Hamilton East Public Library logo

My Account

Hours & Location

Get A Library Card

October 23, 2017

What Happened

What Happened

By: Hillary Rodham Clinton

I was torn when attempting to select a title to discuss for my October book review. I recently finished two books that I found quite compelling – one fiction and the other non-fiction. Both H. Jack Mayer’s Life in a Jar and Hillary Rodham Clinton’s What Happened opened my eyes to disturbing truths about human nature and left me marveling at the broad range of compassion and cruelty we exhibit toward one another. I recommend both titles for your reading consideration. Despite some misgivings, I settled on Clinton’s introspective analysis of what went right and what went very wrong during her recent historic run for the highest political office in our land.

Clinton is a polarizing figure in this country, eliciting extreme levels of positive and negative emotion. With the campaign and election still relatively fresh in people’s minds, that emotion remains palpable whenever her name is mentioned. That old adage that polite conversation should steer clear of religion and politics stems from a valid premise! But, because the 2016 presidential election and the campaigns preceding it were so unprecedented in their ferocity, complexity, and importance – I believe there is value in attempting to explore and understand how and why Hillary Clinton lost and Donald Trump prevailed and now holds the office of President of the United States. It is true that this book tells the story from one perspective – hers. And who knows better than Clinton about where she faltered and where outside forces played an unprecedented influence. Other players in the contest will, no doubt weigh in with their own version of “what happened”. In the interest of fairness, prudent citizens will familiarize themselves with all these divergent view-points before answering that question for themselves.

Clinton’s book is organized into a group of interrelated essays that address a series of topics that organize them into chapters. Topics covered are: Perseverance, Competition, Sisterhood, Idealism & Realism, Frustration, and Resilience. Favorite quotations from diverse sources are scattered throughout – Clinton keeps a notebook of them, to which she refers at times of indecision or distress. One that seems to encapsulate Clinton’s general attitude comes to us from Harriet Tubman, “If you are tired, keep going. If you are scared, keep going. If you are hungry, keep going. If you want to taste freedom, keep going.”

I was impressed with how willing Clinton is to share her inner thoughts, insights, and feelings as a woman inhabiting various personal, professional, and political roles. Now that she is no longer running for office, Clinton is more relaxed and less guarded about revealing who she is as a person. She talks about her close relationship with her mother, now deceased, who survived and thrived despite a challenging early life. She relives her days as an idealistic student at Wellesley College and Yale Law School. She discusses her enduring, sometimes rocky, marriage to Bill Clinton and her thrill at becoming mother to Chelsea and grandmother to Charlotte and Aiden. Her public persona is only a part of the whole individual and it is refreshing to gain a deeper understanding of her history, development, and motivations for entering the often brutal public sphere.

Based on Clinton’s extensive history in politics and international affairs, and her experience and knowledge of the inner workings of power, she is uniquely positioned to reveal what was happening behind the scenes. She details why she believes that Russian interference and the statements of then FBI Director James Comey drastically impacted the momentum of her campaign. She weighs in on her use of a private e-mail server while serving as U.S. Secretary of State and the impact it had on the campaign. She calls out journalists and news outlets for allowing the political coverage and campaign debates to focus on often-sensationalized accusations and “alternate facts” rather than the more important issues facing our country.

The first woman nominated by a major political party as their candidate for president, Clinton acknowledges the weight of responsibility she feels and her disappointment at not finishing with a strong win for all girls and women. She digs extensively into the statistical data relative to voters’ opinions and choices, then uses the data to dissect and analyze the election results. If you’re a “numbers person”, you’ll love this part – I am not, and found this section dragged a bit for me.

Whatever your political persuasion or your impressions of Hillary Clinton, the politician, Secretary of State, U. S. First Lady, Arkansas First Lady, lawyer, etc. – you’ll learn something about Hillary Rodham Clinton the woman in these pages. Her Methodist upbringing and her mother’s admonitions that she was not raising a quitter forged her penchant for service and determination to persist against all odds. As she charts a drastically modified future course from what she had planned, these characteristics will undoubtedly serve her well. One of Clinton’s favored quotations comes from her Methodist roots and is attributed to its founder, John Wesley, “Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as ever you can.” I suspect we have not seen the last of Hillary Rodham Clinton the private citizen as she applies her considerable expertise and experience to the problems facing our country and the world.

Review By:  Pam Lamberger