Much of the coverage on Hillary Clinton’s commencement speech at her alma mater, Wellesley College, focused on her comments about last year’s election and the current president. This made it easy to miss her influential call to action directed at all of the graduates. In her speech, Clinton noted the forces of change the young women in the audience will become as they embrace their intellects and follow their ambitions.
The first seed of wisdom that Clinton planted in her speech was the value of self-worth. “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,” she said. “Not just your future, but our future depends on you believing that.” All around the world, women are the backbone of economies and the heads of organizations that are working to lift up other women. When women believe that they deserve to build their own futures, the future of women as a whole can improve.
Later, Clinton encouraged the young women in the audience to use their voices and to be stubborn when they need to be. “If you feel powerless, don’t,” she urged. “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 … In other words, ‘sit down and shut up.’” Believing no one should give in to these voices of hate, Clinton told the audience to “stand up” and speak out, adding, “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.”
In addition to insisting that the audience should defend their dreams, Clinton urged the young women to dream bigger. “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 to. Do it for yourselves.” Clinton pointed out that women should also work together and support each other: “Be bold. Try, fail, try again, and lean on each other.”
Perhaps the most motivational moment in Clinton’s speech occurred when she asserted that no one should feel stuck in their current situation. “I believe with all my heart that the future of America – indeed, the future of the world – depends on brave, thoughtful people like you … You didn’t create these circumstances, but you have the power to change them,” she said. A piece of the future is being shaped right now by the brilliant and driven women who filled the audience. The tools to build better lives are already in their hands.
Read the full commencement address here.
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