Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
University of Melbourne
November 7, 2010
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, thank you so much for joining us.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you for having me.
QUESTION: It's very exciting. And we start with a gift.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, excellent.
QUESTION: On behalf of the people's show, its potato chips -- or crisps, I think --
QUESTION: It's a flavor that the people of Australia invented. It's the gravy chip.
SECRETARY CLINTON: I am thrilled.
QUESTION: As you should be, Madam Secretary.
SECRETARY CLINTON: I cannot tell you how much this means to me.
QUESTION: That's great.
QUESTION: Are you a collector of chips? Is this your first --
SECRETARY CLINTON: I am an eater of chips.
QUESTION: We recommend not. Use by -- well, it was use by two years ago. So --
SECRETARY CLINTON: And you resealed the package?
QUESTION: No, no. This has never been opened.
QUESTION: They're the last remaining sealed ones. If you try to eat them, technically that's an assassination attempt by us.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Shall I wait until I am out of Australian air space?
QUESTION: Yes. (Laughter.) With a lot of foreign travel in your job --
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes.
QUESTION: -- you must get very good at accepting gifts.
SECRETARY CLINTON: I do, yes.
QUESTION: And making believe that you love them, just like them.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes. There is a whole course on how to do that.
QUESTION: Okay. Is there really?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I mean, usually it is a very happy expression on one's face. Now, sometimes the gifts are really hard to do that with.
SECRETARY CLINTON: But you still -- you just have to persevere. And you can't look like you are not grateful.
QUESTION: Have you ever left one behind? Because --
SECRETARY CLINTON: No, no. We take them all.
QUESTION: All right, good.
SECRETARY CLINTON: We take them all. They go back, they're processed, we do thank you notes. You will get a thank you note.
QUESTION: It's not necessary. (Laughter.) Consider us (inaudible).
SECRETARY CLINTON: I have people on my delegation who will actually eat this.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, yes. Because they'll eat anything.
QUESTION: They have fair --
QUESTION: (Inaudible) on Air Force One, did you know?
QUESTION: It's a best before rather than a use by, so it may be it's a rough guide. (Laughter.) Well, thank you so much for joining us first of all, Secretary Clinton. And you're traveling around doing these conversations with predominantly young people. Probably a serious question out of the way first: Is the impetus for these trips that you feel this sort of a mismatch or imbalance, perhaps, between the way American is perceived and as you as the Secretary of State are the conduit to the rest of the world from America with how America's perceived and what America's message is?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I think that's a fair question and I would say yes. I think that for young people today, this is such a busy, almost over stimulated, environment that you all come to maturity in and I think the United States has a deep understanding among people who are older because of the military alliances, the wars we've fought against totalitarianism in the 20th century and the like. But for young people, there's a lot of other things going on and --
QUESTION: The Kardashians give us a lot of our (inaudible) import.
SECRETARY CLINTON: The Kardashians, exactly. If you look at American TV as much of the rest of the world does, you would think we all went around wrestling and wearing bikinis. I mean, that's what you would think we spend our entire day --
QUESTION: We'll scratch off question four. (Laughter.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: -- doing, right? So instead of viewing us as a caricature, a kind of reality TV version of America, I think it's important, especially with thought leaders, young people on campuses like this, to be present to answer questions and to try to make some connections.
QUESTION: And that's what today was and it certainly was an amazing thing to see. I thought it was an amazing session.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, thank you. Well, I especially appreciate the chance to talk to the two of you in addition to doing that town hall, because I think that it is through popular culture that people can feel like they are connected and the fact that you would come out and interview me in addition to all the other funny people you interview I really appreciate.
QUESTION: Well, we apologize for getting our security teams to go through all those checks with you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yeah, it was really -- yeah, Andy, it was really embarrassing. I mean, the questions that your people asked were really intrusive.
QUESTION: Gustav, you're fired. (Laughter.) That's the last straw. That's it.
QUESTION: It all requires excellent patience, great negotiation skills. Your husband also possesses those qualities. When you two can't agree on what to get for takeaway dinner, who wins out in that type of negotiation?
