Hillary Clinton’s return on Friday to her alma mater (and mine), Wellesley College, was triumphant. Her speech was powerful. She was warm and down to earth, funny and inspirational. Except for a dozen or so (“lock her up”) trolls on social media, she was enthusiastically received.
In this blog, I’ve often decried life in the bubble, that place where like-minded people listen just to each other, creating an echo chamber effect (an idea to which Clinton gave a nod in her address), but, dammit, every once in a while it is gratifying to be in and celebrate the bubble.
The bubble is a place where the presiding ethos can embrace the notion of women’s leadership (“sit down and shut up,” she said, is “the last thing you tell a Wellesley woman.”) In the bubble, people do not deny science; they are committed to the pursuit of truth and exercise of reason. “When people in power invent their own facts and mock those who question them,” she noted, it marks “the beginning of the end of a free society.”
In the bubble, one recognizes that President Trump’s budget is “an attack of unimaginable cruelty on the most vulnerable among us.” Clinton linked her call to action to the College’s motto, non ministrari, sed ministrare, not to be ministered unto but to minister. As she had said in the College’s first-ever student commencement speech, which Clinton gave in 1969, students should see politics as “the art of making what appears to be impossible possible.”
Here’s what she didn’t say during the campaign, which might have yielded a different outcome. Learning, listening and serving should include people who don’t agree with us politically……those who feel “left behind, left out, looked down on,” who must be heard and understood. Their economic problems and cultural anxiety must be addressed, or they will continue to sign up to be foot soldiers in the ongoing conflict between us and them.”
“If we’re going to share the future,” she added, we need to go forward with “open minds and outstretched hands” rather than “closed minds and clenched fists.” For me, after all the feel-good reassurances about being in the bubble, this was the take-away message. It also has import for liberal colleges and universities that, even while embracing all kinds of ethnic, racial and gender diversity, have sometimes demonstrated an intolerance for different (read, conservative) points of view.
Clinton has formed a new political action group, “Onward Together.” Its announcement says its goal is spurring young people to get involved, organize and run for office. Cynics say it’s just a ploy for Clinton to mount a third attempt at the Presidency. I hope not. But, if she can link her access to money (much decried by Bernie Sanders and, ironically, Donald Trump during the campaign) with young people possessing the talent, energy and drive to run for office, she will leave an even more substantial legacy than all the glass ceiling cracks she created during her remarkable career.