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Hillary Clinton Accepts NEDA's Lifetime Achievement Award

Special Message from Clinton Illustrates Importance of Unmasking Eating Disorders

NEDA Staff

NEDA was honored to recognize Hillary Clinton with the Lifetime Achievement Award at our 2017 Annual Gala in New York. Clinton was the very first United States senator to introduce bipartisan federal legislation to provide information and education on the prevention and treatment of eating disorders. Throughout her career, she has tackled the systemic issues that play a role in the eating disorders epidemic and her early, groundbreaking efforts continue to influence policy today. 

Accepting the award on Secretary Clinton’s behalf was her longtime friend, Joslyn Smith. Said Joslyn, "since my eating disorder began almost twenty years ago, my life has been marked with changes and transitions that I never could have imagined. But in the midst of sometimes overwhelming unpredictability, I’ve used my voice to create change and have held tight to those people who kept faith in my ability to build a successful life.

"Hillary Clinton is one of those people. Twenty-five years ago, Hillary Clinton and I started exchanging letters. Ten years later, when I shared a part of my eating disorder story publicly for the first time, Hillary stood shoulder to shoulder with me, rubbing my back. When I finished speaking, she hugged me tightly and repeated, 'I’m so proud of you. I’m so, so proud of you.' And I knew she was.  

"That night changed my life. It marked my unmasking. It marked my knowing that my story mattered in discussions about what it means to live with an eating disorder. Early in my eating disorder journey, Hillary championed my recovery. More important than that, though, she’s championed healing for all of us." 

Though she couldn't make it to the gala, Secretary Clinton sent a letter expressing her support and gratitude.

Read the Full Text of Hillary Clinton's Acceptance Letter:

June 15, 2017

Dear Friends:

It gives me great pleasure to send my warmest greetings to all those gathered in New York tonight for the National Eating Disorders Association’s 2017 Annual Gala. While I regret that I am unable to be with you for this special evening, I am honored and humbled to receive your Lifetime Achievement Award, and truly grateful to my friend, Joslyn Smith, for accepting it on my behalf.

Joslyn and I first became pen pals while I was serving as First Lady of Arkansas and she was just an eleven-year-old girl living in the small town of Evening Shade. I was impressed then by her ambition and desire to help others, and was delighted to keep up with her over the years as she graduated from the Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences, and the Arts, attended Scripps College, and got involved in eating disorders advocacy. I was privileged to stand beside Joslyn on Capitol Hill when she publicly unmasked her eating disorder for the first time, and thrilled when she came to work as an intern in my Senate office for eight months. I have watched her turn the pain and difficulty of her own personal experience into a commitment to work in the field and help people who face similar struggles. First at the American Psychological Association and now at the Binge Eating Disorder Association, she’s done just that. I told her that day on Capitol Hill, as I had many times over the years, that I was proud of her. And I remain just as proud and grateful today for her friendship and for her leadership. 

The theme of tonight’s event could not be more important, relevant, and urgent for breaking down the stigma and stereotypes that surround eating disorders. After all, everyone knows someone with an eating disorder. I have known friends and colleagues, like Joslyn, who have bravely come forward to unmask their struggle, seek help, and help others. I have also tragically learned about those we have lost to eating disorders, promising lives cut short because prevention and treatment were out of reach, or stigma brought shame or paralysis. I was thankful for the opportunity to be the first United States senator to introduce legislation addressing eating disorders, and am grateful for the advocates and public servants who have continued carrying the torch of this important work forward, so that, together, we can change attitudes and save lives. 

As you mark this evening and look to the mission ahead, please know that I am cheering you on. Addressing and combatting eating disorders is a serious public health issue that requires our attention, dedication, and resolve. Over twenty years ago, I wrote a book called It Takes a Village that talks about the shared responsibility that society has for successfully raising children. That responsibility extends to us all and to each other, at every stage of life, and in all the challenges we may face. Understanding that eating disorders are serious illnesses that touch people from all walks of life is a vital first step for taking action. By sharing personal stories, the men and women who experience these challenges are raising awareness, inspiring strength and courage in others, and helping the broader village ensure that all people have the opportunity to fulfill their God-given potential.

Thank you, once again, for this tremendous honor, and please know that I accept it with gratitude for everything that the National Eating Disorders Association in doing to make a difference and envision a world without eating disorders.

With best wishes and warm regards, I am 

Sincerely yours,

Hillary Rodham Clinton