Hillary Clinton’s 1969 Commencement Address Basically Predicted The Future, Mostly Because Nothing Ever Changes

Last night, Hillary Clinton secured enough delegates to become the first female nominee of a political party in our country’s history. In 1969, a younger Clinton gave a rousing commencement speech as valedictorian of Wellesley College, eerily predicting her future ascension to becoming the first female presumptive nominee. And now, in what I will assume was both savvy campaign move and attempt at celebrating Clinton’s achievement, Wellseley has released audio clips of her commencement speech.

Let me be clear: Clinton is not a sorceress (maybe) or a soothsayer (probably). She did not actually predict the future; no one can predict the future except for Susan Miller and even then, it’s only half right. To say that she’s predicting the future is taking an editorial liberty in order to point out the fact that change, that trumpeted concept raised high by people who think we’ve come far, is actually an illusion. Clinton’s speech from 1969 rings so true because the great behemoth of progress moves at a glacial pace. Things are better now than they were in 1969, but the fact that a woman has never been the female nominee of a political party is indicative of how far we’ve come but also how far we have to go.

Clinton discusses how her generation has been trapped by reaction. Lacking the access to power needed to be proactive, the struggle of women to be seen as equals is hindered by the power structures in place. She says,

Part of the problem with just empathy with professed goals is that empathy doesn’t do us anything. We’ve had lots of empathy; we’ve had lots of sympathy, but we feel that for too long that 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.

Empathy is a powerful tool in its own right, but empathy is in direct opposition to action. Empathy is the equivalent of retweeting the 140 characters of an activist you see on the internet as a stand-in for actually doing something. Empathy doesn’t win elections nor does it exact change. Clinton understood this and it’s startling to see how relevant it still is now, almost 50 years later. She goes on to say,

We arrived at Wellesley, and we found, as all of us have found, that there was a gap between expectation and realities. But it wasn’t a discouraging gap, and it didn’t turn us into cynical, bitter old women at the age of 18. It just inspired us to do something about that gap. What we did is often difficult for people to understand. They ask us quite often, why if you’re dissatisfied do you stay in a place? Well, If you didn’t care a lot about it, you wouldn’t stay.

When removed from the context, the excerpts resonate with anyone attempting to climb the ladder in any male-dominated field. The glass ceiling is honestly impenetrable; Clinton may have made a few cracks, but until she gets her ass in that big comfy chair behind that shiny desk, the ceiling remains intact.