Secretary Clinton '73 Receives Award of Merit at the Yale Law School Alumni Weekend
Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton ’73 addressed a packed audience of Yale Law School alumni, faculty, students, and staff Saturday, Oct. 5, 2013, after receiving the prestigious Award of Merit from Dean Robert C. Post ’77.
Clinton reminisced about her time as a student at Yale Law School and the moment that sparked “a lifelong passion about children’s welfare.”
President Bill Clinton ’73 was also in attendance at the 2013 Yale Law School Alumni Weekend. The event marked the 40th anniversary for both Bill and Hillary Clinton’s class year.
With Secretary Clinton sitting up on stage at Woolsey Hall, Dean Robert C. Post ’77 spoke of her remarkable achievements and career.
“In the four decades since she left this place, Secretary Clinton has indeed been an advocate, a practitioner, a legislator in the senate, an executive in the State Department, and a teacher to the nation and to the world," said Post.
During his address, Dean Post also prompted roaring applause from the crowd when he noted that some have speculated that she “might sometime soon seek to add one last elusive line to her resume.”
Clinton smiled as Dean Post then joked, “I’m very happy to say that today with this award we can prove them right."
Clinton served as Secretary of State from 2009-2013 and Senator of New York from 2001-2009. She received her B.A. from Wellesley College and her J.D. from Yale Law School.
After going through the many accomplishments of her illustrious career, Clinton was awarded the Law School’s highest honor and welcomed to the lectern with a standing ovation. She began by remembering her time at Yale Law School and the day when she met President Clinton.
“I remember the first time I arrived on campus in 1969,” said Clinton. “I was driving a beat-up old car. I had a mattress tied to my roof, and I was wearing bell bottoms.”
Then while walking through the student lounge one day, she heard a voice say, “And not only that, we grow the biggest watermelons in the world.”
“I said, ‘who is that?’” Hillary remarked with a laugh. “The answer was ‘that’s Bill Clinton. He’s from Arkansas and that’s all he ever talks about.’”
Clinton then focused on the importance of her continued work and commitment to improving the lives of children in America.
After working on these very causes in New Haven, Clinton said, “I learned that if you want to know about the moral, economic, and social health of a community, look at the children.”
Clinton spoke specifically about the millions of children living in poverty every day and the growing trends that show many children have an unfair advantage from the start. Even in Connecticut, Clinton noted the problems are stark.
“Think for a moment, Connecticut is one of the wealthiest states and yet half of the children in its capital live in poverty,” Clinton said.
Many children in low-income families are also missing critically important time reading with their parents, resulting in narrowed vocabularies that make it difficult for them to succeed in school. It is a problem Clinton will be tackling through her work at the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation in partnership with Next Generation.
But while Clinton acknowledged the dissolution that many in the country feel over these societal problems and the gridlock faced in Washington, she said that the hope and resolve of the country was stronger than ever.
“The chances we have to keep moving in the right direction together toward the more perfect union are even greater today than they were 40 years ago,” said Clinton. “Yes, we have big challenges ahead of us, but we have the ability if we match it with the will to meet every challenge we face. It will take all of us working together. It will take not only leaders, but citizens who have to dare greatly and lead boldly, but that’s when we are at our best.”
Clinton’s address to the Yale Law community marked the highlight of a wonderful Alumni Weekend. More than 900 Alumni from around the world returned to New Haven to celebrate the occasion. The weekend also featured a series of panel discussions led by Yale Law faculty addressing such topics as freedom of expression to globalization to foreign policy and national security. The theme of the weekend was Global Constitutionalism.
Since 1957, the Yale Law School Association, the alumni organization of Yale Law School, has presented the Award of Merit annually to an esteemed graduate of Yale Law School or to a person who has served as a full-time member of the Yale Law School faculty for at least ten years. The recipients of the Award are recognized for having made a substantial contribution to public service or to the legal profession.