October 10, 2013
Expectations could not have been higher for last Friday’s Sacerdote Great Names lecture. From the moment community members saw the cover of The Spectator’s May 9 issue, which announced that Hillary Clinton would come to Hamilton, the Hill has been abuzz with anticipation for the former First Lady, U.S. Senator and Secretary of State. Awareness of Ms. Clinton’s—yet unconfirmed—2016 presidential ambitions only compounded the excitement.
Given the high expectations that the 5,800 people in the Margaret Bundy Scott Field House arrived with, it was unfortunate that Ms. Clinton’s written speech could not have been more substantive. While no one believed Ms. Clinton would cause controversy with a potential presidential run in the future, it was nonetheless underwhelming that she preferred broad political platitudes to more specific experiences and anecdotes from her varied political posts. In a time of government shutdowns and debt ceiling battles, when original thinking is needed more than ever, one would hope to hear more from the former Secretary of State than “we can’t let partisanship override citizenship.”
That being said, however, Ms. Clinton was most impressive in two regards. One, her references to both the entrepreneurship displayed by local upstate businesses and the outreach efforts of Hamilton students Jorett Joseph ’15 and Nick Solano ’14 were thoughtful and original. The Spectator is proud to share a campus with Solano and Joseph, both of whom Ms. Clinton was right to recognize as embodying the best aspects of Hamilton’s commitment to public service.
In addition, the question-and-answer session, where President Joan Hinde Stewart asked the former Senator questions from the community, showed Ms. Clinton at her best. Speaking extemporaneously about a variety of topics, Ms. Clinton demonstrated the humor and intellect that has led her to the forefront of American politics.
When it comes to the future of the Sacerdote Great Names series, The Spectator hopes that this great Hamilton asset returns to its former status as an annual event. The inconsistent nature of the series has been a great disappointment. In their four years at Hamilton, the class of 2014 has only had a chance to see three Great Names lectures: Condoleezza Rice in the fall of 2010, Shirin Ebadi and Bernard Kouchner in the spring of this year and Hillary Clinton this past week. Of those four speakers, though, only two offered the name-recognition necessary to drum up student interest. Despite our reservations about aspects of her prepared remarks, Clinton was an inspired choice for the series, and we hope a wide range of ‘great names’—from public leaders and business founders to musicians and novelists—make appearances on the Hill in the coming years.