Former Secretary of State and 2016 Democratic Party presidential candidate (and popular vote winner!) Hillary Clinton spoke at the 2017 Wellesley College graduation ceremony. In her address, she exhorts the graduating class – and all of us – to engage and be active, to dream big and “above all, keep going”.
(Secretary Clinton is introduced at about 50 minutes in by Wellesley President Paula A. Johnson)
Here’s what I want you to know. We got through that tumultuous time [of the 60s and 70s], and once again began to thrive as our society changed laws and opened the circle of opportunity and rights wider and wider for more Americans. We revved up the engines of innovation and imagination. We turned back a tide of intolerance and embraced inclusion. The “we” who did those things were more than those in power who wanted to change course. It was millions of ordinary citizens, especially young people, who voted, marched, and organized. […]
You are graduating at a time when there is a full-fledged assault on truth and reason. […]
I believe with all my heart that the future of America—indeed, the future of the world—depends on brave, thoughtful people like you insisting on truth and integrity, right now, every day. You didn’t create these circumstances, but you have 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. […]
Not long ago, I got a note from a group of Wellesley alums and students who had supported me in the campaign. They worked their hearts out. And, like a lot of people, they’re wondering: What do we do now?
Well I think there’s only one answer, to keep going. Don’t be afraid of your ambition, of your dreams, or even your anger – those are powerful forces. But harness them to make a difference in the world. Stand up for truth and reason. Do it in private — in conversations with your family, your friends, your workplace, your neighborhoods. And do it in public—in Medium posts, on social media, or grab a sign and head to a protest. Make defending truth and a free society a core value of your life every single day. […]
The day after the election, I did want to speak particularly to women and girls everywhere, especially young women, because you are valuable and powerful and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world. Not just your future, but our future depends on you believing that. We need your smarts, of course, but we also need your compassion, your curiosity, your stubbornness. And remember, you are even more powerful because you have so many people supporting you, cheering you on, standing with you through good times and bad.
Our culture often celebrates people who appear to go it alone. But the truth is, that’s not how life works. Anything worth doing takes a village.
[Over the last 48 years], doors that once seemed sealed to women are now opened. They’re ready for you to walk through or charge through, to advance the struggle for equality, justice, and freedom.
So whatever your dreams are today, dream even bigger. Wherever you have set your sights, raise them even higher. And above all, keep going. Don’t do it because I asked you so. Do it for yourselves. Do it for truth and reason. Do it because the history of Wellesley and this country tells us it’s often during the darkest times when you can do the most good. Double down on your passions. Be bold. Try, fail, try again, and lean on each other. Hold on to your values. Never give up on those dreams.
I’m very optimistic about the future, because I think, after we’ve tried a lot of other things, we get back to the business of America. I believe in you. With all my heart, I want you to believe in yourselves. So go forth, be great.