Hillary Speaks: Part II

'I've Prayed A Lot'

Polls show she is one of the most admired women in America. But even after seven years in the spotlight, she remains a riddle for many people. It is hard to know what keeps her going through all of her trials: marital problems made public, political fights turned ugly, and always, the demands of her work. In the second part of an exclusive interview, 60 Minutes II Correspondent Dan Rather got some answers from the only person in the world who really knows.

Hillary Clinton: "You know, I've been really blessed. I mean, I know people might look at this and think, 'oh, my gosh, you know, with what she's been through, how can she say that?' But..."

Dan Rather: "Hard to see how you've been blessed the last year and a half or so."

Hillary Clinton: "Well, but you knowÂ… Nobody would wish on anyone what we and the country have gone through the last year and a half or so, but I also learned a lot, and I have been able to share experiences with people that have been extraordinary... with their outreach to me, their prayers, their good wishes, their concerns."

Seven years ago, on 60 Minutes, she seemed to ridicule the idea of staying with a straying husband. Today, she doesn't talk about fidelity. She talks about forgiveness and dealing with personal pain.

Hillary Clinton: "Sometimes things come totally out of the blue, and something good or terrible happens to you, neither one of which you could have predicted and probably certainly don't deserve. Life is not by any means fair or easy for anyone, but part of what I think we're challenged to do is to keep trying. And to keep trying not only on our own behalf, but on behalf of anyone we can touch and who we can help."

Dan Rather: "You mentioned you're a religious person. Did you find yourself praying more over the most difficult period?"

Hillary Clinton: "Well, I've prayed a lot since I've been in the White House. It's been a circumstance that certainly requires a lot of prayer."

Dan Rather: "You smile, but I sense you're serious."

Hillary Clinton: "Well, I'm very serious about it. I've prayed a lot and I've been prayed for a lot. And I have been grateful for the prayers of people I know and people I will probably never meet. And it has helped me enormously. And you know, sometimes, it's a way not only of pouring your heart out but of really getting filled up again with, you know, some energy and some hopefulness and positive feelings that can carry you forward."

Hillary Rodham Clinton's latest incarnation is probably the one she likes least: long-suffering wife. But now the woman who has always been at her husband's side, and on his side, may be about to step out on her own. As she flirts with a run for the Senate, she is once again on the brink of breaking new ground for American first ladies. Soon, she could be campaigning for herself. But the agenda she lays out seems downright ld-fashioned. She sees her work as focusing on children and families.

Hillary Clinton: "In some ways, I think we've been running kind of an experiment, if you will, in the raising of children. It's not anything anybody planned. It's been... unwitting... but we've been changing the way we live, and we've been tearing down a lot of institutions. We've been undermining a lot of old values. We've allowed all kinds of influences in our front doors that we never would have before, to influence the lives of our children. We've worked in ways and our families are structured differently than we've ever done before. So there's just been many, many things that have changed within one or two generations, which we really have to pay attention to. And we really have to start taking some action on behalf of our kids."

Dan Rather: "Give me a specific one or two things--something concrete--you think we could do and should be doing."

Hillary Clinton: "We have to be better connected to each other and particularly to our children. We have to do more to build a sense of community. Now what does that mean? Well, it may mean that our high schools and our schools are too large for children to really feel connected to the adults who are there for the adults to know them. You know, I was recently in a school in Queens, New York City and I was just stunned that in a school built for 1,500 kids, there were 2,000 kids, and that there were going to be 500 more because of overcrowding. You know that sends a real message to children, that 'you're not our first priority. We're not going to make space for you.' I go to so many towns and see now schools that have no play areas. No safe places where they can gather. It's very different from the way most of us grew up. And it's just a lot harder to be a child today. You know if we were doing something in the front yard of our house when my mother wasn't home and the woman across the street saw us, she'd be out in a minute to tell us to, you know, stop doing that or she'd tell our mother. We could walk down sidewalks. We could ride our bikes to the parks. There were so many other ways that we were connected. The church was a big part of our life. You know, my father was home for dinner every night at the same time. We have changed so much about how we live that I don't think it's useful at all to point fingers and place blame. It's much more a question of how each us will take responsibility in our own lives. And in our professional and public lives, you know, to begin to speak out and make the changes that we need."

