Wellesley’s Campus Community Gathers to Hear Hillary Rodham Clinton ’69 in Conversation with President Paula Johnson

March 3, 2017
Wellesley’s Campus Community Gathers to Hear Hillary Rodham Clinton ’69 in Conversation with President Paula Johnson

Hillary Rodham Clinton ’69 was on campus Thursday, March 2, for a private community gathering that began and ended with cheers and standing ovations. The former U.S. Secretary of State, political icon, and champion of women and girls returned to her alma mater for a special appearance in advance of delivering the commencement address at the College in May. During the roughly hour-long event in Diana Chapman Walsh Alumnae Hall, Clinton engaged first in a one-on-one conversation with President Paula Johnson and then in an open question and answer session with the audience. The gathering was marked by the Wellesley trademarks of community pride, candid discussion, and celebration of women’s leadership.

The event began with the Senior Class Council introducing Clinton and Johnson. Both women took the stage, with Johnson remarking to Clinton, “You are profoundly admired and absolutely beloved by this community. You have influenced and inspired the lives of so many girls and women.” She added that Clinton “forever changed what it means to be a powerful and compassionate woman.”

President Johnson and Secretary Clinton

Photo by Erik Jacobs

In their informal talk, Clinton and Johnson discussed Clinton’s time at Wellesley, including her experiences as an activist and campus leader, and the advice she has for current student activists and organizers. The two leaders also discussed the challenges facing higher education, the increased numbers of women running for elected office nationwide, and the importance of resilience—both physical and emotional—when pursuing success, among other issues.

The Q&A session covered a wide range of topics, including what is needed for “servant leadership”; the importance of listening and the need for compromise without sacrificing ideals and goals; the challenges Clinton faced and lessons she learned during her life in government; and what she called the “great gift” of being a public servant.

Clinton will return to campus on Friday, May 26, to deliver the 2017 commencement address.