Regardless of what side of the debate you are on, I request that to take some time to read Ruby Cramer’s article. This is the person I see. These are the eyes I’ve looked into. This is the woman I have, ever so briefly, connected with. This is why #ImWithHer
This was 1969. She is 21, still Hillary Diane Rodham — senior class president, bound for Yale Law School, full of big and unrestrained talk about the future, first student commencement speaker in the history of Wellesley College. And there at the podium, in full cap and gown, she diverts from her prepared remarks, and the words come tumbling out — urgent and excited and abstract at points beyond comprehension. She calls for human connectedness and understanding, for a more conscientious state of being. Her target is the “empty rhetoric” of the preceding speaker, a sitting U.S. senator. “What does it mean,” she asks of his speech, “to hear that 13.3% of the people in this country are below the poverty line? That’s a percentage.” She and her classmates, Rodham says, demand “a more immediate, ecstatic, and penetrating mode of living” — a society “where you don’t see people as percentage points,” a restored “mutuality of respect.”
The speech makes news. No one knows what to think of it. Rodham, in one of her first interviews, attempts to explain: What is needed, she tells the Boston Globe that June, is a “‘new vocabulary’ to deal with relationships between people.”
[ . . . ]
This was 1993. She is first lady — a few months into the job, head of her husband’s health care effort, split between the White House and the hospital room in Little Rock, Arkansas, where her father lies brain-dead, 18 days after a stroke. There is a speech she can’t get out of — 14,000 people at the University of Texas — and on the plane ride to Austin, in longhand, she sketches out a second appeal for the same “mutuality of respect.”
“We need a new politics of meaning,” she tells the crowd. “We need a new ethos of individual responsibility and caring… a society that fills us up again and makes us feel that we are part of something bigger than ourselves.”
Again, she makes news. Again, reporters come calling. And again, Clinton tries to explain. That spring, she gives a series of interviews on the subject of her beliefs — political, philosophical, and spiritual. The transcripts, archived at the Clinton Presidential Library, capture a time before the worst of the White House years. The first lady is not so hardened yet to public life. Conversation is easy. She is, it seems, thinking out loud.
[ . . .]
What she wants to talk about hinges on a simple question of how we can, as humans, better treat one another. To Hillary Clinton, this is politics. She’s talking, literally, about “going back and actually living by the Golden Rule.” She’s talking about a “great renaissance of caring in this country.” Part of the challenge is the vocabulary. “A lot of this is hard to talk about,” Clinton admits. “I’m not real articulate about it.”
The speech and subsequent interviews — earnest, unembarrassed, and decidedly open — are laughed at in Washington.
[ . . . ]
When she was a girl, her late mother, Dorothy Rodham, taught Sunday school classes. The essence of her spiritual teaching? “A sense of the good.” This, Clinton would later say, was all she wanted to get across in the “politics of meaning” speech. She didn’t understand why people thought she was talking about “great, giant themes and theories,” as Clinton put it afterward. “I was talking about being kind to the woman who cleans your office building, inquiring how she is, seeing her as a human being.”