When Hillary Clinton delivered the first-ever student commencement speech at Wellesley College in 1969, she was Hillary Rodham, and she had no way of knowing that it would be the beginning of a long career in the spotlight.
In May, she will return to address a new class of graduates.
It will be her third speech at the all-women’s college in Massachusetts and will be one of her most visible appearances since losing the presidential election to Donald Trump in November.
Clinton has been relatively reclusive since her defeat, but is beginning to make more public appearances, and has several other speeches planned over the coming months.
Win or lose, students said Clinton’s leadership role in national politics over the last three decades has served as an inspiration.
“As Wellesley students, we arrive here believing in a future that respects women’s potential and accomplishment, but as graduating seniors, and at this moment in history, we look to Secretary Clinton, our sister, as someone who will inspire us to make that futurenow,” said Casey Butler co-president of the Class of 2017.
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Listen to Hillary Clinton give the first-ever student commencement address at Wellesley College in 1969.
As first lady to her husband, President Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton went on to become U.S. senator then Secretary of State. Her two unsuccesful runs for president were still significant steps, which Wellesley said have long been part of Clinton's trailblazing role for women. They also noted Clinton's fight for women’s rights and gender inequity. Perhaps as a show of support and as a thank you, students selected Clinton to speak at the May 26 graduation.
“She is the best person to represent who we have become at Wellesley and who we strive to be in the world. Her tireless push for progress embodies the spirit — and the courage — we seek in breaking down barriers and shattering glass ceilings of all kinds,” Amal Cheema, co-president of the Class of 2017 said.
Clinton has pointed to Wellesley as the foundation to her career. She said Wellesley prepared her “to take on some of the rough-and-tumble” of a life in politics, and taught her “if you get knocked down, get back up.”
“It is a special place. It helps women discover our talents; it gives us the freedom to set our own paths; it shows women that when we work hard and stay true to our values, there’s no limit to what we can achieve,” she said recently.
Clinton will speak at 10:30 a.m. on May 26 during Wellesley’s 139th commencement ceremony.