R. Kelly, Big Bird, And 28 Other Highlights From Hillary Clinton’s First Lady Columns

Clinton also criticized Calvin Klein and promised to become "computer-competent" in a series of syndicated columns that ran from 1995 to 2000.


In the summer of 1995, Hillary Clinton became the author of her own syndicated column.

Called "a pure political tool, a wonderful reach into women's voters," by a political aide, the column was entitled "Talking It Over." (When the column launched, Congress was investigating the Clintons for real estate investments in the "Whitewater" scandal.) It appeared in papers from The Los Angeles Times to the New York Daily News and ran from summer 1995 to 2000. That amounted to over 220,000 words and almost 300 columns. BuzzFeed News read all of them.

Here are the highlights:

1. Clinton wrote that she sent a letter to NASA as a teenager asking about her chances of becoming an astronaut and was told that "women weren't allowed."

The White House / Getty Images

"To be sure, girls today have more opportunities than they did 30 years ago. I remember how disappointed I was when, as a teen-ager, I wrote to NASA to inquire about my future prospects as an astronaut and received a letter back saying that women weren't allowed in the space program. (It didn't help to learn that my terrible eyesight would have disqualified me anyway!)

"Now, girls can realistically dream of flying in space, piloting jet fighters and running Fortune 500 companies. They can be Supreme Court justices, network television anchors and big-city police chiefs. Or they can choose full-time motherhood and homemaking. The point is, it's now a choice."

2. Bill proposed to Hillary more than once. She only said "yes" after he bought a house she liked.


"He actually proposed more than once. I never doubted my love for him, but I knew he was going to build his life in Arkansas. I couldn't envision what my life would be like in a place where I had no family or friends.

"After we finished law school, we carried on a long-distance romance between Massachusetts and Arkansas that made money for the telephone companies but wasn't very satisfying for us.

"Then, a year later, I took a deep breath and moved to Arkansas to teach law. It wasn't long before I found myself enjoying my work, new friends and a beautiful place to live.

"One day in the summer of 1975, I had to go out of town for a few weeks, and Bill drove me to the airport. On the way, we passed a tiny brick house with a "for sale" sign out front, and I remarked in passing how pretty it was.

"When I returned from the trip, he said, 'Do you remember that house you liked? Well, I bought it, so now you'd better marry me because I can't live in it by myself.'

"That's when I finally said yes."

3. Clinton said that, when she was growing up, girls were told that sports would "damage their reproductive organs."


“When I was growing up, I could watch baseball with my father and throw the football around the back yard with my brothers. I even played basketball, but it was half-court, with a two-dribble limit. We were told a girl's heart just couldn't take the exertion of playing full-court.

"Girls, no less than boys, yearned to be active, but they were told that sports were unladylike and would damage their reproductive organs. Finally, pioneers like Trudy Ederle, Babe Didrikson Zaharias, Wilma Rudolph and Billie Jean King gave women the courage to step onto playing fields alongside their brothers.”

4. When Bill first tried to feed Chelsea, Hillary "watched him like a hawk."

Donald R. Broyles / ASSOCIATED PRESS

"How many women have urged their husbands to play a greater role in child-rearing, only to criticize their every move, whether it's putting a diaper on wrong or letting the kids stay up too late? I admit, I've done it too. The first time Bill tried to feed Chelsea, I watched him like a hawk.

"Fortunately, I learned over the years that my way of handling things wasn't necessarily better just because I was a woman. And I came to realize how lucky I was that my husband enjoyed getting our daughter ready for school, giving her a bath and reading her bedtime stories."

5. While surfing channels in the middle of the day, Clinton cringed. Then, found refuge in Big Bird.


"Have you seen what's on daytime television lately? During a recent workout, I started channel surfing, and the first show I saw was about wild teen-agers and their mothers. Another network featured women who use men for money. And on a third were people who believe their thoughts are controlled by aliens.

"I cringed.

"Then, I found refuge in Big Bird."

6. Chelsea was a "Sesame Street kid."


"For many parents across our country, there is great comfort in knowing that however prurient, violent or sensational daytime programming has become, there is still an oasis for children called public television.

"The truth is, my daughter is a Sesame Street kid. When she was younger, we would tune in together and read the books that went along with the shows. Over the years, my husband and I could see that Big Bird, Ernie, Bert and Cookie Monster had helped her learn to spell, count and, perhaps just as important, appreciate the cultural richness of our country."

7. Clinton said she cried every time she dropped Chelsea off for her first day at school.


“As with most teen-agers, my daughter was much less concerned by my absence than I was. I couldn't stop thinking about every 'first day' since kindergarten, and how her dad and I would make her pose for the ritual picture before driving her to school.

