Wellesley College Commencement Address

That is absolutely true about all those keys and I’m glad to have that on the public record. I must say though that I’m sitting there listening to the recitation of what my class than those on both sides were responsible for was a little bit unsettling. But probably the only thing I would revisit is as the mother of a twelve year old daughter. The parietal rules.

This is as Nancy said. The second chance for me to speak from this podium. The first was twenty three years ago. When I was a graduating senior. My classmates did select me to speak. And I tried to speak for them. I can’t claim that one hundred sixty nine speech. As my own it reflected the hopes. Values and aspirations of my classmates. It was full of the uncompromising language. You only write. When you are twenty one. But it is an Cannie to me the degree to which the. Those same hopes. Values and aspirations. Have shaped my adulthood. We passionately rejected the notion of limitations on our ability to make the world a better place. We saw a gap between our expectations and realities. And we were inspired. In large part by our well Glee educations. To bridge that gap on behalf of the class of one nine hundred sixty nine. I said then that the challenge now is to practice. Politics as the art of what. Of making what appears. Impossible possible. That is still the challenge of politics. Especially in today’s far more cynical. Climate. The aspiration I referred to then was the struggle for an integrated life. In an atmosphere of trust and respect.

What I meant by that was a life that combine personal fulfillment in love and work with fulfilling responsibility to the larger community. Now when the ceremonies and hoopla of my graduation were over. I commenced my adult life. By heading straight for the lake.

In those days and probably still now. Swimming in the lake except at the beach and at certain times it was prohibited. But it was one of my favorite rules to break. I stripped down to my swimsuit. Put my clothes in a pile on the ground. Took off those coke bottle glasses that you’ve now seen in a hundred pictures and publications. From one end of this country to the next. And waited in off to follow point. While I was happily paddling around feeling relieved as. Emily must as well that I had survived the day. A security guard came by on his grounds. Picked up my clothes. And my glasses and carried them off. Imagine my surprise when I emerged. To find neither clothes nor glasses and blind as a bat. Had to feel my way back to Stone Davis. I am just so grateful that picture. Has not come back to haunt me. Because you can imagine the caption. Maybe girl. Offers vision to classmates and then loses her own. Or better still. The tabloids might have run something like girl swimming. Line did by aliens after seeing Elvis.

Well of all medical technology has allowed me to replace those glasses with contact lenses. I hope my vision today is clearer for another reason. The clarifying first spect of of experience. The opportunity to share that experience with you. The honored graduates of the class of one nine hundred ninety two. It’s not only a privilege. But a homecoming for me. And I want to be somewhat personal. Will flee. Nurtured and challenge to and guided me. It instilled in me. Not just knowledge. But a reserve. Of sustaining values. I also made friends who are still among my closest friends. Today.

When I arrived as a freshman in one team sixty five from my and Harriet suburb of Chicago. Both the college. And the country. Were going through a period of rapid. Sometimes tumultuous change. My classmates and I felt challenged. And in turn did. Challenge from the moment we arrived. Everything about the college. Nothing was taken for granted. We couldn’t even agree on an appropriate. Politically correct. Cheer. To this day. When we attend reunions. You can hear us cry. One nine six nine twelve Lee rah one more year. Still no cheer. But you know there are often seemed little to cheer about. In those days. We grew up in a decade dominated by dreams and disillusionments dreams of the civil rights movement. The Peace Corps. The space program. Disillusionment. Starting with President Kennedy’s assassination. Excel rated by the divisive war in Vietnam. And the deadly mixture of poverty. Racism and despair that burst into flames in the hearts of some of our cities then. And which is still burning. Today. A decade when speeches like. I have a dream. Were followed by songs like The Day. The music died. I was here on campus. When Martin Luther King was murdered. My friends and I put on black armbands and went into Boston to march in anger and pain. Feeling as many of you did. After the acquittal in the Rodney King case.

Much has changed in those intervening years. And much of it for the better. But much has also stayed the same. Or at least not changed as much as we had hoped. Or as irrevocably. Each new generation. Takes us into new territory. But while change is certain. Progress is not change is a law of nature. Progress is the challenge for both a life. And a society. And what better place to speak about those challenges particularly to women. And the challenge of leading an integrated life. Than here at Wellesley a college that not only vindicate the proposition that there is still an essential. Place for an all women’s college. But which defines its mission. As seeking to educate women who will make a difference in the world. And what better time to speak about women and their concerns. Than in the spring of one thousand nine hundred ninety two.

