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Official Transcripts

Secretary Clinton Answers Question from a Student at Town Hall Meeting at Moscow State University

October 14, 2009
A woman speaking at a podium on stage. AP Photo

Secretary Clinton at Town Hall Meeting at Moscow State University

Question:  Good morning, Mrs. Clinton. That was very interesting performance, and you raised very important questions, so thank you for that. Allow me please to deviate a bit from the politics and ask you a personal question concerning the literature. Nearly every person nowadays has his so called “book of lifetime”, a book that changed his life, that affected him deeply, changed his personality, his world views, his emotional background, and helped him to realize something totally new in his life. So, I’m wondering whether you have such a book and to what extend has it influenced you?

Secretary Clinton: Well, I have been influenced by so many books, but I will pick one that… is particularly appropriate for this occasion, Brothers Karamazov. I read it when I was young, I reread it when I was a little older. I - for a combination of reasons – was particularly affected by the Grand Inquisitor, and I saw it as  an object lesson against certitude and absolutism in belief, and I have carried that with me for my lifetime. I believe that one of the greatest responsibilities that we have as human beings is to open ourselves up to the possibility that we could be wrong and to learn from the experiences of those who have very different world views, so that you can better understand them, but also understand yourself. I think that one of the great threats we face is from people who believe that they are absolutely certainly right about everything and that they have the only truth that exists and that it was passed on from God. And I think God has the ultimate truth, I just don’t think any of us is smart enough to figure out all that it is. And so for a lot of reasons that was an important part of my thinking and has informed me over the years .

And here is the final thing that I would leave you with is that we have to be open because we live in such a world today that we have no choice. And the more open Russia can become the more Russia will contribute, the more active and dynamic a political system you have, the more all of the talents and opinions of everyone will go in the mix and out of that will come even better answers to the problems we all face. And so I hope that as we forge our relationships, it is not just between our presidents or between our ministers, but increasingly and beyond anything we’ve done in the past it is between us. And it becomes not just political, but personal. Because I really do have a strong sense what the world will look like if we work together and what it will look like if we don’t. And therefore I choose partnership and I choose – to put aside being a child of the Cold war – I choose to move beyond the rhetoric and the propaganda that came from my government and yours. I choose a different future, and that’s a choice everyone of us can make every single day. And I look forward to that future with you. Thank you.

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