Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Hillary Rodham Clinton gives NYU commencement speech at Yankee Stadium... and a look back at her first speech in 1969

Today was a grandiose day for all NYU graduates. Delivering New York University's commencement address was Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. The NYU ceremonies were held under sunny skies on the infield of the new Yankee Stadium.

Hillary was donning a purple academic robe. As she marched in procession through the stadium, cheers were erupting through the crowd, both for her and for the pure excitement of Graduation Day. She spoke from a stage set up atop second base.

She urged the hopeful grads to look at the global economic crisis not as an excuse, but as an opportunity to make the world a better place.

"This is your moment. You have made it to the big leagues and you are up to bat."

She beseeched the 6,000 grads to become "citizen diplomats" in a world increasingly bound together by technology and common economic interests.

"My message to you today is this: be the special envoy of your ideals. By creating your own networks, you can extend the power of governments to meet the needs of this and future generations."

She acknowledged the turbulent national and global environment that graduates face, but said their education, energy and facility with new technology would help them navigate and improve the world.

"Now, I know that it is fashionable in commencement speeches to be idealistic, and that may sound so, but at the root of my conviction is a strong sense of reality. Because you see, I don’t think we have a choice. We can sit on the sidelines, we can wring our hands, we can retreat into cynicism, and we know what the results will be: We will cede the field to those whose ideologies are absolutely anathema to people of conscience and faith all over the world. So our positive interdependence, which is a fact, will prepare us to meet these challenges. But they can no longer be seen just as government-to-government. There is a time and an opportunity, and with the new technologies available, for us to be citizen diplomats, citizen activists, to solve problems one by one that will give in to hard work, patience, and persistence, and will then aggregate to the solutions we seek."
She also acknowledged the perils of climate change, disease and global nuclear proliferation and warned the audience to take those challenges seriously.

Clinton also said she would push to make it easier for foreign students to study in the U.S., and to develop "virtual" computer-linked internships for U.S. students eager to learn more about foreign service and the State Department.

And to a roaring applause, she offered every student a job at the State Department! "And for those of you still looking for jobs, we are hiring a new generation."

Read her full remarks here or watch below:

Watching this video and seeing Hillary speak to my generation, a young generation on the brink of our own futures, made me think back to Hillary's time in College at Wellesley. She was the first student to give a commencement speech at Wellesley, which landed her a spot in Life Magazine. She was a star even as a 21 year old Senior in College. Now, that same girl was almost first woman President of the United States and is Secretary of State... wowza.

Ruth M. Adams, ninth president of Wellesley College at the time, introduced Hillary D. Rodham by saying:

"There was no debate so far as I could ascertain as to who their spokesman was to be -- Miss Hillary Rodham. Member of this graduating class, she is a major in political science and a candidate for the degree with honors. In four years she has combined academic ability with active service to the College, her junior year having served as a Vil Junior, and then as a member of Senate and during the past year as President of College Government and presiding officer of College Senate. She is also cheerful, good humored, good company, and a good friend to all of us and it is a great pleasure to present to this audience Miss Hillary Rodham."

The caption to the above photo read as this: "Prominent figures at Wellesley College’s 91st commencement were (l. to r.) John Quarles, chairman of the board of Wellesley College; Miss Hillary D. Rodham, president of the College Government; Miss Ruth M. Adams, college president, and Sen. Edward W. Brooke, who gave he commencement address."

In Hillary's speech she took a counter position to Senator Brooke. This was seen as radical by some, but as we have seen Hillary grow in her career and life, we know that it is only her nature to call it like it is and to stand up for what is right. Nothing less would be expected of a young Hillary Rodham.

And just as an aside, I always found it interesting that Barabra Walters, years later of course, confessed to having a secret forbidden love affair with Brooke, the married Republican of Massachusetts, and at the time (back in the seventies) the Senate's only African-American.

It is interesting to read the speech made today by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and compare it to the speech made half a century ago by Hillary Rodham. The two are not so different in their cores. The last line of her speech on May 31, 1969 could of easily be inserted in her speech today. It read:

"One of the most tragic things that happened yesterday, a beautiful day, was that I was talking to woman who said that she wouldn't want to be me for anything in the world. She wouldn't want to live today and look ahead to what it is she sees because she's afraid. Fear is always with us but we just don't have time for it. Not now."

Read the full remarks of Hillary D. Rodham, President of the Wellesley College Government Association and member of the Class of 1969, on the occasion of Wellesley's 91st Commencement, May 31, 1969 here! Seriously, read it!


Jackie said...

Hillary looks so happy. I am so proud of her.

Stacy said...

She was awesome. As usual

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