Thank you I have traveled all over America. In the last month. Talking and listening to women women who are struggling to raise their children and somehow make ends meet women who are battling against the persistent. Discrimination. That still limits their opportunities for pay and promotion. Women who are bumping up against the glass ceiling. Who are watching the insurance premiums. Themselves and their families. Increase. Who are coping with any adequate or non existant child support payments. After divorces. Which lead to precipitous drop in their standard of living. Women who are existing on shrinking welfare payments. With no available job in sight and women who are anguishing over the prospect that abortions will be criminalized. Again. These women and their voices are there to be heard and seen. And listen to buy any of us. I’ve also talked with women. About our shared values. About our common desire to educate our children to be sure they do receive the health care they need to Pro Tech them from the escalating violence in our streets. To wonder how we ever got to a position in our country where we have children in schools that do bullet drills. Instead of fire drills.

Worrying about children is something women do. And that mothers are particularly good at doing. But you know women who pack their children’s lunch for school who take the early bus to work or stay out late for a P.T.A. meeting or spend every spare minute. Tending to their aging parents do not need lectures from Washington. About values. They don’t need to hear about Luke they don’t need to hear about an idealized world. That never was as rightness or carefree as some would like to think. They and. We need understanding and a helping hand to solve our own problems. Because most of us are doing the best we can to find what ever that right balance is for our own lives. For me the elements of that balance. Our family work. And the service. First your personal personal relationships. When all is said and done. It is the people in your life. The friendships. You form. And the commitments you maintain that give shape. To that life. Your friends and your neighbors. The people at work at church wherever you come into contact with them all to touch your daily lives. And if you choose a marriage. Filled with love and respect. When I stood here before I could never have predicted.

Let alone. Believed that I would fall in love with someone named Bill Clinton who grew up in the same town as man. That circle Emily really is smaller than we think. And that I would follow my heart to a place called Arkansas. But I have to tell you based on the years that stand between you and me. I’m very glad I had the courage to make that choice. Second your work. For some of you that may overlap with your contribution to your community. For some of you. The future might not include work outside the home. And I don’t mean. Involuntary unemployment. But most of you will at some point in your life. Work for pay in jobs that used to be off limits for women or for those that are still the backbone of the kind of nurturing and caring profession that are so important. You may choose to be a corporate executive or a rocket science says. You may run for public office. You may choose to stay home and raise your children. But now. You can make any or all of those choices. And they can be the work of your life during And the third element for me and I hope for you of that integrated life I alluded to those years ago. Is service and students. We debated passionately. What responsibility. Each individual has for the larger society.

We went back and forth on just went. What our colleges. Latin motto. Meant not to be ministered unto. But to minister. The most eloquent explanation. I have found of what I believe now. And what I argued then is from Vaclav Havel. The playwright and first freely elected. Pres. And of Czechoslovakia. In a letter from prison to his wife. OLGA. He wrote everything. Meaningful in life is distinguished by a certain transcendence of individual human existence beyond the limits of mere self care. Toward other people toward society. Toward the world. Only by looking outward by caring for things that. In terms of pure survival. You needn’t bother with at all. And by throwing yourself over and over again. Into the tumult of the world. With the intention of making your voice count. Only thus will you really become a person. I first recognize what service. I cared most about. While I was in law school where I worked with children. At the Yale New Haven Hospital. And the Child Study Center and represented. Children through legal services. And where during my first summer. I worked for the Children’s Defense Fund. My experiences gave voice for me to deep feelings about what children deserved. From their families and their government. I discovered that I wanted my voice. To count for children. Some of you may have already had such a life. Shaping experience. The our environment. Other human rights issues whatever it might be. For many of you. It lies ahead. But recognize it and nurture it. When it occurs. Because my concern is making children count. I hope you will indulge me. While I tell you why. The American Dream is an intergenerational compact. Or as someone once said. One generation is supposed to leave the key under the mat for the next. We repay our parents for their love. In the love. We give children.

