ABC, CNN, AP, New York Times Among Media Outlets that Covered Wellesley’s 2017 Commencement
Wellesley College was once again propelled into the national and international spotlight as one of its “native daughters,” Hillary Rodham Clinton ’69, addressed the 2017 graduating class of 570 young women.
Friday’s speech came as the former Democratic presidential nominee is taking steps to reenter the public sphere after the November election. Earlier this month at the Women for Women International luncheon in New York, Clinton said that she is "now back to being an activist citizen and part of the resistance."
Wellesley's rainy ceremony was sprinkled with references to just how close Clinton came to the presidency. Wellesley College President Paula Johnson noted in her introduction of Clinton that the famous alumna almost broke the “highest, hardest glass ceiling,” adding that Clinton won the popular vote. President Johnson remarked that it would be wrong to focus on these accomplishments alone, saying that just as important is the spirit behind them, her grounding in faith, family, and the vision of a better world. She said, “ I am not the first to observe that she embodies Wellesley’s Latin motto. Non Ministrari sed Ministrare. Not to be ministered unto, but to minister.”
Clinton began by congratulating the Class of 2017 and thanking Wellesley for “understanding and perpetuating the importance of this college: what it stands for, what it has meant, and what it will do in the years ahead.”
She opened her speech in a lighthearted manner as she referred to the election results not being exactly what she’d planned. But, she said, “You know what? I’m doing okay,” adding that she’s gotten to spend time with her family, especially her grandchildren. She joked that long walks in the woods and Chardonnay helped her get through losing the presidency, but said what has helped most of all is “remembering who I am, where I come from, and what I believe. And that is what Wellesley means to me.”
The former U.S. first lady, senator, and secretary of state took on a more serious tone as she likened the political and social upheaval of the late 1960s (when she left Wellesley) to what the United States is currently experiencing. Numerous media outlets reported on the political aspects of Clinton’s speech.
ABC’s Good Morning America called the address Clinton’s first major speech since the new administration took office. The network stated that she stepped assertively into the spotlight, and that 48 years after being Wellesley’s first student graduation speaker, she was back at the microphone delivering a heartfelt commencement speech.
CNN reported that Clinton, already a politically savvy and active Wellesley student at the start of the tumultuous Nixon years, did not hold back in her “fiery” speech.
The New York Times noted that Wellesley graduates “cheered Clinton thunderously and treated her like a returning hero — if not one who had conquered, at least one who in their eyes remained unbowed.”
The Huffington Post, which called Clinton’s address “passionate,” tweeted about it, and wrote that she offered a “powerful message of resistance and hope...” The Post also focused on Clinton’s encouragement to graduates to continue breaking glass ceilings and defying sexism in politics: “Don’t let anyone tell you your voice doesn’t matter,” Clinton said. “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.”
A Boston Globe piece also focused on Clinton’s urging graduates to fight for truth. The Globe ran two stories on commencement; the second included a transcript of Clinton’s entire address.
Both of Boston’s NPR stations, WGBH and WBUR, covered the speech. WGBH’s higher education reporter, Kirk Carapezza, noted that it was warmly received by students, including one graduating senior who appreciated hearing Clinton’s humor, and her message of resilience, when Clinton urged graduates not to be disheartened if things aren’t different in 20 or 30 years.
The Atlantic wrote that Clinton offered a vision for the next generation of female leaders, and it included a retrospective of Clinton’s trailblazing life and career: New York’s first female U.S. senator, among the first few female secretaries of state, the first woman to be nominated for president by a major U.S. party, and the first to win the popular vote. The article noted that this trend began with Clinton’s time at Wellesley, when she was the first student in the school’s history to speak at commencement.