Hilary Clinton's contributions to American society as a woman are many, but the overall theme of her efforts is that she has continued to stay involved in the great issues of her time, despite setbacks and criticism of her actions. Throughout her life, she has been a strong advocate for women, children and families. As Senator she has sponsored such measures as the Best Pharmaceuticals for Children Act, to ensure the safety of prescription drugs for children; she has worked to increase provisions in the Children's Health Insurance Program, to help schools address environmental hazards; and she has introduced legislation to help recruit and retain nurses, to fight AIDS and to expand the use of medical technology.
Hilary Clinton demonstrated her committment to public service soon after becoming a lawyer. She served as head of the American Bar Association Committee on Women in the Profession. She was also Chair of the Board of the Children's Defense Fund, a national advocacy group for the interests of children, from 1986-1991. As first lady of Arkansas and of the U.S., she showed that these positions could be more than ceremonial. She headed a commission in Arkansas which expanded and reformed education throughout the state. As the U.S. First Lady, she led efforts to make adoption easier for families, to provide more money for breast cancer research and to increase health care and employment opportunities for women.
She achieved worldwide recognition as the keynote speaker at the United Nations Fifth International Conference on Women, in Beijing China. Her speech on behalf of the global rights of women caused some controversy because it insisted that women should have the same basic rights, no matter where they lived and this was a new U.S. policy position. These were among the awards she received as First Lady: the Elie Wiesel Foundation Humanitarian Award; the Martin Luther King Jr. Award; Family Circle Woman Who Makes a Difference Lifetime Achievement Award; National Federation of Black Women Business Owners, Black Women of Courage Award; National Association of Elementary School Principals Distinguished Service Award; Save the Children Distinguished Service Award, The National Council for Adoption, "For advocacy on behalf of adoption"; Henrietta Szold Award, Hadassah; and the Irish American Peace Prize.
As U.S. Senator, she has also been recognized for her efforts on behalf of the U.S. military. She has received the Secretary of Defense Medal for Outstanding Public Service, United States Department of Defense and the Military Order of the Purple Heart. She is the first New York Senator to serve on the Armed Services Committee, and she was asked by the Department of Defense to serve as the only Senate member of the Transformation Advisory Group to the Joint Forces Command, in 2004.
These Senate duties have allowed Hilary Clinton to break out of the traditional mold as a woman involved in setting public policy. In spite of the controversy surrounding her as a public figure and the negative attacks she has sustained from her opponents, Hilary Clinton has established herself as a balanced, nuanced credible woman candidate for President.