SECRETARY CLINTON: We practice different models of negotiation around important issues like that.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Because if I were to say to him, as I have on many occasions, "What shall we have for dinner tonight?" If he says to me, "Oh, I don't care; you choose," I know that's a really bad answer, because then I'm stuck with the responsibility.
SECRETARY CLINTON: So I will come back and I'll say, "All right. Well, so how do you feel about Chinese -- "
QUESTION: Oh, good.
SECRETARY CLINTON: " -- or Mexican or Italian?" And if he says a second time, "I really, really don't care," then I will go choose. Now, contrarily, if he says to me, "What do you want for dinner tonight," I will say, "What do you want?" Then he'll go, "Well, I was thinking of maybe picking up some Thai." And if I'm in a good humor, I'll say, "That's fine." But if I am feeling not enthusiastic about Thai, I'll say, "Well, maybe we should consider something else." And he'll say, "Well, then you choose." (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Do you ever eat before midnight? (Laughter.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: We are very late eaters. Yes, we do. I mean, this could go on -- this goes on for some time.
QUESTION: You want to make sure people don't know that he had half of the conversation, because you've got former President talking to the current Secretary of State, how do you feel about Chinese -- (laughter) -- I don't know. I don't really like Chinese. That could be catastrophic.
SECRETARY CLINTON: That's why we have our rooms swept every day. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Well, speaking of the White House, you're back there where you used to live --
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes.
QUESTION: -- when Bill was in the White House as President.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Eight years, right.
QUESTION: Is it funny going back to your old house (inaudible) out of a job?
SECRETARY CLINTON: It was at first -- well, the first time I went back after that was when President Bush was in and that was very strange.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) do you like what the Obamas have done? Do you like what the Bushes have done?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Actually, I'm very happy with what both have done, because I put a lot of time and effort into making sure that the people's house was well taken care of and so have the Bushes and the Obamas.
QUESTION: Good to hear.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yeah.
QUESTION: I'm glad that they didn't just go in there and then mess with --
SECRETARY CLINTON: No, no. It wasn't kind of --
QUESTION: Bush had Xboxes everywhere --
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yeah, exactly, no --
QUESTION: -- remote-controlled cars?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Very well done. Both counts.
QUESTION: It's obvious that you are a very strong woman and obviously it's been written up as such. What gives you strength, do you think?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I was lucky to be raised by parents who gave me all of the support that I needed and it is a great gift. I feel really, really fortunate and I also was raised to think that if I were given all of these opportunities like a good education and good health and things that lots of other kids were denied, then I should give back. So I have a lot of meaning in what I do to me going back into my childhood and it is exciting to be out there representing my country and to feel like this goes way back to conversations around my dinner table with my father quizzing me about foreign events.
QUESTION: Well, I mean, in your role now as Secretary of State, you have such high-level meetings and also as First Lady and U.S. senator, have you ever said the phrase, "You've just made a very powerful enemy?" (Laughter.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: No, but I've thought it. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: What's a nicer way to say it. Do you just have to go -- (laughter).
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I've learned diplo-speak. I've become very --
QUESTION: Because I suppose that's a pretty big threat.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes, well, but you can say -- when someone says --
QUESTION: If I just -- say I just crossed the United States of America --
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes, right.
QUESTION: -- horribly, how would you sort of convey that message to me?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I live by the old adage, "don't get mad; get even". So you don't want to jump any conclusions. You don't want to be saying, "We have a lot of military (inaudible)." No, you don't do any of that. You just -- what you try to do is to convince people that what you think is good for the country that you're visiting and good for the world they should as well. Now, our biggest problem is that the people in most of these places would like more freedom, more jobs, more opportunity. But governments are either unwilling or unable to deliver on that. And so the United States is always pushing people for better democracy, more human rights, better economic policies and sometimes these leaders are a little bit put out, because they've got it set up pretty well. It's they and their buddies and their family members and the money just flows in and if they have oil or gas, it just is a gusher.
QUESTION: It's a sweet deal.
SECRETARY CLINTON: And they're not spending it on their people. And so we try to keep nudging them along. But you cannot make anybody do something in today's world. You have to try to reason with them; you have to try to make the case for them. And if they see the light, which some do obviously and they want to be better leaders and they want to help their people, then you're gratified by that.
