NEW YORK, NY—Secretary of State Hillary Clinton took a rare break on Thursday from her global travels back to the state where she officially launched her political career, delivering the keynote address at the 25th annual "Celebrating Women" breakfast, sponsored by the New York Women's Foundation.
Secretary Clinton received a standing ovation from the largely female audience that filled the Marriott Marquis. The crowd laughed at Clinton's trademark humor as she poked fun at the latest headlines about her appearance. She noted how fashionable New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn looked and quipped, "Not that I pay attention to that, as you know."
Abigail Disney, the honorary chair of the foundation, gave a glowing, yet humorous introduction of Clinton, detailing her journey from first lady to America's top diplomat.
"Let's face it: She has evolved from a nice lady in a pink suit and headband whose smallest comment about baking cookies could create a national scandal, into the hard-charging, forceful and skilled secretary of state that she is today," said Disney, who is the granddaughter of Roy Disney, co-founder of the Walt Disney Company, which owns ABC.
"I think of her as the secretary of state that takes no prisoners, unless they're political prisoners and they need a ride home on your plane," said Disney, referring to Clinton's recent intervention in making preparations for Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng to leave his home nation.
But there was no tense and highly publicized diplomacy this morning. On Thursday morning, Clinton recalled moments of her own life, made all the more poignant by the women who have influenced her, especially her late mother, Dorothy.
"My mother had a resilience and a commitment to her family that she worked hard on every day. And I often wondered, How did that happen?" Clinton said. "When I got old enough to understand, I remember asking my mother … she said, At critical points in my life somebody showed me kindness, somebody gave me help."
The New York Women's Foundation was founded by Disney and other women 25 years ago to promote economic security, safety, and civil and sexual rights for women and girls in New York City. The annual breakfast raises money for the organization's charitable partners, while also giving awards to influential women who represent the organization's ideals.
Along with Secretary Clinton, the director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, Ai-jen Poo, and Merble Reagon, executive director of the Women's Center for Education and Career Advancement, were also honored.
At the culmination of the breakfast, Clinton received a large gnarled walking stick, complete with feathered embellishments. And, perhaps in emulation of Theodore Roosevelt, another popular Democrat and former New York politician whose diplomatic philosophy was "Speak softly and carry a big stick", Clinton joked as she walked off stage, stick in hand, "I will try to put this to good use, either leaning on it or wielding it for whatever is the better purpose."