After decades of partnering dictators throughout the region, her message was that the U.S. would approach the new political landscape with an open mind and the understanding that long-term support for democracy trumps any short-term advantages through alliances with authoritarian regimes.

While she reached out to the religious-rooted parties expected to gain power in Egypt, Tunisia and elsewhere, she said nothing about changing U.S. policies toward Hezbollah and Hamas, which have performed well in Lebanese and Palestinian elections but are considered foreign terrorist organizations by the United States.

“For years, dictators told their people they had to accept the autocrats they knew to avoid the extremists they feared,” Clinton told an audience that included former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. “Too often, we accepted that narrative ourselves.”