Senator Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., received a standing ovation Wednesday night at Stephens Auditorium in front of a responsive audience comprising students, families and children.
Sen. Clinton accepted the Mary Louise Smith Award from the Catt Center for Women and Politics, an award created in 1995 to honor Iowa-native Mary Louise Smith, the first and only woman to lead the National Republican Committee, in 1974. Smith's family was in attendance as the 16th recipient spoke to a then-full auditorium.
Clinton spoke about the Catt Center's legacy in her acceptance speech, which focused on the achievements of women in the past 100 years. Clinton spoke about the history of Louise Smith as a "passionate advocate" for women's rights, women's choice and becoming a role model and inspiration for many women.
"I could say that it's a pleasure to be up here with all of the women running for president in 2008," Clinton said to the audience, which responded with laughter. "While there may be plenty of room on the stage tonight, someday there will be enough of us to transform this event from a lecture into a debate," she said.
Clinton spoke of how as a young girl she wanted to be an astronaut for NASA and was told by them that women weren't allowed to be astronauts. Years later, she wanted to attend law school and was informed by a Harvard law professor that "we don't need any more women at Harvard," which she followed with a smiling remark that Harvard has recently named its first woman president.
Clinton's response to Harvard was to attend Yale. Clinton said as a young lawyer she was told by a former colleague that practicing courtroom law as a woman was "impossible" because she "didn't have a wife."
Clinton went on to say that it had been an honor to work with her colleagues in the Senate throughout her career on such issues such as foster care, adoption, family leave, equal pay and preschool for children.
"Women are now the majority of students in colleges and a majority of those who voted in 2004," Clinton said. "[During] my time in the Senate, I have cherished the opportunity to work with my women colleagues, in both houses and on both sides of the aisle."
Clinton also spoke of the many people she has met during her campaign who often felt invisible and that their opinions didn't matter. She mentioned one woman who had to sell half her family farm to pay medical bills. Another woman told Clinton she was working two jobs just to make ends meet.
"I don't think that any of these people should be invisible in our country," Clinton said. "They're certainly not invisible to me. They shouldn't be invisible in our political process."
Clinton said a lot of these stories are now just "out there and people are talking about them." She said Washington is now talking about their plight, which gives those who are struggling a better chance.
Clinton said it strikes her when people refer to issues as "women's issues." Clinton said they were also men's and children's issues. She stressed that families, including men, have expressed a need to take care of their families and to make sure that children are raised with the skills needed to compete in the global economy.
"Every American has a stake in how the next generation is raised," Clinton said. "After all, we're raising our future innovators, our future teachers, farmers, nurses, lawyers [and] so much more."
Clinton also took the opportunity to answer a few questions from the audience. Habeas corpus and education provided fodder for a spirited conversation between Clinton and an attendee.
"I think it's one the most serious challenges to the Constitution that the Bush and Cheney administation waged," she said. "I certainly intend to reinstate habeas corpus."
Students attending the speech came for differing reasons and from differing political awareness.
"I liked it. She made a lot of sense," said Jamie Bluml, sophomore in pre-business.
Kyle Anderson, sophomore in mechanical engineering, said he "was trying to hear her opinions. I don't pay attention to the news, so I just come to see the candidates when they are here."
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© 2007 Iowa State Daily via U-WIRE