1969

The class of 1969 held its commencement exercises on May 31, 1969.

Addressing the graduates, their friends and families, and the Wellesley community were Hillary D. Rodham, student speaker; Wellesley College President Ruth M. Adams, and U.S. Senator (R) Edward W. Brooke from Massachusetts, commencement speaker.

This was the first year in which a student addressed the graduation gathering at Wellesley, and the last in which the student speaker followed the visiting commencement speaker. Rodham by all accounts set aside her prepared remarks to respond to the speech Brooke had just given. She told a Life magazine reporter afterward that she was quite concerned “that it be made clear she was not attacking Senator Brooke personally.”

She was one of five student speakers at college commencements around the country to be featured in a June 1969 Life article called “The Class of 1969.” A Time|Life website retrospective of that article reflects on those student speakers, and conclues that 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.”

Owing to that success, she would go on to give many more commencement addresses throughout her career. She returned to Wellesley, as Hillary Rodham Clinton, to deliver the commencement address in 1992.