Hillary Clinton's 1969 Wellesley Commencement Address Says A Lot About The Politician She Would Later Become — VIDEO
Long before she was the first woman to be the presidential nominee of a major party, Hillary Clinton was once the first ever student to speak during the commencement ceremony at Wellesley. Now, you can now hear Hillary Clinton's 1969 Wellesley commencement address, which has been posted online by the college — and in retrospect, it seems obvious she was meant to be a political trailblazer.
1969 was the first year that Wellesley had student speakers at commencement, and by all accounts, Hillary Clinton — who was then Hillary Rodham — was by far the favorite choice for the honor. When it came time to give the speech, however, she apparently set aside her prepared remarks to respond to the address given before her by Senator Edward Brook.
Brook's address focuses on "a more sober assessment of the kind of society which is developing around us all." He takes issue with "the protest movement" — which might mean everything from Civil Rights demonstrations to student protests, alhough the exact definition is unclear — and seems to believe that they are detrimental to the process of solving America's many political and social issues.
It is not surprising, perhaps, that a young Hillary Rodham would take issue with many of the things Brook said, but it is rather remarkable that she would set aside her own remarks to reply to him on the spot — and that she would manage to do so with such eloquence, having presumably just reworked her entire address in a very brief window of time.
In retrospect, it seems the mark not just of an engaged and passionate young person, but of a brilliant politician in the making. In a retrospective looking at a 1969 LIFE article that featured several commencement speakers including Hillary Rodham, the author wrote:
[Rodham's speech was] perhaps not surprisingly, less strident and confrontational than those of the other student speakers quoted in the issue; as early as 1969, Hillary was showing signs of that phenomenal ability to modulate her message — without diluting or compromising it — that helps explain so much of her success in public life.
And even though it was composed on the spot, there are still a few noteworthy lines from the young Hillary Rodham worth remembering. Here's some of what she had to say as a recent college grad giving what could be considered her first major public address.
"We are, all of us, exploring a world that none of us even understands and attempting to create within that uncertainty."
"[T]he goal of [education] must be human liberation. A liberation enabling each of us to fulfill our capacity so as to be free to create within and around ourselves."
"The struggle for an integrated life existing in an atmosphere of communal trust and respect is one with desperately important political and social consequences."
"Fear is always with us, but we just don't have time for it. Not now."
You can hear the whole thing below, and read the address from Senator Brooks that she's responding to here.