When President Janet Holmgren’s essay on presidential candidate Sen. Hillary Clinton ran as an opinion piece in the San Jose Mercury News this September, she did not know that she would meet the woman herself a month later.
President Holmgren’s article caught the attention of Sen. Clinton’s campaign managers and they invited her to speak at the National Women’s Finance Council Summit in Washington D.C, on Oct. 17, a conference of women leaders from around the nation.
Ann Lewis, a senior advisor to the Hillary Clinton campaign, said President Holmgren was chosen because “she herself is both a leader and a scholar. We loved the perspective she brought to her piece. It was smart and thoughtful.”
“Sen. Clinton went to a women’s school and we think a lot about leadership lessons,” said Lewis, referring to Clinton’s undergraduate education at Wellesley College.
President Holmgren said she was impressed with Sen. Clinton’s platform on science and healthcare. She said that she wrote her piece in response to people who charge that being a woman is a drawback to Sen. Clinton’s presidential bid.
“As a person who believes in strong values and strong community, I see being a woman not as a handicap, but as an added value,” said President Holmgren.
Gary Younge, in a column in the Nov. 12 UK Guardian, wrote: “.being a woman is seen as a drawback – particularly by men – and she must find a way to underplay her femininity so that it does not become an electoral liability.”
President Holmgren spoke with other prominent women leaders such as Lt. General Claudia Kennedy, the highest ranking women in the U.S. Army, and Dr. Laura Tyson, a Haas School of Business professor.
“It was so exciting, there were a thousand different women there from all backgrounds,” said President Holmgren.
She said Sen. Clinton was “absolutely terrific,” but one of the highlights of the trip happened in the lobby, before the conference even started.
Alexandra Tabor, a young Clinton campaign manager, introduced herself to President Holmgren as the great granddaughter of Mills College President Aurelia Henry Reinhardt. “It was great,” said Holmgren.
If asked, President Holmgren said she would work again with Sen. Clinton. “She is going to need solid policy advisors, people who provide good advice,” she said.
According to Lewis, Clinton has no immediate plans to visit California, but Holmgren hoped Clinton would visit Mills College someday. Holmgren added that Mills College is a non-partisan institution and would “be open to any presidential candidates” who would like to speak at Mills College.
“Mills does not engage in partisan politics,” she said. Holmgren added that her support of Clinton is as a private, “civically engaged” person and not as Mills College president. She said she hoped to motivate students’ own thinking about politics. “We want people to vote,” she said.
President Holmgren’s Sept. 17 piece in the San Jose Mercury News was not a direct endorsement.
Though Holmgren wrote, “I’ve become truly excited about her prospects for becoming our first female president.,” she also questioned Clinton’s political style and policy decisions.
“In the past, I was troubled by the question of Clinton’s authenticity. She has made some very public role changes, shifting from attorney and governor’s wife to health care reformer, from international human rights advocate to ‘stand by your man’ first lady,” she wrote.
President Holmgren has written a second piece about her trip to Washington D.C., in which she calls Sen. Clinton “the leader for her times.” She is hoping to see it published soon.