QUESTION: We know you're a very busy lady and we know you have a very short --
QUESTION: You're off to security briefings unless you want us to do any -- (laughter).
SECRETARY CLINTON: Why don't you come with me?
QUESTION: Well, that would be nice.
QUESTION: I've been begging for an opportunity.
QUESTION: I am just in a nutshell, there are some hot spots, there are some cold spots, things are okay.
SECRETARY CLINTON: That's right. See, I've got this Goldilocks theory of foreign relations. It's not too hot; it's not too cold. You've got to get it just right.
QUESTION: Right. We're all right. Well, we'll finish up. You advise on some of the most important issues in the world globally. We're wondering whether you could advise us on some of the most important issues for Hamish and myself.
SECRETARY CLINTON: I will do my best.
QUESTION: If we could borrow just a minute of your time (inaudible) advisor.
QUESTION: Hamish and I have our own organization and it's called checkyourtemps.org. It encourages young people to check the temperature of their food before they bite into it, because if they don't, they'll sear off their mouth. That could ruin not just that meal, but plenty of meals to come.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Right.
QUESTION: And we save declining moral across the globe.
QUESTION: How important is that issue on a world scale do you think?
SECRETARY CLINTON: It has not previously been brought to my attention.
QUESTION: So you're breaking new ground in this way.
SECRETARY CLINTON: I am -- well, you're breaking new ground.
QUESTION: Well, we're happy to have you on for the --
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I have to tell you both, this is a --
QUESTION: Take this to the top.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Because if you just think about it, people go around with the tops of their mouths burnt. They can't communicate well.
QUESTION: You see a decline in peace.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Decline in peace. They might stop eating. That adds to the increase in hunger --
QUESTION: We've already got enough hunger already.
SECRETARY CLINTON: -- malnutrition in the world.
QUESTION: And it's so ironic, because food is what stopped them eating.
SECRETARY CLINTON: That's right.
QUESTION: So it's hurt by their -- your greatest friend.
SECRETARY CLINTON: So -- I know, and so check the temperature. It has a certain ring to it.
QUESTION: That's what we're saying.
SECRETARY CLINTON: And now I think you'll have to figure out how you get the thermometers to developing countries.
SECRETARY CLINTON: This is going to be something you're going to have work out.
QUESTION: We'll need cheaper thermometers.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Maybe you could get a partnership with like the biggest thermometer maker in Australia.
SECRETARY CLINTON: And they might donate. What do you think?
QUESTION: Yeah, that's great.
QUESTION: I think that's a great solution. See, a lot of that -- we're very ideological, but I like you because you're a nuts-and-bolts type -- (laughter) -- just get things done.
SECRETARY CLINTON: That's -- well, I'm very practical.
QUESTION: I like that. (Laughter.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: That's good.
QUESTION: Madam Secretary --
SECRETARY CLINTON: That's good.
QUESTION: Look, I suppose my biggest sort of personal issue at the moment I need advice on is I have a barbeque this afternoon that I'm hosting. Standing invitation. You're more than welcome to come. I know you have a briefing with Ms. Gillard. But --
QUESTION: She can come.
QUESTION: She can come as well. I mean, I can't not invite the prime minister.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Good idea. Where is it?
QUESTION: It's 374 (inaudible).
SECRETARY CLINTON: Okay.
QUESTION: (Inaudible.) Sweep it. Sweep the house. I don't mind.
SECRETARY CLINTON: That's right. Get going on that.
QUESTION: I ran into my neighbor yesterday as I was taking party supplies into my house. And he said, "Are you having a barbeque?" I said, "Yes." And he's currently not invited, but now he knows that a barbeque is on. We have, on a microscale, we have diplomatic tensions.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yeah, you do. You have a potential hot spot next door.
QUESTION: We have a hostile neighbor. And we have a shared wall, too.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, the path of least resistance is to invite him.
QUESTION: He's not a good mix. He's not a good match.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Not a good match.
QUESTION: We sort of -- I don't want to call him a rogue dissident, but --
SECRETARY CLINTON: How about this -- yeah, well, why don't you take him over some barbeque?
QUESTION: And that's why you are the Secretary of State of the United States of America. Thank you for joining.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you. Thank you both very much. (Laughter.)