Hillary Clinton's 9 most memorable moments as secretary of state

As Clinton prepares to step down, a look back at her tenure as America's top diplomat

On Tuesday, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) is expected to easily win confirmation as secretary of state, officially marking the end of Hillary Clinton's four-year tenure as the country's top diplomat. Clinton is in the midst of a kind of valedictory tour, appearing with President Obama in a rare joint interview on 60 Minutes in which he showered her with praise. On Tuesday, she participated in a global town hall in which she once again dismissed speculation that she would run for president in 2016. However, while Clinton is certainly a very popular secretary of state, both at home and abroad, her legacy continues to be debated. Here, a look back at the 9 most memorable moments from her eventful tenure:

1. The liberation of Libya
Clinton was among a group of administration officials urging Obama in 2011 to help Libyan rebels overthrow longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi, over objections from Defense Secretary Roberts Gates and others. However, while Gadhafi was successfully ousted with zero American casualties, the rebels' victory has led to an uncertain future and widespread instability, the clearest example of which, for Americans, was the 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi that killed four U.S. citizens. Below, Clinton and Obama greet the arrival of the slain Americans at Dover Air Force Base.

(Molly Riley-Pool/Getty Images)

2. The opening-up of Myanmar 
In 2012, Clinton became the first secretary of state in 50 years to make an official visit to Myanmar, part of the Obama administration's efforts to reward the ruling military junta for taking concrete steps toward a freer society. Clinton met with Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi (pictured), a pro-democracy activist who had been recently released from house arrest. Clinton's visit to Myanmar also fell under the Obama administration's much-publicized pivot to Asia, following years of perceived neglect of the region under President Bush, whose foreign policy agenda was largely absorbed by terrorism and the Iraq War.

(AP Photo/Saul Loeb)

3. Playing peacemaker in the Middle East 
In late 2012, Clinton brought all her diplomatic resources to bear during a bloody outbreak of violence between Israel and Arab militants in the Gaza Strip, performing a whirlwind tour of the region that many credited with helping prevent an all-out war. Clinton reportedly spent hours negotiating with Egypt's newly elected Islamist president, Mohamed Morsi (pictured), to cement the deal, which had the added benefit of reaffirming Egypt's continued support for a peace treaty with Israel.

(AP Photo/Egyptian Presidency)

4. Freeing a Chinese dissident 
Clinton's May 2012 visit to China, ostensibly about mutual economic and security concerns, was ensnared in a full-blown diplomatic emergency, after human-rights dissident Chen Guangcheng escaped house arrest and took refuge at the U.S. Embassy. For the benefit of her media-sensitive hosts, Clinton continued to meet then-Chinese President Hu Jintao (pictured) and to perform other duties as if nothing were amiss, while she and her team negotiated Chen's release behind the scenes.

(AP Photo/Shannon Stapleton

5. Killing Osama bin Laden 
Clinton was not intimately involved in the clandestine operation to kill Osama bin Laden in 2011, but she will be indelibly linked to the moment, thanks to a photograph showing her real-time response to the operation in the White House Situation Room.

(Pete Souza/The White House via Getty Images)  

6. Tightening sanctions on Iran 
Clinton, seen here in 2011 announcing new sanctions on Iran with Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, played an important role in the U.S.'s efforts to win international support to isolate Iran economically. The sanctions have been the most severe Iran has ever dealt with, and have taken a heavy toll on the country's economy. But they have yet to curb its suspected progress in developing a nuclear weapon, which many analysts would count as a stain on Clinton's legacy.

(AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

7. Isolating Syria's Assad 
Clinton, seen here in 2012 condemning atrocities committed by the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, has played a central role in the administration's efforts to corral international support against the regime. However, like Iran, Syria remains an unfinished story: Assad is in a bloody stalemate with the rebels, the United Nations has proved impotent in stopping the bloodshed, and atrocities continue apace.

(AP Photo)

8. Fighting for women's rights 
One of Clinton's main initiatives as secretary of state was to champion the cause of gender equality, one of the hallmarks of her political career that stretches back to her days as First Lady. Clinton, pictured here winning an award from the New York Women's Foundation in 2012, made women's rights a focal point in speeches, interviews, and town halls across the world, from China to Pakistan.

(Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

9. Becoming a pop icon
Being the fodder for numerous internet memes may seem like the most ephemeral of achievements, but Clinton's ascendancy in the world of pop culture must be counted as a victory for a politician who was once widely viewed as calculating and heartless. Indeed, Clinton's new image as a tough, effective leader, as evidenced by the popular "Texts From Hillary" tumblr, may herald a positive development for women everywhere.



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