“You have more at stake in the decision-making process, from health care to education to Social Security, than your grandparents and parents,” Clinton said before the speech.
Clinton’s speech, which marked the six-month anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, discussed the impact the attacks have had and will continue to have on the country.
The former first lady recounted her own experiences on the day of the attack, telling the audience how she heard the news on her way to a education hearing in Washington. She and Sen. Charles E. Schumer ’71 (D-N.Y.) immediately flew back to New York City to survey the damage.
“Nothing I was told, nothing I thought, nothing I saw on TV, nothing I read in the paper could prepare me for what I saw that afternoon,” she said.
Clinton praised relief efforts by public servants and ordinary citizens, commending emergency workers in particular for “running toward danger rather than from it.”
“We’ve seen a great deal of heart in New York—a city overwhelmed by grief and sorrow that got up and kept going,” she said.
Clinton said she fully supports President Bush’s military actions in responding to the crisis.
“When the country is attacked, we need to defend ourselves and our political differences need to be subordinate,” she said.
But Clinton said she feels that while we now “face a level of insecurity and danger we never faced before in our lives,” the problem of terrorism cannot be solved by military force alone.
She cautioned against American withdrawal from Afghanistan as soon as military goals have been reached.
“The United States needs to take a leadership role in the stabilization of the country,” she said.
Shifting her focus to domestic policy, Clinton said Americans cannot only worry about national security at the expense of “economic, educational and environmental security.”
She argued for new investments in child development, family planning, education and health care.
“We need to create conditions that give children a better chance at life,” she said.
Clinton saved her harshest criticism for President Bush’s tax policy, saying that in light of the costs of the war on terrorism, she thinks “it does not make sense” to go ahead with tax cuts that were passed before Sept. 11.
Clinton said she believes the devastation of the terrorist attacks left Americans with a greater sense of responsibility as citizens of a democracy.
She concluded by acknowledging that although political change takes a long time to occur, involvement in the political process can still be very rewarding.
“Half the joy is being in it and seeing how much you can contribute,” she said.
The audience generally responded positively to Clinton’s speech, frequently applauding and giving her a standing ovation when she finished.
“I thought Hillary was geniune, intellectual, and thoughtful,” said Sonia H. Kastner ’03, president of the Harvard College Democrats. “I liked that she encouraged public service and campaigining.”
“Today being six months since Sept. 11, it was a pretty solemn day and I think she captured that really well in her speech,” said Adam S. Levine ’05.
—Staff writer Anat Maytal can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.