— U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who steps down as America's top diplomat Friday, has repeatedly been seen by the public as the world's most admired woman, according to surveys by the Gallup organization.
Clinton steps down from her State Department post, having worked to rebuild relationships damaged by wars in Afghanistan and Iraq while pivoting U.S. assets to the Asia-Pacific. But she says the cause of her life is empowering women.
"It is just foolish to try and build a strong economy or a stable democracy while treating half the population as second class citizens at best, as some other species at worst," she said. "And yet in too many places that is exactly how women are treated, they have few or no political rights, they are subjected to terrible violence, their health, even their lives are disregarded."
Human Rights Watch deputy Washington director Sarah Margon says Clinton put women's rights at the center of foreign policy.
"Her willingness and, in fact, eagerness to meet with civil society groups is a real indication that foreign policy is no longer just about government-to-government relations. It's about engaging all kinds of groups," said Margon.
In sub-Saharan Africa, Center for Strategic and International Studies analyst Jennifer Cooke says Clinton pushed for accountability for abuses against women in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
"She leaves a strong legacy of diplomacy whether it's in Kenya, whether it's in Cote d'Ivoire, whether it's in Senegal, tackling these big issues in DRC," Cooke said.
But Clinton also has detractors. In the case of Syria, she has been criticized for not doing enough to help opponents of President Bashar al-Assad.
And she has drawn criticism for security failures in Libya -- at the U.S. mission in Benghazi where four Americans were killed in a terrorist attack last September.
"Certainly, the loss of American lives in Benghazi was something that I deeply regret and am working hard to make sure we do everything we can to prevent," Clinton said. "When you do these jobs, you have to understand at the very beginning that you can’t control everything."
On balance, says Cato Institute analyst Malou Innocent, Clinton's time at the State Department will be an asset if she makes a second run for president.
"Certainly as foreign policy wonks in Washington D.C. we can sort of dissect here and there, but for the majority of the American people they are going to look at her resume, which has been stunning. So certainly that will help her in 2016," Innocent said.
Having lost her party's nomination in 2008, Clinton says she is not thinking about running again.
"It is up to me to make a decision on my own future," Clinton said. "I right now am not inclined to do that, but I will do everything I can to make sure that women compete at the highest levels not only in the United States, but around the world."
Clinton jokes that the first thing she will do after she leaves Washington is catch up on 20 years of sleep deprivation.
State Department employees welcome Hillary Clinton to the State Department building in Washington, January 22, 2009.
Former President Bill Clinton and daughter Chelsea during the ceremonial swearing-in for Hillary Clinton, February 2, 2009, at the State Department in Washington.
Clinton is accompanied by Turkish talk show hosts during the taping of a show for the Turkish news channel NTV in Ankara, Turkey, March 7, 2009.
President Obama and Clinton tour the Sultan Hassan Mosque in Cairo, June 4, 2009.
Hillary Clinton greets students upon arrival at the flood-stricken Malanday National High School at Marikina city, Philippines, November 12, 2009.
Clinton poses with U.S. Army soldiers during a brief visit to the U.S. camp at the military airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, November 19, 2009. Clinton visited to attend the inauguration of President Hamid Karzai.
Secretaryn Clinton and first lady Michelle Obama share a laugh during their participation in the 2010 International Women of Courage Awards at the State Department in Washington, March 10, 2010.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi with Clinton in Statuary Hall on Capitol Hill in Washington, March 25, 2010, during the Women's History Month celebration. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson applauds at left.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Clinton, and other foreign ministers pose for a group photo after the Kabul International Conference at the Foreign Ministry in Kabul, Afghanistan, July 20, 2010.
Clinton pauses to put on lipstick while talking with Turkey's President Abdullah Gul (R) at the start of a United Nations Security Council meeting at the U.N. headquarters in New York, September 23, 2010.
President Barack Obama and Secretary Clinton walk together off stage at a holiday reception for diplomats at the State Department in Washington, December 13, 2010.
Clinton checks her PDA upon her departure in a military C-17 plane from Malta bound for Tripoli, Libya October 18, 2011.
Clinton tours the Shwedegon Pagoda, a Buddhist temple founded between the 6th and 10th centuries AD, in Rangoon, Burma, December 1, 2011.
Pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi with Clinton after a meeting at Suu Kyi's residence in Rangoon, Burma, December 2, 2011.
Clinton walks with Bulgaria's Prime Minister Boiko Borisov (R) and members of his cabinet before a news conference in Sofia, February 5, 2012.
Clinton is pictured in the U.S. delegation as President Barack Obama meets with Mexico's President Felipe Calderon in Los Cabos June 18, 2012, to attend the G20 leaders summit.
Secretary Clinton embraces Triza Lapani after the teen helped Clinton put on a chitenje cloth, a traditional skirt, after speaking at Camp GLOW (Girls Leading Our World) run by the Peace Corps, in Lilongwe, Malawi, August 5, 2012.
Clinton is dressed by Emmie Phiri, chairperson of the dairy farmers during her visit to Malawi, August 5, 2012.
Clinton meets with Nelson Mandela, former president of South Africa, at his home in Qunu, South Africa, August 6, 2012. During his 94th birthday celebration in July, the leader met Hillary's husband and former U.S. President Bill Clinton.
Clinton adjusts her black pearl necklace, a gift from Cook Islands' Prime Minister Henry Puna (L) during a sustainable development and conservation event in Rarotonga, August 31, 2012.
Secretary Clinton at a news conference at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing September 5, 2012.
Actress Meryl Streep uses her iPhone to get a photo of her and Clinton following the State Department Dinner for the Kennedy Center Honors gala December 1, 2012 at the State Department in Washington.
Clinton holds up a football helmet with the State Department logo on it, presented by Deputy Secretary Thomas Nide, who joked that "Washington is a contact sport," January 7, 2013.
Outgoing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton testifies on Capitol Hill, January 23, 2013, before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on the deadly September attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya.