Second, you learned the value of an open mind and an open society. At their best, our colleges and universities are free market places of ideas, embracing a diversity of perspectives and backgrounds. That's our country at our best, too. An open, inclusive, diverse society is the opposite of and antidote to a closed society, where there is only one right way to think, believe, and act. Here at Wellesley, you've worked hard to turn this ideal into a reality. You've spoken out against racism and sexism and xenophobia and discrimination of all kinds. And you've shared your own stories. And at times that's taken courage. But the only way our society will ever become a place where everyone truly belongs is if all of us speak openly and honestly about who we are, what we're going through. So keep doing that.
And let me add that your learning, listening, and serving should include people who don't agree with you politically. A lot of our fellow Americans have lost faith in the existing economic, social, political, and cultural conditions of our country.
Many feel left behind, left out, looked down on. Their anger and alienation has proved a fertile ground for false promises and false information. Their economic problems and cultural anxiety must be addressed, or they will continue to sign up to be foot-soldiers in the ongoing conflict between "us" and "them."
The opportunity is here. Millions of people will be hurt by the policies, including this budget that is being considered. And many of these same people don't want DREAMers deported their health care taken away. Many don't want to retreat on civil rights, women's rights, and LGBT rights. So if your outreach is rebuffed, keep trying. Do the right thing anyway. We're going to share this future. Better to do so with open hearts and outstretched hands than closed minds and clenched fists.
And third, here at Wellesley, you learned the power of service. Because while free and fierce conversations in classrooms, dorm rooms, dining halls are vital, they only get us so far. You have to turn those ideas and those values into action. This College has always understood that. The motto which you've heard twice already, "Not to be ministered unto, but to minister" is as true today as it ever was. If you think about it, it's kind of an old-fashioned rendering of President Kennedy's great statement, "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country."
Not long ago, I got a note from a group of Wellesley alums and students who had supported me in the campaign. They worked their hearts out. And, like a lot of people, they're wondering: What do we do now?
Well I think there's only one answer, to keep going. Don't be afraid of your ambition, of your dreams, or even your anger – those are powerful forces. But harness them to make a difference in the world. Stand up for truth and reason. Do it in private – in conversations with your family, your friends, your workplace, your neighborhoods. And do it in public—in Medium posts, on social media, or grab a sign and head to a protest. Make defending truth and a free society a core value of your life every single day.
So wherever you wind up next, the minute you get there, register to vote, and while you're at it, encourage others to do so. And then vote in every election, not just the presidential ones. Bring others to vote. Fight every effort to restrict the right of law-abiding citizens to be able to vote as well. Get involved in a cause that matters to you. Pick one, start somewhere. You don't have to do everything, but don't sit on the sidelines. And you know what? Get to know your elected officials. If you disagree with them, ask questions. Challenge them. Better yet, run for office yourself some day. Now that's not for everybody, I know. And it's certainly not for the faint of heart. But it's worth it. As they say in one of my favorite movies, A League of Their Own, "It's supposed to be hard. The hard is what makes it great."
As Tala said, the day after the election, I did want to speak particularly to women and girls everywhere, especially young women, because you are valuable and powerful and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world. Not just your future, but our future depends on you believing that. We need your smarts, of course, but we also need your compassion, your curiosity, your stubbornness. And remember, you are even more powerful because you have so many people supporting you, cheering you on, standing with you through good times and bad.
Our culture often celebrates people who appear to go it alone. But the truth is, that's not how life works. Anything worth doing takes a village. And you build that village by investing love and time into your relationships. And in those moments for whatever reason when it might feel bleak, think back to this place where women have the freedom to take risks, make mistakes, even fail in front of each other. Channel the strength of your Wellesley classmates and experiences. I guarantee you it'll help you stand up a little straighter, feel a little braver, knowing that the things you joked about and even took for granted can be your secret weapons for your future.
One of the things that gave me the most hope and joy after the election, when I really needed it, was meeting so many young people who told me that my defeat had not defeated them. And I'm going to devote a lot of my future to helping you make your mark in the world. I created a new organization called Onward Together to help recruit and train future leaders, and organize for real and lasting change. The work never ends.
When I graduated and made that speech, I did say, and some of you might have pictures from that day with this on it, "The challenge now is to practice politics as the art of making what appears to be impossible, possible." That was true then. It's truer today. I never could have imagined where I would have been 48 years later — certainly never that I would have run for the Presidency of the United States or seen progress for women in all walks of life over the course of my lifetime. And yes, put millions of more cracks in that highest and hardest glass ceiling.
Because just in those years, doors that once seemed sealed to women are now opened. They're ready for you to walk through or charge through, to advance the struggle for equality, justice, and freedom.
So whatever your dreams are today, dream even bigger. Wherever you have set your sights, raise them even higher. And above all, keep going. Don't do it because I asked you so. Do it for yourselves. Do it for truth and reason. Do it because the history of Wellesley and this country tells us it's often during the darkest times when you can do the most good. Double down on your passions. Be bold. Try, fail, try again, and lean on each other. Hold on to your values. Never give up on those dreams.
I'm very optimistic about the future, because I think, after we've tried a lot of other things, we get back to the business of America. I believe in you. With all my heart, I want you to believe in yourselves. So go forth, be great. But first, graduate.
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