Speed Reads


Listen to a 21-year-old Hillary Clinton deliver her defiant college commencement speech

Hillary Clinton was making a name for herself before she'd even graduated from college. At the ripe young age of 21, Clinton — then just Hillary Rodham — was chosen to give a commencement address on behalf of her graduating class of 1969 at the women's liberal arts school, Wellesley College. On Monday, for the first time ever, Clinton's alma mater released the audio of that speech:

Clinton's fiery speech, delivered at a time when student protests over the Vietnam War were sweeping the country, dared to defy the wisdom of the ceremony's main speaker, Sen. Edward Brooke. While Brooke had discouraged "coercive protests," Clinton instead championed demonstrations as "an attempt to forge an identity" and as crucial to the "indispensable element of criticizing." "Empathy doesn't do us anything," Clinton said. "We've had lots of empathy, we've had lots of sympathy, but we feel that for too long our leaders have viewed politics as the art of the possible, and the challenge now is to practice politics as the art of making what appears to be impossible, possible."

The speech, according to Mashable, got a "seven-minute standing ovation." The Boston Globe hailed her speech as upstaging Brooke's, and LIFE magazine ended up featuring her in its story on student activists. And the rest, as the adage goes, is history.