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Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton speaks to a crowd of her supporters on Sept. 29 in Des Moines, Iowa. Among the topics brought up, Clinton spoke about how she would help the middle class, help college students with student loan debt, and how she would be a better president than Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.

Hillary Rodham Clinton has never one been to cower in her long political career — making her a woman of many firsts.

Clinton has been working in public policy for over 30 years, ranging from being the first lady of Arkansas to the first lady of the United States and also Secretary of State. Clinton started her work at the Children’s Defense Fund, a nonprofit that advocates particularly for poor children and minority children and those with disabilities.

Clinton carried on her passions for helping children and the poor when she became first lady of Arkansas. She co-founded the Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families in 1977 and served as president of the board for seven years. During this time, Clinton was also a corporate lawyer at the Rose Law Firm until her husband’s presidency in 1992.

Many found Clinton to be an active first lady — unprecedented for the position — in that she helped create a children’s health care plan and through her infamous “Human rights are women’s rights, and women’s rights are human rights,” speech at the United Nations Fourth World Congress in Beijing.

“[Clinton being so active] was not very well received by some people,” said Kelly Winfrey, assistant professor in the Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication and researcher of political communications and gender. “While first ladies can be active, they tend to be active in some non-controversial issue like obesity or reading.”

In 1999, Clinton ran for a seat in the Senate in the state of New York. Clinton defeated Republican Rick Lazio 55 percent to 43 percent. Not only was Clinton the first, but she is also the only first lady to serve at any level in either an elected or appointed position. She won re-election in November 2006.

One of the moments during her time as a New York senator that Clinton said is “indelibly etched” in her mind is her service after the attacks on 9/11.

A primary of firsts

In the beginning of the 2008 Democratic primary, Clinton was the assumed favorite because of her experience — something she based her campaign on.

“Mood of the country at the time really wanted change from the way the government had been working,” Winfrey said.

The desire for change gave a young Illinois senator, Barack Obama, the ability to steal the spotlight with his hopeful campaign that eventually made him the first African-American presidential candidate to be nominated by a major party.

“Obama being young and energetic and his strong rhetorical style, I think just appealed to what voters were looking for in 2008,” Winfrey said.

The 2008 Democratic primary was one of the hardest fought, with many heated debates that included numerous back-and-forth jabs between Clinton and Obama. Clinton discusses the intensity of the campaign in her book, “Hard Choices."

“There had been hot rhetoric and bruised feelings on both sides,” Clinton said.

Clinton had enjoyed an unusual run of electoral success up until then making the loss that much more difficult.

“I felt I had let down so many millions of people,” she wrote. “Especially the women and girls who had invested their dreams in me.”

Despite the bruises, Clinton threw her support behind Obama and worked out on the campaign trail up until his successful Election Day.

Foes to friends

On Nov. 13, 2008, Clinton flew to Chicago to meet with the president-elect. In the meeting, Obama offered her the secretary of state position. Even though rumors had been swirling for weeks, Clinton said she was still surprised by the offer.

While Clinton said she was honored and cared deeply about foreign policy and knew it was essential to the country’s well-being, she initially declined Obama's offer.

“Finally, I kept returning to a simple idea: When your president asks you to serve, you should say yes,” she wrote.

On Dec. 1, Obama announced Clinton as his choice as the 67th secretary of state.

“Hillary’s appointment is a sign to a friend and foe as the seriousness of my commitment to renew American diplomacy,” Obama said in his announcement.

Clinton goes on in her book to talk about she and her husband watching Obama taking the oath of office in the bitter cold.

“Our rivalry, once fierce, was over. Now we were partners,” she wrote.

As secretary of state, Clinton flew to 112 countries, logging almost a million miles. She worked to repair the relationship between the United States and China, negotiated U.N. sanctions leading to the Iran Nuclear Deal and worked to make changes for human rights across the globe.

For Clinton, there is one major stain on the four years she served as secretary of state that is still following her around today: the 2012 Benghazi attacks.

On the 11-year reunion of 9/11 the U.S. diplomatic compound and annex in Benghazi, Libya, was attacked, causing the death of four Americans.

Many critics believe Clinton dropped the ball on securing a safe compound and answering the concerns of safety from those on the base. While the board did find failings by the state department, it did not find Clinton guilty of any wrongdoings. Seven congressional investigations have taken place on the events in Benghazi, and Clinton hasn't been found of any wrongdoings. 

A second chance

Today, the tides have turned for Clinton. Despite the discovery of her misuse of an email server and at times an unbelievably close race against Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, Clinton won the Democratic presidential nomination.

“In 2008, she didn’t really talk about her gender much,” Winfrey said. “I think that she’s done a little better this time talking about her gender in ways that it’s relevant to the issues.”

The other difference in the 2016 primary, according to Winfrey, was that the Sanders campaign was unable to mobilize minority voters like the Obama campaign did. Clinton has had a stronger record with minority voters than Sanders. Winfrey said this is what made for the difference in the primary this time for Clinton.

“The general election is ... crazy,” Winfrey said.

The other variable Winfrey believes is part of Clinton’s success is her Republican opponent, businessman Donald Trump.

“As qualified as Hillary Clinton is I don’t know if it would be this close if the candidate was someone other than Donald Trump,” Winfrey said.

Winfrey said Clinton is arguably one of the most qualified people to ever run for president, but her gender is a factor that could affect her success.

“I think there is often times an unconscious sexism in how people evaluate [Clinton],” Winfrey said.

Winfrey said women in leadership positions tend to be held to a higher standard, specifically ones that are stereotyped to be more masculine, including the presidency.

“It’s hard to separate Hillary Clinton from being a woman because we’ve never had a woman in this position before,” Winfrey said.

On the issues

Throughout her 2016 campaign, Clinton has continued to tout issues she has been passionate about since the beginning of her political career, including affordable education at all ages, guaranteed paid family and medical leave, expanding health care and implementing an economy that works better for the middle class.

"She says the words, and the words are important, but she also has the plans," said Taylor Blair, freshman in pre-industrial design. “I appreciate that in a politician.”

Blair has been a Clinton supporter since the beginning of the primaries and has volunteered for the campaign. Blair believes Clinton is hardworking, saying she always has her nose to the grindstone.

"I love that she has always fought for women's rights, children's rights and kids with disabilities," Blair said.

In numerous policy plans, she has specifically targeted college students, planning to limit certain tax expenditures for high-income taxpayers in order to fund debt-free college. Clinton has also created policies to end campus sexual assault and make mental health services more accessible on college campuses.

Clinton has also created plans for the federal government to invest in rebuilding infrastructure, expanding the Affordable Care Act while decreasing copays and deductibles and investing in clean energy.

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