October 15, 2014

Hillary Clinton Speaks on Gender Equality, Obligations of the Press, and Harsh, Reactive Decisions Brought on by Technology

At Dreamforce 2014 yesterday, I stood with hundreds of other people in the stage overflow area to hear Hillary Clinton's take on technology. The screen was projected from inside of a huge white bubble tent. Bubble tent pictured below around 8:30am:


When I first began to listen, all I heard were the familiar political campaigns - the same that we've heard from the Democratic party over and over...nice but not revolutionary. It wasn't until Klaus Schwab, founder of the World Economic Forum in Davos, took the stage with her that I noticed something new.


As both Klaus Schwab and Hillary Clinton went to take their seats for the interview, Klaus offered the usual polite gesture for her to 'please, sit first'. In the most subtle way possible, Hillary denied this small act of chivalry with a quiet, quick phrase - "No please, it's fine..." and gestured that they sit at the same time. I'm not sure how many other people caught that, or felt the wind began to stir at that moment, because you could feel that something was about to change. I was caught of guard, why wouldnt you want that level of respect?

A brief act of chivalry, denied. Why? Equality. So subtle yet so powerful it sent chills up my spine. What is this? Now she had my attention.

As she began to speak, really speak, storm clouds blew in overhead - moving the flags to start flapping in the wind. She spoke about how within a nanosecond, we can be communicating with anyone in the world. In a world where technology changes too quickly to keep up, leadership is creating "impulsive, reactive decisions". There are so many external factors that are now making it difficult to make long term decisions. She encouraged us to sit down and talk with on another instead of reacting so quickly, to try and start conversations for cooperation.


She also spoke about how media is becoming perverse, how no one has reported on real news since the 1950's or 1960's because it's all about getting the "best angle" or "most embarrassing shot". She encouraged the media to report on the truth, and give people information that will allow them to make decisions on their own. She brought up Franklin Roosevelt as an example - the media never focused on the fact that he was in a wheelchair, in fact they aimed for it not to distract from the decisions he was making for our country, often cutting it out of pictures and zooming in on his bold commanding features.

As she said this, I turned to glimpse at the woman standing next to me, watching Clinton speak as she stood for an hour and a half with the support of metal arm and leg braces, because there was no where else to sit. Why aren't we focusing first on wearables that help people walk, or find  a place to sit, rather than focusing on the able-bodied to walk faster and 'step' enough during the day? Are the disabled so hidden out of society that we have all turned a blind eye? Is it the press that doesn't speak to it because it doesn't generate enough news? These are unanswered questions now rolling around in my mind.

As Klaus and Hillary wrapped up, Klaus reminded her of a speech she gave almost 15 years ago, in which she made this statement. "Don't you think it's time we elect a strong, brilliant woman? I would vote for her." Hillary laughed this off and ushered no comment except that she would repeat that statement again today. With that, Klaus turned to the audience and said:

"Please encourage madam Secretary...to repeat what she said fifteen years ago."


Clinton has turned my head in a new direction, and as a blogger and journalist I too have a responsibility to report on truth and empathy...and I can't wait to see where the wind blows me next.