Of note is a Minnesota connection. Eric Schwartz is the Dean of the Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs. Before ascending to that lofty ivory tower, he was the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees, and Migration. He was also Hillary Clinton’s occasional pen pal. Or at least he was a pen pal by proxy, not writing the then Secretary of State directly, but occasionally reaching out to her assistants Cheryl Mills and Huma Abedin, to facilitate communication.
We begin the story with an email in May, 2011, with news of his taking the position at the University of Minnesota:
I promised you I'd let you know the very moment I had made a decision on the Humphrey School. And in what has been the most difficult career decision I have ever confronted, I have decided to accept their offer. It was so difficult because I cannot imagine a more meaningful and fulfilling position than the one I now hold. And I cannot imagine a more inspiring leader than the Secretary —or more support than that which I've received from you, and from others on her senior-level team.
This man cannot imagine a more inspiring leader than Hillary Clinton.
Have you ever heard of Winston Churchill? Mahatma Gandhi? Martin Luther King? Wet blankets.
Maybe Eric Schwartz doesn’t get out much. Or maybe, to paraphrase another line from the Princess Bride, that word doesn’t mean what he thinks it means.
But he's not alone in this opinion of the Secretary. Here's a sampling of others in the Hillary email collection, striking a similar tone:
Kathleen S. Ruckman, Branch Chief, Department of State Office of Children’s Issues:
Thank you so much for your excellent introduction of the Secretary today, and for your support of the good work of GLIFFA. As always, the Secretary was brilliant and inspiring.
Brilliant and inspiring. Why was Eric Schwartz’s support for Hillary so milquetoast?
David Goldwyn, Special Envoy for International Energy Affairs:
I thank all of you, my partners in EEB, and in the regional and functional bureaus for your friendship, kindness and collaboration. And most of all I am deeply grateful to Secretary Clinton for giving me the opportunity to advance this energy security agenda, and for being such and amazing, inspiring, and courageous leader.
The triple down brown nose, well played.
And finally, Ambassador Joe Wilson. Yes, THAT Joe Wilson. When he’s not drinking sweet mint tea and not finding anything in Niger, he’s forging bold new frontiers in the art of email sycophantry:
Dear Hillary, Below you will find a note from Valerie on a Global Zero summit at Yale in February. I want to take this occasion to wish you, WJC and Chelsea and Marc all the very best this holiday season and in 2012. You have been a voice of reason in the cacophony that passes for discourse in our international affairs, and a beacon of hope for women throughout the world. Thank you and your family foyour tremendous service to humankind.
Inspiring hope throughout the world and providing tremendous service to all humankind. Your move, Jesus Christ.
Seriously, if Joe Wilson were writing an email to the Messiah upon his second coming, hoping to, say, secure a job or influential favors down the road, how does he ‘up’ the rhetoric from what he already wrote to Hillary Clinton?
Also, a warning for all of you people writing to Hillary If you keep telling her things like this, she’s going to start to believe it! The last thing we need is a President who believes themselves to be a brilliant, courageous, inspiring, gift to all humankind.
Plus, I’m not sure that kowtowing to power at this level actually gets you anything. When the dear leader is under a constant torrent of praise and accolades, your little droplet of boot licking isn’t likely to be all that memorable.
For example, take Eric Schwartz. In 2012, the year after leaving Secretary Clinton’s service, and attesting to her unimaginably inspiring leadership, he wrote back, asking for a solid in return:
Madam Secretary: I first want to convey greetings to you from You have so many friends and admirers here in the Twin Cities, and there is so much good work being done here on public issues of concern to you. For these reasons, I thought I'd take the liberty of asking whether we could present to you the Humphrey School of Public Affairs Public Leadership Award at a Minneapolis event sometime next April, at a specific date we could determine that suits your schedule.
… But if you might be prepared, in principle, to consider joining us in mid to late April, I'd be very eager to provide additional information. Your participation would be a source of great inspiration to people in Minnesota and beyond.
Or to put it in other words, unimaginably inspiring leadership to all of humankind.
Imagine this if you will. What if the above were actually true? What if YOU receiving the Humphrey School of Public Affairs Leadership Award gave great inspiration to millions and millions of people? Or, what if that proposition was questionable, but a valued colleague actually believed in it? The obvious response to such a request would be “What a wonderful opportunity and thank you for the very kind words, I’ll clear my schedule for any day you desire, please let me know what works for you.”
Or … you could respond like Hillary Clinton when this request was forwarded to her via Huma Abedin:
Let's respond that we're putting on the list to consider for next year.
That doesn't sound good at all. Not just the lack of acceptance. And not just the lack of key pronouns to make it a complete sentence. It’s that detached “tell him we’re putting him on the list to consider". If she said “put him on the list” that would be a bit more promising. But this only says tell him he’s on the list.
Did she ever agree to get the award? Did he ever actually get on the list to consider?
The Hillary Clinton email database is silent on this matter. Perhaps her response caught up in a pre-release purging. But maybe there’s an inspiring, happy ending yet?
Let’s go to the record. Drumroll please. The official recipients of the Humphrey Leadership Award for 2013 were ...
Marilyn Carlson Nelson, Former Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Carlson
Daniel Glickman and Chris Policinski, on behalf of the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition
The Honorable Antonio Guterres, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and Former Prime Minister of Portugal
Trista Harris (alumni recipient), Executive Director of Headwaters Foundation for Justice
TA DA! Oh, wait a minute.
An impressive list to be sure, but a noticeable absence of the Secretary of State. To be fair, I don’t know what happened. It’s possible she accepted, was scheduled to appear, and then the Humphrey people got a call from Antonio Guterres’s people, and she got bumped. As we all know, when the former Prime Minister of Portugal calls, you make room.
Of note, the years 2014 – 2016 show an absence of Hillary Clinton as well. Ah well, there’s always next year.
Either way, I have no doubt Eric Schwartz still holds Hillary Clinton in the highest personal regard. But we can hope that the boundaries of his imagination have been slightly expanded.