Before the pantsuits and email scandals, Hillary Clinton was a strong woman who was an outspoken advocate for women and children. After graduating from high school, she attended Wellesley College. She majored in political science and was chosen by her classmates to give a speech at her 1969 commencement. The 21-year-old Clinton stepped up to the microphone and said, “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.” Her voice wasn’t as strong or loud as it is now, and it shook as she gave her speech. But the underlying passion and desire for action was there. She was unapologetic in her desire for social change.
After graduating from Wellesley, she enrolled at Yale Law School and had to prove herself academically. She was just one of just 27 women in her graduating class. After graduating, she took a job at the Children’s Defense Fund instead of taking a higher paying job in Washington, D.C., or New York.
The Hillary Clinton of the past was a woman who was passionate and caring. She cared deeply for her country and the disenfranchised. She wanted to ensure that justice and a good quality of life was accessible to everybody.
As First Lady, Clinton was more fierce and less restricted. Now, as an older women beaten down by politics, she is guarded, but as First Lady, she was outspoken and unapologetic. She was seen as a staunch liberal instead of a moderate. Through her drive, she pushed health care reform onto the national agenda and brought national attention to the brutal ways that the Taliban treated women. She went to Beijing and gave a powerful speech about women’s rights at the United Nations Fourth World Congress on Women.
This is the Hillary Clinton that my generation didn’t get to see. I was born the same year that Bill Clinton was elected president. My first political memory was of George Bush giving a speech after the terrible attacks on 9/11. I missed the entire Clinton administration, and I missed seeing Hillary as the First Lady. For most millennials, we were fully introduced to her in 2008 when she ran for the Democratic presidential nomination. Ironically enough, Barack Obama was the candidate who most embraced the ideals of a younger Hillary Clinton. He was seen as a man of the people, while Clinton was seen as the establishment candidate.
Now, Hillary Clinton is associated with email scandals and corruption. It seems as if half the country is calling for her to be jailed, including the Republican nominee, Donald Trump. Her nickname among the GOP is “Crooked Hillary.” Republicans are portraying her as someone who is a Washington insider who can’t relate to the needs of the masses.
I would gladly vote for the 1969 Hillary. I would campaign for her, wear her t-shirt and pass out her buttons. I’m certainly still going to vote for 2016 Hillary, but I will simply because I fear what will happen if Trump takes office.
I can't help but wonder if that same 21-year-old woman with the quavering voice who was so involved with social activism would like this version of herself that she has become. She wanted to fight the system, not become the essence of it. Clinton has been around politics long enough that she has become the very thing that she wanted to fight. In order to be successful and inspire the next generation, she needs to reach within herself and let the young girl who wanted to change the world be brought to light.
Jillian James is the Opinions Editor of the Central Florida Future. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org