"No matter how hard I tried, I could never keep from crying after we dropped her off. There is something about the way the school year, more than any other part of the calendar, marks the passage of time in a child's life — and a parent's.”

8. Clinton invoked R. Kelly to inspire Chelsea and her classmates when they graduated from high school.

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"To Chelsea, her classmates and all the young men and women around our country and the world who are graduating, we borrow from the words of singer R. Kelly: 'We believe you can fly. We believe you can touch the sky. We think about it every night and day. Spread your wings and fly away.'"

9. "Experiences that millions of Americans take for granted have become extraordinary for me," Clinton wrote, describing what it was like to be First Lady in her debut column.


"A few months back, for instance, I was browsing through a museum in Washington. There I was, one of the most recognizable women in America, thinking I could somehow blend anonymously into the artwork.

"Suddenly, a woman came up to me. 'You sure look like Hillary Clinton,' she said.

"'So I'm told,' I answered.

"The truth is that sometimes it is hard even for me to recognize the Hillary Clinton that other people see. Like millions of women across our country, I find that my life consists of different, and sometimes paradoxical, parts. Often those parts are reduced to a snapshot of one moment in my day, when in fact I wake up every morning trying to figure out how to mesh my responsibilities to my family, my public duties and the friend who might be stopping by for dinner."

10. Clinton first met Mother Teresa after the missionary gave an anti-abortion speech at the National Prayer Breakfast in 1994. Mother Teresa described her homes for orphaned children in India, one of which Clinton visited a year later.


"These images stayed with me when I returned home. I was even more determined to help Mother Teresa bring to Washington the compassion I had witnessed in India. But you cannot imagine how much red tape was getting in my way. Ironically, many regulations designed to protect children often overlook what kids need most: love and attention.

"...instead of yelling at each other about abortion, we should spend our energy making adoptions easier. If that were to happen, there would be far fewer abortions and far more children in happy homes."

11. Clinton said these Calvin Klein ads were "disturbing because they feed on the innocence and vulnerability of children." Though a Justice Department investigation concluded that they were not child porn, the company eventually pulled them anyway.

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"The Calvin Klein ads are disturbing because they feed on the innocence and vulnerability of children. And the cynical message delivered to young people is that their value as human beings depends on looking sexy and acting cool.

"It's hard enough for kids these days to grow up feeling confident and secure about who they are. What we should be doing as a society is helping young people focus on schoolwork and other positive activities that build self-discipline and character — not adding to the confusion and anxiety that are part of growing up."

12. Clinton said that commercial marketing made society like "a highway full of car wrecks. Only worse."

via benperdue.wordpress.com

"The pervasive influence of exploitative advertising touches every aspect of our lives.

"We all know what it is like to drive along the highway and see a pile-up of cars. You slow down. You can't resist looking, even though you know that your own rubbernecking could cause another accident.

"Today, it's as if our society is a highway full of car wrecks. Only worse. Nobody purposely causes an accident to attract the public's attention. But in the case of commercial marketing, we are purposely teased and titillated with sex and violence, simply because they sell."

13. Clinton contended that "permissive laws and attitudes" had made divorce "too easy."

Handout / Getty Images

"Divorce has become too easy because of our permissive laws and attitudes. Just look at our culture today: Good marriages are seldom celebrated, while every tiff or spat in a celebrity marriage becomes tabloid fodder.

"For too many people, 'Till death do us part' means 'Till the going gets rough.' With so many marriages failing — nearly half end in divorce in our country — we need to do more to encourage parents to work out their problems, stay together and strengthen their families. In cases where problems can't be reconciled, parents ought to put the needs of their children first in working out the terms of divorce. They must understand that their parental responsibilities continue even after a marriage splits up."

14. Clinton complained about movie characters smoking cigarettes--"and worse, marijuana."

"Our children can't even watch their favorite sporting events without seeing the logo of a cigarette brand on a stadium wall or in the background of the television screen. Movies today are filled with characters reaching for a cigarette — or worse, marijuana, the next step for some kids who get hooked on tobacco. Last fall, for example, I was shocked when my mother and I watched two 'family' movies in which the heroines casually smoked marijuana.

"What is clear is that commercial interests — and corporate greed — are working against our children."

15. Clinton "always admired the European approach to vacations," including their political leaders' vacation habits. "It's understood that time off is vital to one's spirit, family and work life," she wrote.


“I have always admired the European approach to vacations. The first time I traveled there in late summer, I was surprised to find that all the shops were closed. Everyone — from construction worker to Prime Minister — was away on vacation.

