Opinion: Hillary Clinton’s failure — a fresh perspective
Updated 12:05 pm, Tuesday, December 6, 2016
There has been a lot of analysis written about why Hillary Rodham Clinton fell short of of her lifelong goal of being elected president of the United States. But virtually all of it has centered on the Electoral College, voting patterns, and unforeseen events — FBI Director James Comey’s letter announcing the discovery of uncounted emails with only days to go before Election Day, for example, played a role. But the underlying reason for Clinton’s failure can actually be traced as far back as May 31, 1969, the date of her famous commencement address at Wellesley College when she was 22 years old in her formative years. Following are excerpts from that address and my comments in boldface.
RODHAM: I am very glad that Miss (Ruth) Adams (ninth president of Wellesley College) made it clear that what I am speaking for today is all of us — the 400 of us — and I find myself in a familiar position, that of reacting. What does it mean to hear that 13.3 percent of the people in this country are below the poverty line? That’s a percentage. We’re not interested in social reconstruction, it’s human reconstruction. How can we talk about percentages and trends? The complexities are not lost in our analyses, but perhaps they’re just put into what we consider a more human and eventually a more progressive perspective.
The question about “possible” and “impossible” was one that we brought with us to Wellesley four years ago. We arrived not yet knowing what was not possible. Consequently, we expected a lot. Our attitudes are easily understood having grown up, having come to consciousness in the first five years of this decade — years dominated by men with dreams, men in the civil rights movement, the Peace Corps, the space program — so we arrived at Wellesley and we found, as all of us have found, that there was a gap between expectation and realities. (Author’s italics.)
KLEIN: The pain that Hillary Rodham Clinton must still feel as a result of “the gap between expectation and realities” leading up to the crushing emotional setback to her lifelong ambition was the unkindest blow of all. A person of less stamina and character would have fallen apart completely.
RODHAM: Many of the issues that I’ve mentioned — those of sharing power and responsibility, those of assuming power and responsibility have been general concerns on campuses throughout the world. But underlying those concerns there is a theme, a theme which is so trite and so old because the words are so familiar. It talks about integrity and trust and respect.
KLEIN: These words may have been old to Hillary Rodham, and too familiar. But did she take the time to refresh her intellectual understanding of those words? The concepts?
RODHAM: Words have a funny way of trapping our minds on the way to our tongues but they are necessary means even in this multi-media age for attempting to come to grasp with some of the inarticulate. . . things that we’re feeling. We are, all of us, exploring a world that none of us even understands and attempting to function within that uncertainty. But there are some things we feel,feelings that our prevailing, acquisitive, and competitive corporate life, including tragically the universities, is not the way of life for us. We’re searching for moreimmediate, ecstatic and penetrating mode of living. And so our questions, our questions about our institutions, about our colleges, about our churches, about our government, continue. The questions about those institutions are familiar to all of us.
We have seen heralded across the newspapers. But we also know that to be educated, the goal of it must be human liberation. A liberation enabling each of us to fulfill our capacity so as to be free to create within and around ourselves. To be educated to freedom must be evidenced in action, and here again is where we ask ourselves, as we have asked our parents and our teachers, questions about integrity, trust, and respect.
Those three words mean different things to all of us. Some of the things they can mean, for instance: Integrity, the courage to be whole, to try to mold an entire person in this particular context, living in relation to one another in the full poetry of existence. If the only tool we have ultimately to use is our lives, so we use it in the way we can by choosing a way to live that will demonstrate the way we feel and the way we know. Trust. This is one word that when I asked the class at our rehearsal what it was they wanted me to say for them, everyone came up to me and said “Talk about trust, talk about the lack of trust both for us and the way we feel about others. Talk about the trust bust.” What can you say about it? What can you say about a feeling that permeates a generation and that perhaps is not even understood by those who are distrusted? All they can do is keep trying again and again and again. There’s that wonderful line in East Coker by T.S. Eliot (second poem in Four Quartets) about there’s only the trying, again and and again; to win again what we’ve lost before.And then respect. There’s that mutuality of respect between people where you don’t see people as percentage points. Where you don’t manipulate people, where you’re not interested in social engineering for people. The struggle for an integrated life existing in an atmosphere of communal trust and respect is one with desperately important political and social consequences. And the word “consequences” of course catapults us into the future.
KLEIN: Hillary brought up a salient point that really hits home in This post-election period: People are more afraid today than ever before. In her speech, she wrote; “One of the most tragic things that happened yesterday (May 30,1969), a beautiful day, was that I (Hillary) was talking to a woman who said that she wouldn’t want to be me. She wouldn’t want to live today and look ahead to what it is she sees because she’s afraid of the gap between expectation and realities. Fear is always with us but we just don’t have time for it. Not now. Integrity, Trust. Respect. Those were her foundation pillars. How sadly ironic that, in the fateful end, much of the public believed she lacked all three honorable traits. It’s tantamount to a Shakespearean tragedy.
Woody Klein is an award-winning Westport writer. His column, “Out of the Woods,” has appeared regularly in The Westport News for the past 49 years. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org