I have to say with all respect to people who say this to me, occasionally when someone says, "You're a role model," I get a little bit nervous, because my life is different from every other woman's life. I have different experiences. I have different expectations.
And what I have always tried to struggle for, on behalf of myself and women, is the opportunity to have a life that, rather than using the balancing metaphor, which bothers me a little, because I always feel, when I picture it, that something is going to drop, and I don't like that, I prefer a metaphor that Mary Catherine Bateson has used, called, "composing a life," in which you draw from your many different experiences and opportunities. And we each use different notes in order to compose what it is we want our life to be. Now, Beth and I were talking earlier, because the other, wonderful thing about being a woman in this time in history, is that we have, thanks to public health and health care advances, as women, gained about thirty years of life since the beginning of this century. Those are thirty wonderful years that can be used in different ways. And the composition of one's life can take, sort of, different movements, if you will.
For some women, it works best for them to have their families early, to attempt either to be a full-time mother and homemaker, or a part-time mother and a part-time worker, and then, at the age of forty or so, when your children are gone, to realize that you may have additional opportunities.
For other women, whom I know, they've spent their twenties and their thirties working very hard in a career, and late came to the idea and the possibility of a family. And for other women, they make the choice not to have families.
Each of those choices deserves respect. And I think that if we can reconsider what women have to offer to the workplace at different stages of their lives, then, I believe, it would be very helpful for employers to be more attentive and receptive to older women who want to enter the work-force in their forties and even fifties, (Applause.) because there are many women who bring a lifetime of experience that would be very beneficial, but I know, and you know, that there is a sense, in which, if you haven't gotten on the track early, then the train has left the station. I think that is a very short-sighted view of human potential.
So my hope is that each woman will make the decisions that are right for her, and that society and particularly, the business world will begin to recognize that each of those choices deserves respect, and that we should look at each individual and try to determine how that individual can make a contribution.
(inaudible) had huge impact on some major decisions that I've made over the last five years, so I couldn't agree with you more.
Next question, what do you find most, and also least satisfying in your position in the last two plus years?
How long do you have? (Laughter.) Let me count the ways. Well, it has been such a remarkable and very positive experience both for me personally and for our family. There is so much about this opportunity that I never even could have understood prior to my husband being elected and actually moving into the White House. There's no way, I don't care how experienced someone might think he or she is to realize the full impact.
And probably the most satisfying parts of it are the feelings that you do have a chance to make a contribution, that you have the opportunity to try as best as you know how to work with people and at least state clearly what you believe, and try to help shape the direction of our country.
There are smaller pleasures that I get a great deal of joy out of. I love meeting people. I love listening to the stories that people tell about their own struggles and their own hopes. I love traveling around the country. I'm going tomorrow to the Upper Peninsula, a place that I haven't spent time in. I'm very excited about that.
It's also kind of nice to have your husband work, as it were, above the store. (Laughter.) He's actually home for dinner a lot more than he was in our previous life together, so there are many things about the circumstances and the opportunities that are just wonderful.
I don't think it would be any surprise to anyone if I were to say that among the things one is not prepared for, certainly, is the loss of privacy, the feeling that what made you a person, however that developed over time, is in danger of being taken away from you because you are so insulated from what you enjoy in your life, the give-and-take with people, walking down a street. I say this, and my women friends just look askance, walking up and down a supermarket aisle. I mean, there are lots of things that I took for granted in my previous life that I very much miss.
I'm also very upset, personally, and I think, as a citizen, about the quality of political coverage and political debate, particularly, in the last few years. (Applause.)
Congressman Dingell said that, you know, there is much about these times, in which we live, that are very, very difficult. It is, I do not believe, healthy for a democracy to breed so much cynicism, to permit so much of the vitriolic attacks that are part of our political scene now.
I, personally have, after being both astonished and amazed, and bewildered and outraged about the things that were said and the kind of climate that was created about my husband and me, I, sort of, moved through that. I can't say that it doesn't still bother me, but I, kind of, figured out that that's part of what's going on right now. It's done for commercial reasons. It's done for political reasons. But I just have to say, and I would say it if I were not one of the people who is an often used target, it is very, very dangerous for democracy, to constantly be engaging in the kinds of attacks of public officials that lead citizens to believe everybody who serves is some kind of a knave or a crook. They act in bad faith. (Applause.) They don't care about people. (Applause.)
So I hope that we will, in some way, come to grips with this, and speak out against it, ignore it, work through it, get beyond it. And you know, my feeling, personally, is that it will be good for the country if we get back on having a debate about whose idea about the economy or education is better. That's what I think we ought to be talking about. (Applause.)
MODERATOR: I think we'll do two more questions, if that's okay. This one's interesting. What is the one question that no one has ever asked you, but you are anxious to answer? (Laughter.) If that's too awful, we'll move on to the next question. (Laughter.)