Dan Rather: "You mentioned again children. It's been your burning passion to which you've been connected for most of your career. Did or did not the president, your husband, last year, did he communicate mixed messages to young people about right and wrong?"

Hillary Clinton: "Well, I... you know.... Again, I'm not going to go back and ... you know, talk about that in anpublic way at this time. I think he has himself spoken about the people he let down and the disappointment he caused. So, I will let him speak to that. But I think no matter who you are, or no matter what you do or what's done to you... there's always the chance to try to make it better, that there's always the hope of forgiveness.... To forgive and to be forgiven. And that comes certainly from my religious faith. But it also comes out of my personal experience."

Dan Rather: "Do you believe in redemption?"

Hillary Clinton: "Absolutely. I've seen too much of it. I've not only seen it in the lives of other people, I've seen it in my own, and in those I love around me. So I do."

Dan Rather: "Let's pretend for a moment. It's 2050. There's an encyclopedia and it has a picture of Hillary Rodham Clinton, onetime first lady of the United States. What do you think the caption under that picture will be?"

Hillary Clinton: "I have no idea. I have no idea."

Dan Rather: "What would you like it to be?"

Hillary Clinton: "Oh, my goodness. You know, I don't think about myself in those terms. I really do try to get up every day and just do the best I can. I know that may sound sort of simple, but that's how I live my life. And I think I've been sort of a transition figure in the minds of a lot of Americans because of.... oh, the age at which we came into office, the backgrounds we brought, the things we worked on, my concerns, which I tried to continue to advocate. So I think that I've been a transition figure. And I don't know what the final judgement on any of that will be."

Dan Rather: "We've talked about the possibility of you running for Senate. You've said that you're obviously interested in it. What are the possibilities that one day, some day... You'll run for president?"

Hillary Clinton: "Oh, my gosh. That's not possible, I don't believe."

Dan Rather: "But you've thought about doing it, haven't you?"

Hillary Clinton: "No, I haven't."

Dan Rather: "Never considered it?"

Hillary Clinton: "People have said that to me, but it's something I...I...I...don't take seriously at all. IÂ… It's not even... It's not even in the universe of my thinking."

Dan Rather: "Like it or not--I know you like it not--your husband is one of two presidents to have been impeached. Do you agree or disagree it's going to be in the first paragraph of his obituary?"

Hillary Clinton: "Well, I don't know. I suppose it depends on who writes the obituary. I don't think that it is by any means the most important contribution of his presidency, which I consider to be filled with very significant progress for our country."

Dan Rather: "He told me in an interview that he did not consider it a badge of shame. Do you?"

Hillary Clinton: "It was such a political process. It was, it was a tragically political misfortune for our country. Ad I think that when the history is written it'll be seen in a broader context and will be more understood."

Dan Rather: "You've talked about that before but now have a chance to reflect on it a little. Of all the allegations, accusations, charges made, what do you consider to be the most unfair attack?"

Hillary Clinton: "Well, you know, I think the entire process was an unfortunate one. And I'm just glad it's behind us now. I'm glad that we survived that painful period. And it was painful. It was painful obviously for me and for my family and for our country."

It is the most she will share about the past year and a half. And for some in our confessional society, that may not be enough. But Hillary Rodham Clinton doesn't care. She's intent on sharing something else. Not what she's gone through, but what she's come away with.

Hillary Clinton: "You know, when you go through any kind of difficult experience, you have a choice. I mean, you can let it break you and embitter you. Or you can take whatever you've experienced, whatever pain or suffering and decide that you're still going to have faith, your faith in God, your faith in your fellow man, that you're still going to believe that you can make a contribution to a better life. It's a choice. Every single day we wake up, you can choose to be cynical or hopeful. You can choose to be grateful or contemptuous. You can make all those choices. And for me, it's not a very hard choice."

Hillary Clinton Speaks: Part I