And we print repay our society. For the opportunities. We are given by expanding the opportunities given to others. That’s the way it’s supposed to work. You know too well that it is not too many of our children are being empowered rushed financially. Socially and spiritually. The shrinking of their futures diminishes us all. Whether you end up having children of your own or not. I hope. Each of you will recognize the need for a sensible. National Family Policy that reverses the absolutely unforgivable. Neglect of our children in this country in this year. You see if you have children. You will owe the highest duty to them and will confront your biggest challenges in parenting them. If like me at your age. You now know little. And maybe care less about the mysteries of good parenting. I can promise you there is nothing like on the job training. I remember one very long night. When my daughter Chelsea was about four weeks old and crying inconsolably. Nothing from my courses in my political science majors seems to help at all. Finally I looked at her in my arms and I said. Chelsea. You’ve never been a baby before and I’ve never been a mother before. We are just going to have to help each other gets through this. And so far we have. And for Bill and me she has been the great joy of our life and watching her grow and flourish as give an even greater urgency to the task of helping. All children.

There are many ways of helping children. You can do it through your own personal lives. By being dedicated loving parents. You can do it in medicine. Or. Professor gender has done in music. Social work or education business or government service. You can do it by making policy or making cookies.

It is. Thank you it is though. A false choice. To tell women or men for that matter that we must choose between caring for ourselves and our own family or caring for the larger family of humanity. In their recent pastoral letter. Putting children and families first. The National Conference of Catholic Bishops. Captured this. Essential. Interplay of private and public. Roles. No government can love a child. And no policy. Can substitute for a family’s care. But government can either support or undermine family. There has been an on fortunate. Unnecessary and on real polarization in discussions of how best to help families. The undeniable fact is that our children’s future. Is shaped both. By the values of their parents. And the policies of our nation. Or as my husband says. Family values alone won’t feed a hungry child and material security. Cannot provide a moral compass. We need both. Forty five years ago the biggest threat to our country. Came from the other side of the Iron Curtain. From the nuclear weapons that could wipe out life. On our planet. While you were here at Wellesley that threat. Ended. But today. Our greatest threat comes not from some external evil empire. But from our own internal indifferent empire that power eight splintered families and parents to children in battled schools and pervasive power of the racism and violence. Not for one more year. Can our countries think of children as some Asterix on our national agenda.

How we treat. Thank you.

How we treat our children should be front and center of that agenda. Or I believe it won’t matter what else is on it. My plea is that you. Not only nurture the values that will determine the choices you make in your personal lives. But also insist on policies that include those values. To nurture our nation’s children. But really heal or a. Some of you may be saying to yourselves. I’ve got to pay off my student loans. I can’t even find a good job. Let alone someone to love. How am I going to worry about the world. Our generation has fewer dreams. Fewer allusions than yours and. I hear you and millions of young women like you. All over our country. As women today. You do face tough choices. And you know the rules are basically as follows. If you don’t get married. You’re abnormal. If you didn’t.

If you get married and have children but then go outside the home to work. You’re a bad mother. If you get married and have children but stay home. You’ve wasted your education. And if you don’t get married. But have children and work outside the home as a fictional newscaster you get in trouble with the vice president during your thank so you see if you listen to all those people who make all those rules. You might conclude that the safest course is just to take your diploma and crawl under your bed.

But let me end by proposing an alternative. Hold on to your dreams whatever. They are take up the challenge of forging an identity that transcends yourself. Transcend yourself. And you will find yourself. Care about something that you needn’t bother with at all. Throw yourself into the world and make your voice count. Whether you make your voice count for children or for another cause. Enjoy your life’s journey. There is no dress rehearsal for life. And you will have to ad lib your way through every scene. The only way to prepare is to do what you have done. Get the best possible education. Continue to learn from literature Scripture and history. To understand the human experience as best you can. So that you do have guy. Post. Charting the terrain. Toward what ever decisions are right for you. I want you to remember this day. And remember how much more. You have in common with each other than with people who are trying to divide you. And I want you to stand together. As you appear to me from this position. Beautiful. Brave and invincible and. To have a sense of celebration. That you carry with you. Congratulations to each of you look forward. And welcome. The challenges ahead.

And if you’d like to meet me for a swim later. Don’t tell the security guard. Just find me. And I hope that over the next years. You will look back on this day. As a truly great opportunity. That leads you to transcend and to forge an identity. That is uniquely your own. Godspeed.

Source

Advertisements