This time of year is filled with happy students graduating from college, but we must also remember to take our joys where we can get them. There were many alumni who spoke at college graduations all across America, but it was former Secretary Hillary Clinton who made the headlines with her address at Wellesley College, where she spent some of her finer academic years.
Clinton begins by thanking the college, its President, and the assembled students. She makes a joke about there not being a class cheer for her own graduating class of 1969. Sadly, in the 139 commencements, the college still has no cheer. She told them stories about what happened to her during her time at Wellesley, and what they might expect out in the real world, beyond the four metaphorical walls of college.
"You know, four years ago, maybe a little more or a little less for some of you— I told the trustees I was sitting with, after hearing Tala’s speech, I didn’t think I could get through it. So we’ll blame allergy instead of emotion. But you know, you arrived at this campus. You arrived from all over. You joined students from 49 states and 58 countries. Now maybe you felt like you belonged right away. I doubt it. But maybe some of you did and you never wavered.
"But maybe you changed your major three times and your hairstyle twice that many. Or maybe, after your first month of classes, you made a frantic collect call (ask your parents what that was) back to Illinois to tell your mother and father you weren’t smart enough to be here. My father said, “Okay, come home.” My mother said, “You have to stick it out.” That’s what happened to me.
"But whatever your path, you dreamed big. You probably, in true Wellesley fashion, planned your academic and extracurricular schedule right down to the minute. So this day that you’ve been waiting for—and maybe dreading a little—is finally here."
Clinton also drew comparissons between her relationship with authority or "anyone over 30" in college and the graduates' own experiences with the current political administration. She does not mention names, but it is clear to anyone paying attention to the news to whom she is referring. Times are hard, harder than the graduates believe have ever been and will ever be again––but as long as they stick to their beliefs and convictions, they can achieve anything. Clinton stressed how serious the current government is and how the students needed to look forward, not back, as they moved their tassles and accepted their diplomas.
"Look at the budget that was just proposed in Washington. It is an attack of unimaginable cruelty on the most vulnerable among us, the youngest, the oldest, the poorest, and hard-working people who need a little help to gain or hang on to a decent middle class life. It grossly under-funds public education, mental health, and efforts even to combat the opioid epidemic. And in reversing our commitment to fight climate change, it puts the future of our nation and our world at risk. And to top it off, it is shrouded in a trillion-dollar mathematical lie. Let’s call it what it is. It’s a con. They don’t even try to hide it."
Clinton went on to quote Vaclav Havel, the first President of the Czech Republic. In his essay "Power to the Powerless," he encourages readers to break the rules and expose the larger game for what it really is. In short, to not give up, and let your voice be heard. It's an important lesson, and one these graduates were lucky to hear from such an inspirational woman.
Read the full transcript of Hillary Clinton's speech on the Wellesley College website.