Culture, Feminism & Sexuality

Advice Clare Boothe Luce Would Give Young Women Today

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By Clare Luce, granddaughter of Ambassador Clare Boothe Luce and Institute Board Member

I had the great privilege of a close and personal relationship with my brilliant, beautiful namesake. We traveled the globe and spent countless hours discussing a vast array of subjects; everything from scuba diving to diplomacy. She truly lived up to William F. Buckley’s famous quote: “There is no subject on which Clare Boothe Luce cannot illuminate.”

When asked to speak to you today, my first thought was, what would Clare say to a room full of college women if she were alive today? And then I thought, Good Heavens, what would Clare say about the WORLD today?  It’s hard to imagine how she would react to American life in 2015 – iPhones, the internet, social media, driverless cars, even – egads! – the Kardashians! Actually, she would no doubt have something priceless and quite unprintable to say about the latter.  But I digress…

Certainly it would not be lost on her what a daunting task it is for young women of a conservative mindset to navigate the college environment of today. While you have many more opportunities, you are up against an increasingly liberal faculty, a campus wide sub-standard on social values and a leftist media that will stop at nothing to control the narrative.

A university’s obligation is not to teach students what to think, but to teach students how to think. I recently learned that in the 2012 presidential race, according to Federal Election Commission data, 96% of all campaign contributions from the Ivy League faculty and employees went to Barack Obama. When 96% of Ivy League staff support one candidate over another, you have to wonder whether students are being exposed to a diversity of views that a college environment should offer.

There is no diversity on any university campus if the faculty is politically homogeneous. To quote Michael Bloomberg from his 2014 commencement speech to Harvard University:

Great universities must not become predictably partisan. And a liberal arts education must not be an education in the art of liberalism.

But how can you not be affected by this constant stream of liberal influences? It’s only natural to want to fit in, to go with the flow, to be like everybody else. Yet when your values are assaulted and your core beliefs belittled, you have to find the courage to go against popular convention.

Clare Boothe Luce once said, Courage is the ladder upon which all other virtues mount.

Of all the words that can be used to describe Clare, courage is the one that portrays her character best of all.

  • It took courage for her to divorce her aristocratic abusive husband at a time when society scorned divorce.
  • It too courage to pursue a job in publishing.
  • It took courage to write a play that parodied the very society that sat in the audience.
  • It took courage to be an overseas World War II war correspondent.
  • It took courage to criticize the wartime policies of the Roosevelt administration.
  • It took courage to warn against the rise of international Communism following WWII.
  • It took courage to give the keynote address at the Republican National Convention.
  • It took courage to accept the Ambassadorial post to Italy … and courage to relinquish the Ambassadorial post to Brazil.
  • It took courage to sponsor anti-Castro groups.

Remember, these accomplishments pre-dated the modern women’s liberation movement.  Clare once said, Because I am a woman, I must make unusual efforts to succeed. If I fail, no one will say ‘she doesn’t have what it takes; they will say WOMEN don’t have what it takes’.

She made that pronouncement over 70 years ago. Do you still feel that is so today?  The reality is that no one lumps all women together like they once did because there is inevitably one (or more) who don’t fit the mold. They break out and stand alone. Women today have a genuine “sisterhood” in all walks of life. Such was not the case in Clare’s day. She was one of the first to challenge the social standards of the day and go, in most cases, where no woman had gone before.

You are living in interesting times. You are currently witnessing one of the first presidential races with two viable women candidates. As I watch the debates and listen to the media breakdown, I think about how Clare would interpret the theatrics. She would be quick to question the media-buoyed “war on women.” She would be the first to say women have come a long way. While there is still plenty of work left to do, creating a gender issue when women are making broad strides in every walk of life is disingenuous at best.  It is insulting to present this phony “war” as real; it assumes that the vast majority of women are too thoughtless to recognize that they are being completely manipulated.

Clare and I often discussed where the women’s liberation movement failed. Don’t get me wrong. Clare was a big supporter of equal rights, but she fervently believed that a woman needn’t lose her femininity to achieve it. Why, she would ask, must all decent social mores be scrapped for such a simple and practical idea?

There is a difference between the sexes. Why do those differences have to be dumbed down for either side to ‘evolve’?  What is wrong with wanting men to be masculine and women to be feminine in the most basic of terms? During the height of the ‘women’s movement’, men were scorned for the likes of opening a door for a woman. Seemingly, equality meant never showing respect or common courtesy. It sounds crazy but that’s how it was for a time.

You are still up against plenty of politically correct nonsense, but at least now beauty doesn’t cancel out brains, or vice versa. So whether you want to be a wife and mother, or the President of the United States, or both, thanks to women like Clare Boothe Luce—who challenged the social convention of her day—there is nothing in your way.  If Clare were here today, she would encourage you to pursue your dreams and never forget ‘to thine own self, be true’.

Finally, I think Clare would tell you to Look, Listen, and Learn. Clare Boothe Luce followed her core beliefs throughout her storied career. She wasn’t just book smart; she had common sense and a keen intuition. Let me repeat that: common sense and intuition. She learned at an early age to Listen and to seek out those from whom she could Learn.

When I was a teenager, my friends would often marvel at my desire to spend time with my grandmother. Given the controversy that surrounded her, it was interesting for me having the same name. Nevertheless, our relationship taught me to appreciate my elders, and I encouraged my friends to do the same.  If your grandparents are still alive today, I urge you to talk with them about their experiences and how they view the world today. It will give you a far better perspective and appreciation of the world around you.

Having a mentor is also so important at this stage of your life, and I am sure Clare would encourage you to find a mentor and broaden your horizons as much as possible.

Most of all, she would encourage you to become an interesting person. You have any number of opportunities to influence the world around you.  Look. Listen. Learn. Become that person in the room that everyone wants to talk to. Thank you.

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Institute Board Member Clare Luce (l) and Development  Officer Emily Reilly during the Texas Women’s Summit tour of the Presidential Library.


Clare Luce’s remarks were delivered at the Texas Women’s Summit in October 2015.