By Maeve Reston, Los Angeles Times
In the span of a few weeks, Hillary Rodham Clinton has found herself the target of insinuations about her husband’s liaison with a White House intern and has watched her private confidences as first lady spill into public view after a conservative website wrote about the papers of her close friend.
So it seemed fitting that during an event on empowering women and girls at New York University on Thursday Clinton might have been thinking about how to deal with criticism headed her way should she decide to run for president in 2016.
When an audience member asked Clinton for her best piece of advice for “aspiring female change-makers,” Clinton turned to what she described as one of the best pieces of advice she’d ever heard: a quote from Eleanor Roosevelt, “who said that women in politics or in public roles should grow skin like a rhinoceros. I think there’s some truth to that,” Clinton said.
As someone willing to buck the establishment, Clinton said, “it’s important to learn how to take criticism seriously, but not personally.”
“You have to be willing to hear what others, who are your critics, are saying,” Clinton said. “Some you will dismiss because there’s another agenda that has nothing to do with you, or promoting the cause you’re attached to. But some will be giving you good advice. There’s that old saying that your critics can be your best friends if you listen to them and learn from them — but don’t get dragged down by them.”
It was a revealing moment for the former secretary of State, who is weighing another bid for the White House — and all the scrutiny that would entail. In the recently published 1990s-era notes from her late friend Diane Blair, Clinton bridled at how opponents were targeting her and then-President Clinton. (She has had no public response to Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul’s indictment of Bill Clinton’s behavior, nor his insinuation that the two Clintons were one and the same.)
Clinton said Thursday that while differing leadership styles of men are celebrated, “we’re still developing what are acceptable styles of leadership for women.”
In her early days as a litigator, she said, there was a great deal of discussion in legal circles about how young women lawyers should present themselves — down to the sartorial details like those “ridiculous suits with the ribbon tied around your neck,” she said with a smile.
“You have to be intentionally thoughtful about this as you assume a role in the public arena, without it making you less authentic or undermining your confidence — and that is not an easy task,” she said. “I tell you that from many years of experience, and, you know, a lot of missteps along the way.”