Hillary Clinton didn’t let a little laryngitis stop her, but that shouldn’t come as a surprise. When the former Secretary of State and Democratic Party presidential candidate took the stage to a standing ovation and the enthusiastic applause of the 570 graduates of the Wellesley College Class of 2017 and their families, she looked out at her people and began to speak in a voice that suddenly issued a rasp instead of its customary I Am Woman Hear Me Roar cadence.
The sips of water and the lozenge likely helped her regain her speechifying stride, but sheer force of will probably had something to do with it. Laryngitis never had a chance, and Clinton kept on going. (You can read her remarks in their entirety here)
She introduced the graduates to a Hillary it’s hard to believe ever existed. One who after her first month of classes as a Wellesley College freshman she says, “made a frantic collect call (ask your parents what that was) back to Illinois to tell [her] mother and father [she wasn’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.”
Soon enough, of course, Clinton’s remarks turned to politics. She called the budget “that was just proposed in Washington 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. ”
While acknowledging that her audience didn’t create the circumstances of the world’s problems, Clinton told the Class of 2017 that they had the power to change them. “Don’t let anyone tell you your voice doesn’t matter. In the years to come, there will be trolls galore—online and in person—eager to tell you that you don’t have anything worthwhile to say or anything meaningful to contribute. They may even call you a Nasty Woman. Some may take a slightly more sophisticated approach and say your elite education means you are out of touch with real people. In other words, “sit down and shut up.” Now, in my experience, that’s the last thing you should ever tell a Wellesley graduate.”
If this year’s student speaker Tala Nashawati — who says she came to Wellesley because a perceptive guidance counselor saw in her “slight feminist tendencies” — is an indication of the general determination level of her class, sitting down and shutting up is not the likely path of this group. Now that they have diplomas in hand they might, like Clinton recently did, take a little time off. Like her, they might spend some time with their families, take a few long walks in the woods, organize their closets, and sip some Chardonnay.
Then, it will be time to get down to it. Whatever “it” may be for each one.
Congratulations, Wellesley College Class of 2017.