Interview With Babbie Kabae of 102.6 Choice FM (Clouds Radio)
Secretary of State
QUESTION: I have been a great admirer of you from a long, long time ago, and it’s good to finally meet you in person.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you so much.
QUESTION: You’re a wife, you’re a mother, you’re the United States Secretary of State, and you have been a lawyer. You’ve just got your whole career mapped out from the time you were young, been an activist. My first question is: How do you manage all of that?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think it’s easier looking back to see how things progressed. But when I was much younger, I really had no idea what I would be doing at this age. I certainly never thought I would be Secretary of State or a senator from New York or married to a President. But I believe so strongly that women need to get good educations and to be prepared for whatever opportunities life might present.
And I’ve been a very fortunate person to be able to do so many interesting jobs and to make a contribution to my country and to the many concerns that I have about women and girls and human rights and peace and security. So it’s been an absolutely wonderful experience. But it is something that is hard to map out, because you have to be prepared to take what opportunities come your way, but you may not always know what those will be.
QUESTION: And the journey ahead until now?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, the journey ahead is equally unclear to me. I will be working, I’m sure, in areas of interest to me, particularly girls and women, which I have talked about for many years and have again the last two days here in Tanzania. But I have no plans. I have no prescription. I want to just work very hard to focus on the many issues that we’re concerned about in the Obama Administration and help the President in any way that I can. But then I will look for some other opportunities to serve.
QUESTION: It’s actually great that you mentioned that, because in 1995, when you gave a speech at the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing you said, if I may quote you, “If there is one message that echoes from this conference, let it be that human rights are women’s rights and women’s rights are human rights, once and for all.” Now ten years and more on, is there a significant change to note, or is the situation getting worse as you see it?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I think that there has been significant progress in many parts of the world. I think in your country, here in Tanzania, laws have been changed. I have met many women ministers and public officials, women leaders in agriculture and healthcare and education. So there certainly has been a marked improvement in the opportunities and rights of women.
Having said that, women are still, in too many places, denied their basic rights or they are caught up as victims and targets of conflict and gender-based violence. So we cannot rest. We have to keep working. And I was very pleased to see the emphasis on gender-based violence that your government is making. We intend to support that strongly.
QUESTION: And speaking on current affairs, you just went through – you opened the AGOA trade agreement in Zambia, and there has been a little bit of farmers and producers crying foul about the U.S.-Africa trade agreements. And how do you see it progressing to help at least the lower caste farmers and producers right now? Is it going to open up more opportunities?
SECRETARY CLINTON: It should, but I think we have to take a very realistic view about what has worked and try to improve it so it can work better. In the 10 years since my husband signed the AGOA trade agreement, we have increased by $4 billion our trade between Africa and the United States, and that doesn’t include oil. Of course, we do buy a lot of oil from --
QUESTION: Yeah. This is now the non-petroleum sector?
SECRETARY CLINTON: This is the non-petroleum sector. So we’ve quadrupled our trade. But I think too many small-and-medium-sized businesses don’t know how to take their products into the international market. So what we have decided to do is to invest $120 million over four years in trade hubs and technical training to help entrepreneurs develop business plans, get access to credit, improve their production facilities. Because there are so many wonderful products here in Africa that don’t get to scale and therefore don’t get into the American market.
But I think one of the most important new initiatives in East Africa is the East African Community. Because, for the first time, countries in East Africa, including Tanzania, are saying let's trade more with each other. Sub-Saharan Africa trades less with other countries in the same region than any other region in the world, so there’s a lot of business that is just being left on the table, so to speak. And so we are encouraging tearing down obstacles, fighting corruption, because corruption is a hidden tax on local businesses throughout Africa, breaking down the barriers between countries, learning how to get into the American market and the European market.
So I think we’ve done well. I’d give us a positive grade, but I think there’s so much more we can do. And that’s what we were talking about in Zambia at the conference.
QUESTION: And this year the world has witnessed many changes, not just big uprising revolutions in most countries, especially North Africa and the Middle East. What has been your response to that?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, on the one hand, it is very exciting to see people who have been left behind – they don’t have the positive years of democracy that Tanzania has, where people can stand up for their rights, they can run for office, they can express themselves freely. And now people across North Africa and the Middle East are starting to claim those basic freedoms.
On the other hand, it’s going to take a while before it sorts itself out. You just don’t go from authoritarian regimes to full-fledged democracies and free-market economies over night. But I have a lot of faith that the people of North Africa and the Middle East are on the right path now. And the United States and other countries will do everything we can to help them.
And actually, I think here in Africa – look at how peaceful democratic and growing Tanzania is. You understand the difficulties, but every day the country kind of puts one foot in front of the other on this very long journey. So I think that there are lessons that these countries in North Africa could learn from their southern neighbors about how to have a democracy, how to accommodate different points of view, how to bring people together to find common ground, something they’re not used to doing.
QUESTION: And maintain peace.
SECRETARY CLINTON: And maintain peace and security and get along with each other. I mean, you are a country that is a united republic. You have many different kinds of people. You have two major religions but then other minor religions. You have languages. You have lots of differences. You are making that a strength, not a reason to fight.
And in Egypt for example, I’m very worried about the attacks on the Christian community, the Coptic Christians. And most people in Egypt, the Islamic population, they don’t approve of that, but a small minority is. So how do they stand up to that small minority?
In Tunisia, women have had more rights than in many places in the Arab world. There’s a small minority of fundamentalists who want to turn the clock back on women’s rights. So how do they stand up to that? So they have some tough issues ahead of them.
QUESTION: Before we close up the interview, a little bit about you now. In 1962 you met the late Martin Luther King. How was that for you?
SECRETARY CLINTON: It was an extraordinary experience, and I’ve been privileged to meet many famous people and a few great people – (laughter) – and there’s a difference.
QUESTION: Yeah. Infamous and famous. (Laughter.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: That’s right. And I was taken to meet and hear Dr. King preach by my church youth group, and I will never forget it. And then we stood in a very long line to shake his hand and just to have that moment to connect with him. And I was just heartbroken when he was killed in 1968.
And I’m proud of my country, because despite the upheavals and the terrible problems that we went through in our own civil rights revolution, from the time of the beginning of our country, through slavery and so much heartache and pain, we now have an African American president. And we have come a long way, but we’re very conscious that we have to keep moving to fulfill Dr. King’s dream. We’ve made progress, but we can’t say we’re yet there at the promised land.
QUESTION: Sure. Last question for sure now. But this one I think is the most important one. After being Madam Secretary of State, what next for you?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I honestly don’t know. I’ll come back in a couple of years and tell you, as I make it up as I go. I really have so many interests and so many great hopes for our world. And my husband, after he left the presidency, has been working with the Clinton Foundation here in Tanzania and elsewhere throughout Africa and making a difference, saving lives, helping people. We both care deeply about that, so I will continue my service in some way, but I don't know how yet.
QUESTION: I wish you all the best of luck.
SECRETARY CLINTON: And I wish you. And I hope you continue to just grow your radio program and all of your listeners.
QUESTION: Thank you very much.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you.
QUESTION: It was a pleasure speaking to you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: It was mine indeed. Thank you.
QUESTION: Thank you very much.