October 10, 2013
Picking a Great Names speaker is always a tough decision. Hamilton can secure a well-known person to speak, but name recognition does not guarantee the quality of the speech. With Hillary Clinton, the Sacerdote Great Names series was spot on, reigning in a talk that is sure to go down in Hamilton history.
Several Hamilton students agreed that this Great Names speech would be just another waste of money. What is the point of bringing in a big name if he or she will just give a generic speech targeted at an audience primarily of college students? We all expected to hear a few words on how we were the future of this country, and the value of a college education. There would be no real substance to the speech, nothing we had not heard before.
Instead, Clinton gave one of the more personable talks in my recent memory. She praised Hamilton’s liberal arts background and its commitment to need-blind admissions. She highlighted the work of several Hamilton students and alumni, showing that she actually cared about this school. She pointed out the community service projects that Jorett Joseph ’15 and Nick Solano ’14 have taken on, showing she had done her research.
Clinton also touched on key issues that Americans all over the country are wondering about. Before the question and answer period, she spoke on the elephant in the room: the government shutdown. While I did not agree with some of her ideas, the fact that she brought this up showed her courage to take issues head-on. Several politicians in her position would have dodged this topic altogether, knowing its recent occurrence would exclude it from the questions, which were just selected days in advance.
Clinton spent a valuable amount of time answering numerous questions. She provided insight on the Arab spring, economic statecraft and health-care. Her experience in the field added a unique opinion on some of the key issues that Americans face everyday.
She also gave meaningful answers to more general questions about her career and the challenges she faced. Rather than taking the stereotypical politician’s move of dodging the tough questions, Clinton addressed most of them directly, showing respect for the members of the Hamilton community that put time and thought into them. She provided thoughtful answers and spent more time responding to questions than speaking.
Unfortunately, I have only been at Hamilton for two Great Names speeches and do not have many standards for comparison. Shirin Ebadi and Bernard Kouchner gave the other Great Names lectures I attended.
While Kouchner’s speech was interesting, it lacked the connection and coherence of Clinton’s. Ebadi showed a lot of passion for human rights in the Arab world, but the bulk of her speech was lost in translation.
Hillary Clinton’s talk was one of the best I have heard in my time at Hamilton. Now, the Great Names committee faces a challenge: bringing another speaker as knowledgeable, thoughtful and personable as Clinton to the Hill.