Hillary Clinton addresses social media

8 November 2010

Written by: Meghan Lodwick

Leigh Sales opened Hillary Rodham Clinton: an Australian conversation with housekeeping which extended to media 101.

After the obvious – mobile phones on silent – Sales ran through a Q and A format which would air later that evening. The audience, made up of young people below the age of 35, were hesitant to stow their technology away.

Mobile phones were raised to gain a shot of Kevin Rudd shaking hands, and Hamish and Andy were quizzed about their presence, a stark reminder that with social media and a mobile phone, we’re all a part of the media.  

When the US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, entered the room to a standing ovation, it elevated her importance to an almost celebrity status.

Praising the partnership between Australia and the US, Hillary touched on key points such a climate change, Asia-Pacific relations and Australia’s war effort in Afghanistan throughout her welcoming speech.

The young Australians in attendance were mostly students, no doubt stressed about upcoming exams, but also about how to get their voices heard. When asked about the stress that comes with her job, Clinton humbly declared it wasn’t as stressful as being in your twenties.

However, Clinton has made great attempts to usher a younger generation into the political dialogue seeing ‘positive signs to using Twitter and Facebook.’

 ‘The changes in technology that promote social connectivity will help to hold governments accountable,’ Clinton said.

Referencing the recent example of abuse in Syrian schools filmed then uploaded to YouTube, Clinton said that she regarded social media as a method to keep governments transparent as ‘the [Syrian] government could not ignore what had been constant complaints.’

In 2009, Clinton launched a unit in the State Department devoted to a networked approach to diplomacy, 21st Century Statecraft. The aim of the program is to ‘use every tool at our disposal… that is the heart of smart power.’

The outreach program which seeks to connect young people and generate ideas has extended globally.

‘We’re working with young people who are creating applications in Africa to help farmers get real time weather information,’ Clinton explained.

Outlining an agenda for forward deployment in response to natural disasters, Clinton believes a global network will help in relief as ‘disintegration is matched with integration.’

Perhaps the key to that is connectivity and the importance of young voices entering the public through platforms like social media or the town-hall style meeting Clinton conducted in Melbourne last Sunday morning.

Meghan Lodwick is a Master of Global Communications student at La Trobe University and upstart co-editor.