"It's not that the Europeans don't work as hard as we do. It's just that vacation is ingrained in their culture. It's understood that time off is vital to one's spirit, family and work life.

"When I accompany my husband to meetings with foreign heads of state, I am often asked about our vacation plans. I remember once explaining to German Chancellor Helmut Kohl that we were hoping to get a few days off later in the year. He was going to spend a rejuvenating month in the forest. Jacques Chirac, the new President of France, told me that he had spent a recent vacation exploring the countryside of Japan. British Prime Minister John Major often blocks off the whole month of August for vacation.”

16. Early in the Clinton Presidency, a man named Edward Bell discovered that there were no paintings of black people in the White House or any works by black artists. Upon reading Bell's letter, the President fixed the problem.


"An educator from New York visited Washington a few years ago and decided to go on a tour of the White House. He waited in line with thousands of others, eager for the opportunity to see America's most famous residence.

"But as he walked through the public rooms and corridors, taking in all of the beautiful art on the walls, he was immediately struck that something was wrong. There were no depictions of black faces in any of the paintings, not even a portrait of the legendary abolitionist Frederick Douglass. In fact, there wasn't a single work by an African American artist — not Edward Bannister, or Jacob Lawrence, or William Johnson, or any of the fine black painters our country has produced.

"As an African American man, Edward D. Bell was saddened to discover this historical omission. So, he decided to do something about it. He wrote to the President to suggest a more representative White House collection that would offer a truer picture of American history — one that would make all children who visit the White House feel a connection to our country's past.

"The President read Bell's letter and directed White House Curator Rex Scouten to look for a work by a leading African American artist to hang in one of the public rooms. Two leading experts on African American art — the late Sylvia Williams, former director of the Museum of African Art at the Smithsonian Institution, and scholar David Driskell — helped locate a magnificent landscape by one of our nation's finest painters, Henry Ossawa Tanner."

17. Clinton said she felt "deeply personal" "grief and outrage" after the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in November 1995. She said that extremists, buoyed by "electronic media," "simplify the problems we face."

Eyal Warshavsky / ASSOCIATED PRESS

"What have we come to in America, Israel or any democracy if those who disagree with an elected leader's political positions choose bullets over ballots as the way to bring about change? When the electronic media carry hate-filled messages of extremism, they give these zealots far more prominence than their numbers justify.

"...Everywhere I travel in the world, I hear the same concern in democracies — hard decisions are dividing people right down the middle. In difficult times like these, extremists often find a larger audience than they should because they simplify the solutions to the problems we face. If, as they claim, God or Holy Scriptures from the Bible or the Koran tell them to do something, who can argue?"

18. Outlining her New Year's resolutions for 1996, Clinton vowed to "join the ranks of the computer-competent" and called deadlines "the root of all evil."

Rene Macura / Associated Press

"— I will try to learn the difference between a hard drive and a floppy disk.

"Having written a 320-page book in longhand over the last six months, I'm ready to join the ranks of the computer-competent.

"— I will try to show new appreciation for my friends in the press.

"As every person in public life knows, this could be a difficult resolution to keep. But now that I write a weekly column, I have come to understand how deadlines are the root of all evil."

19. Clinton also said she enjoyed cleaning her house out at the end of the year. She said that she needed to do some housework for "the White House to feel like our home."


"I find great satisfaction in getting my house in order before the start of a new year. Last week, I spent four days cleaning out drawers and closets, rearranging furniture and giving away clothes and other things we neither needed nor used. One day, in the middle of my cleaning spree, a friend called to check in. She asked what glamorous party we were attending that night. I disappointed her expectations about our social lives when I told her Chelsea was home finishing college applications, Bill was working in the Oval Office, and I was doing housework that had piled up over the last busy months.

"Obviously, I don't do the cleaning, cooking and housekeeping every day that my mother and friends do. One of the pleasures of living in the White House is to be surrounded by dedicated people who serve the President and his family. But I have to do some of the work myself in order for our living quarters in the White House to feel like our home."

20. Clinton said a "need for conversation" "distinguishes most women from most men."

Rudi Blaha / Associated Press

"As the writer Deborah Tannen has pointed out in her books about communication and gender, women need to talk, and often they need to talk to each other. It is that need for conversation and direct communication that distinguishes most women from most men.

"As women, talking can be our greatest friend."

21. Clinton pretended to talk to Eleanor Roosevelt.

Doug Kanter / Getty Images

"Historians Doris Kearns Goodwin and Blanche Wiesen Cook both have shared their thoughts about Eleanor Roosevelt, someone I wish I could have talked to in person about the role of the First Lady.

