I Saw Hillary Clinton's Speech At The Women In the World Summit & Was Transfixed, Of Course
It's not easy to impress an auditorium full of some of the world's most powerful and brilliant women who throughout the day had already heard from Freida Pinto, Helen Mirren, Barbra Streisand, Ashley Judd, and former president of Ireland Mary Robinson. However, the mood shifted at the 2015 Women in the World (WITW) Summit at Lincoln Center as Beatrice Biira, a former intern for Hillary Clinton's Senate office, began introducing the presidential candidate. Everyone was obviously excited to see Clinton speak, but it was more than just excitement — it was as if everyone was in awe of her as she stepped on stage. Hillary Clinton's speech at the WITW summit, the first of her 2016 presidential run, was nothing short of presidential.
To be fair, this was a theater full of feminists who would love to see a female president of the United States and see Clinton as a ray of hope, but as she commanded the room, it felt like a momentous occasion. I didn't take notes, mostly because the speech demanded everyone's attention, and most reporters in the press area stopped typing and scribbling away. There are some things you know you'll remember. I met Clinton briefly at her New York book signing over the summer, but had never heard her speak live, and I was a little shocked at how transfixed I was. Halfway through the speech, I realized I had been smiling the whole time.
At the beginning of her speech, Clinton said: "I wanted to be here regardless of what else I was doing." Everyone laughed as if their best friend had just whispered a joke in their ear and then the audience burst into applause. Oh Hillary, you sly jokester. We all know "what else" you're doing. Applause followed every major point the presidential hopeful made, from condemning Hobby Lobby's refusal to cover its employees' birth control to criticizing the U.S. gender wage gap, especially for women of color. I stopped clapping at one point because it was one applause after the other. When speaking to a room full of women, Clinton is able to achieve this weird balance of sounding like a powerful world leader while also making the audience feel like they're all sitting on the floor in a circle talking about their problems (because that's what all girls do obviously).
Clinton used her first campaign speech to set herself apart from the Republican candidates, saying, "There are those who offer themselves as leaders who would deport mothers working to give their children a better life rather than risk the ire of talk radio," and criticizing Republican leadership for playing politics with Loretta Lynch's nomination for attorney general. Every aspect of the speech confirmed Clinton as an advocate for women in the U.S. and abroad. She even revealed how she plans to convince the other half of the population to get on board with gender equality: explaining that it benefits everyone.
When the nearly 25-minute speech concluded, the audience erupted in applause and cheers, and I was a little sad that it was already over. Clinton stayed on stage to take photos with the summit founder, Biira, and the Manhattan Girls Chorus that sang before her speech, and everyone in the theater lingered around just to keep watching Clinton on stage.
Like me, they were probably wishing they could snag a photo with the possible next president of the United States, too.