MRS. CLINTON: Oh, I don't know, probably what is my favorite hairstyle? (Applause.) People talk all the time about it, but they never ask me. (Laughter.) My answer is, the one I'm currently wearing, whatever that one is. (Applause.)
MODERATOR: Okay, last question, if you could start over again, in your efforts to reform health care, what would you do differently? (Laughter.) And would you propose the same solution again? (Laughter.)
MRS. CLINTON: I have to say that, knowing what I know now, I certainly would take a different attitude about it, perhaps, starting with saying to my husband, "Are you crazy?" (Laughter.) But, I think that, actually, it would have been difficult not to have tried to pursue health care reform, because, as we now all know from watching the difficult decisions that are attempting to be made about the budget, it is not possible to deal with the federal budget without dealing with health care reform, in a responsible manner, over the long-run.
Now, it is, I suppose, one could argue, do-able, if enough votes are behind it, to dramatically cut Medicare and to dramatically cut Medicaid, but everyone person in this room should be extremely worried about doing that in the absence of some more systematic health care reform, because it will not take long, before, with those kinds of cuts, services that we have taken for granted, will not be available. But more to the point, the hard fought efforts of many of the businesses in this room to control costs will be under severe pressure because there will be massive cost-shifting to make some efforts to keep up with the existing financial imperatives of the underlying health-care system.
So I think my husband was absolutely right to take on the two big issues at the same time when he first got to Washington, with his budget plan which has had a very positive effect on the economy, which has reduced spending, which has done a lot for businesses generally and for government responsibility particularly, and to recognize that even though that was an important part of what he wanted to get done, something had to happen with health care. Now the problem that...the many problems that we faced were tied up both with the effort to deal with the budget, because that itself was so huge and contentious that it was very difficult given the attention paid to the budget in '93 and to the needs for some kind of responsible approach to health care to do both of them at the same time, and I think that was one thing that we had not fully understood perhaps as much as we should have.
I certainly appreciate greatly the extraordinary help many of the businesses in this room gave us during that effort, with advice and support and positive and criticism, but it was difficult, because once the budget was passed, then we immediately had to move in, because of the imperative the legislative calendar, to the NAFTA debate. One remembers how contentious and difficult that was.
So all of '93 was dominated legislatively by the budget and by NAFTA, so by the time we got to 1994 there was a lot of pent-up concern, a lot of anxiety about what all this health care proposal would mean, and there was a very well-organized campaign against the kind of plan that the President chose to present. And so it meant that it was very difficult to be able to get the debate on an even keel so that good decisions would be made.
The other thing that I just totally missed, and I have to say that based on my own experience in the past on boards of large corporations and as an attorney, I always believed that in a negotiating process your first offer was your first offer. The plan we put forward was turned into an ultimatum, and we never got a chance in the legislative process to figure out how to move toward, because it was quickly characterized as, you know, the end of the world, and much advertising was done about it, and the sky was falling and all of that. And so part of it was that the dynamics of it were never what I thought they would be within the context of a legislative debate.
Having said that, I think we made a lot of progress in raising a lot of important issues, and I think that those issues are being, to some extent, worked out in the marketplace, by the millions and millions of individual decisions that are made. I still believe that there will come a time when the country itself will have to address, in a comprehensive way, how it wishes to structure the financing of health care. Because in the face of the increasing demands on Medicare and Medicaid, coupled with the political desire to cut the cost, or at least, the rate of growth of Medicaid and Medicare, we will see many unintended consequences.
We also know that there are fewer people with employer-paid or employer-provided insurance today than there were last year, and the number is continuing to decrease. So we will have an increasing number of uninsured. We will have more demands on government programs, less able to be responsive. I do not believe that there are many, if any, states that will be able to pick up the difference. We will see a very great pressure on the academic health centers of our country, which really are the centers of excellence out of which much research and development flows. So if you list the problems that we are still confronting, I think it is important to try to figure out responsibly how even now, and maybe particularly now, in the context of the budget debate, to have some kind of health care reform that will better stabilize the public/private financing system, and protect those parts of our health care system that are really the crown jewels of what we all have come to expect as the American health care system.
So there are many things that I would have done differently. It's been a learning experience, that's what my mother used to say to me when I'd come home from the playground after somebody had pushed me down or knocked me over. She'd say, "Just consider it a learning experience," and I do. I think that it was a good learning experience for the entire country, and now, what we've got to figure out how to do is be responsible in addressing these problems in whatever way we reach a consensus about, so that we can continue to have and enjoy the kind of quality health care that we have taken for granted for many, many years. (Applause.)
MODERATOR: At this time, it is my privilege... We have a tradition at the Greater Detroit Chamber of Commerce, and particularly, in this venue, that for special guests, and clearly, you are one of the most special guests we've ever had the privilege to join us at this conference. We'd like to present you, Mrs. Clinton, with a student apple as a memento of your time with us today, and we hope you continue to enjoy your visit, and thank you so very much for being such a wonderful part of...(Applause.)
MRS. CLINTON: Thank you. (Applause.)