"In fact, I occasionally have imaginary conversations with Mrs. Roosevelt to try to figure out what she would do in my shoes. She usually responds by telling me to buck up or at least to grow skin as thick as a rhinoceros."

22. One of Clinton's favorite White House stories features FDR seeing Winston Churchill naked.

Associated Press

"One of my favorite stories (whether or not it's true, I don't know) concerns President Roosevelt rolling himself up a ramp that was installed in the hall for his wheelchair. He knocked on Churchill's door, and when the prime minister told him to come in, he opened the door and found Churchill, drink in hand, standing naked before him. As President Roosevelt started to turn away, Churchill reportedly told him: 'Come in. I have nothing to hide from my ally.'"

23. In August, 1997, Congress passed the Balanced Budget Act. Clinton called it a "reflection of who we are as a people."

Charles Bennett / ASSOCIATED PRESS

"This balanced budget is about more than dollars and cents; it is a reflection of who we are as a people. The bipartisan agreement shows that our leaders can come together across party lines to do the right thing for America. It shows that we will support our parents and families as we prepare for the 21st century. It shows, truly, that we can put our values into action."

24. Socks approached his role as First Cat with "typical feline dignity and aplomb."


"Each week, he gets some 200 letters and e-mail messages from children, senior citizens and animal lovers around the world. Admirers from Ethiopia, India, Japan, Italy, Germany and 50 other foreign countries have written seeking glamour shots and 'paw graphs' (Socks' pawprint signature). He's been immortalized in poems and in finger paint. And from a home page on the Internet, Socks' alter ego takes children on cybertours of the White House.

"But Socks has adapted to life as First Cat with typical feline dignity and aplomb. The friendly, down-to-earth stray kitten that Chelsea and I found abandoned in front of a neighbor's house so many years ago hasn't let fame go to his head. Multiple proposals of marriage, countless invitations to parties and mobs of adoring fans at goodwill visits to area hospitals have failed to change him. He's rarely in a bad mood and walks straight up to groups of delighted visitors (unless they're photographers)."

25. But Socks was not pleased by the introduction of Buddy to the household in December, 1997.

Luke Frazza / Getty Images

"So far, Buddy is thrilled with Socks, but the feeling is not yet mutual. My husband, however, is determined to negotiate a rapprochement, a reconciliation, perhaps even a historic shaking of the paws."

26. After the Columbine massacre, Clinton objected to video games "where the winner is the one who kills the most people."

George Widman / AP

"We all need help coping with the culture of violence that has become so much a part of American life.

"Too many TV shows, movies, songs and Internet sites romanticize and glorify violence. There are even video games where the winner is the one who kills the most people. It is time we acknowledge that this violence is having a profound effect on our children and resolve to change it. The President has worked tirelessly to focus attention on this problem."

27. Later, she also objected to "performances by gangsta rappers whose lyrics are obscene and celebrate violence." She argued that "saturating young minds with graphic and sensational violence" has a numbing effect on children.

28. In 1998, Clinton said that her beliefs were still rooted in the same core values as conservative icon Barry Goldwater. As a high schooler, Clinton was a self-described "Goldwater girl," during his 1964 Presidential candidacy.

Miller / Getty Images

"Later, as my political beliefs evolved, they did not always match the Senator's.

"But they remained rooted in the same commitment to American leadership and individual responsibility, and I always respected his positions because I knew they were honestly derived and based on his patriotism and sense of fair play. Despite our political differences, my admiration for him never waned. Of course, I also appreciated his personal support for both Bill and me."

29. Clinton predicted that, without immediate action, "the Medicare trust fund will be insolvent by 2015" in September, 1999. She said it was an especially big problem for women.

Stephen Chernin / Getty Images

"For 34 years, Medicare has protected the health of our seniors, but unless we act now, the Medicare trust fund will be insolvent by the year 2015. While this should be a major concern for every American, it is a particular problem for women.

"Very simply, women live longer than men. The typical 65-year-old woman retiring this year can expect to live to be 84. Four out of five of America's elderly women are widowed, and almost half live out their days alone. And not surprisingly, elderly women are more likely than their male counterparts to be poor."

30. Writing in 2000, Clinton agreed with her husband that "the era of big government is over."

Bill Haber / Associated Press

"The President and I came to Washington with strong convictions about the role of government — convictions best summed up by my husband's forceful declaration at the beginning of his 1996 State of the Union address: 'The era of big government is over.' He went on to say, 'I believe our new, smaller government must work in an old-fashioned American way — together with all our citizens, through state and local governments, in the workplace, in religious, charitable, and civic associations.'"