Bill Clinton’s Speech Transcript at DNC


July 26, 2016 9PHILADELPHIA) Thank you!

(APPLAUSE)

Thank you!

(APPLAUSE)

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

(APPLAUSE)

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

In the spring of 1971 I met a girl.

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

The first time I saw her we were, appropriately enough, in a class on political and civil rights. She had thick blond hair, big glasses, wore no makeup, and she had a sense of strength and self- possession that I found magnetic. After the class I followed her out, intending to introduce myself. I got close enough to touch her back, but I couldn’t do it. Somehow I knew this would not be just another tap on the shoulder, that I might be starting something I couldn’t stop.

And I saw her several more times in the next few days, but I still didn’t speak to her. Then one night I was in the law library talking to a classmate who wanted me to join the Yale Law Journal. He said it would guarantee me a job in a big firm or a clerkship with a federal judge. I really wasn’t interested, I just wanted to go home to Arkansas.

(APPLAUSE)

Then I saw the girl again, standing at the opposite end of that long room. Finally she was staring back at me, so I watched her. She closed her book, put it down and started walking toward me. She walked the whole length of the library, came up to me and said, look, if you’re going to keep staring at me…

CLINTON: …and now I’m staring back, we at least ought to know each other’s name. I’m Hillary Rodham, who are you?

(APPLAUSE)

I was so impressed and surprised that, whether you believe it or not, momentarily I was speechless.

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

Finally, I sort of blurted out my name and we exchanged a few words and then she went away.

Well, I didn’t join the Law Review, but I did leave that library with a whole new goal in mind.

(LAUGHTER)

A couple of days later, I saw her again. I remember, she was wearing a long, white, flowery skirt. And I went up to her and she said she was going to register for classes for the next term. And I said I’d go, too. And we stood in line and talked — you had to do that to register back then — and I thought I was doing pretty well until we got to the front of the line and the registrar looked up and said, Bill, what are you doing here, you registered morning?

(LAUGHTER)

I turned red and she laughed that big laugh of hers. And I thought, well, heck, since my cover’s been blown I just went ahead and asked her to take a walk down to the art museum.

We’ve been walking and talking and laughing together ever since.

(APPLAUSE)

And we’ve done it in good times and bad, through joy and heartbreak. We cried together this morning on the news that our good friend and a lot of your good friend, Mark Weiner, passed away early this morning.

We’ve built up a lifetime of memories. After the first month and that first walk, I actually drove her home to Park Ridge, Illinois…

(APPLAUSE)

…to meet her family and see the town where she grew up, a perfect example of post World War II middle-class America, street after street of nice houses, great schools, good parks, a big public swimming pool, and almost all white.

I really liked her family. Her crusty, conservative father, her rambunctious brothers, all extolling the virtues of rooting for the Bears and the Cuba.

(APPLAUSE)

And for the people from Illinois here, they even told me what “waiting for next year” meant.

(LAUGHTER)

It could be next year, guys.

Now, her mother was different. She was more liberal than the boys. And she had a childhood that made mine look like a piece of cake. She was easy to underestimate with her soft manner and she reminded me all over again of the truth of that old saying you should never judge a book by its covers. Knowing her was one of the greatest gifts Hillary ever gave me.

(APPLAUSE)

I learned that Hillary got her introduction to social justice through her Methodist youth minister, Don Jones. He took her downtown to Chicago to hear Dr. Martin Luther King speak and he remained her friend for the rest of his life. This will be the only campaign of hers he ever missed.

When she got to college, her support for civil rights, her opposition to the Vietnam War compelled her to change party, to become a Democrat.

(APPLAUSE)

And then between college and law school on a total lark she went alone to Alaska and spent some time sliming fish.

(APPLAUSE)

More to the point, by the time I met her she had already been involved in the law school’s legal services project and she had been influenced by Marian Wright Edelman.

(APPLAUSE)

She took a summer internship interviewing workers in migrant camps for Senator Walter Mondale’s subcommittee.

(APPLAUSE)

She had also begun working in the Yale New Haven Hospital to develop procedures to handle suspected child abuse cases. She got so involved in children’s issues that she actually took an extra year in law school working at the child studies center to learn what more could be done to improve the lives and the futures of poor children.

(APPLAUSE)

So she was already determined to figure out how to make things better.

Hillary opened my eyes to a whole new world of public service by private citizens. In the summer of 1972, she went to Dothan, Alabama to visit one of those segregated academies that then enrolled over half-a-million white kids in the South. The only way the economics worked is if they claimed federal tax exemptions to which they were not legally entitled. She got sent to prove they weren’t.

So she sauntered into one of these academies all by herself, pretending to be a housewife that had just moved to town and needed to find a school for her son. And they exchanged pleasantries and finally she said, look, let’s just get to the bottom line here, if I enroll my son in this school will he be in a segregated school, yes or know? And the guy said absolutely. She had him!

(LAUGHTER)

I’ve seen it a thousand times since. And she went back and her encounter was part of a report that gave Marian Marian Wright Edelman the ammunition she needed to keep working to force the Nixon administration to take those tax exemptions away and give our kids access to an equal education.

(APPLAUSE)

Then she went down to south Texas where she met…

(APPLAUSE)

…she met one of the nicest fellows I ever met, the wonderful union leader Franklin Garcia, and he helped her register Mexican- American voters. I think some of them are still around to vote for her in 2016.

(APPLAUSE)

Then in our last year in law school, Hillary kept up this work. She went to South Carolina to see why so many young…

(APPLAUSE)

…she went to South Carolina to see why so many young African- American boys, I mean, young teenagers, were being jailed for years with adults in men’s prisons. And she filed a report on that, which led to some changes, too. Always making things better. (APPLAUSE)

Now, meanwhile, let’s get back to business. I was trying to convince her to marry me.

(LAUGHTER)

I first proposed to her on a trip to Great Britain, the first time she had been overseas. And we were on the shoreline of this wonderful little lake, Lake Ennerdale. I asked her to marry me and she said I can’t do it.

(LAUGHTER)

So in 1974 I went home to teach in the law school and Hillary moved to Massachusetts…

(APPLAUSE)

…to keep working on children’s issues. This time trying to figure out why so many kids counted in the Census weren’t enrolled in school. She found one of them sitting alone on her porch in a wheelchair. Once more, she filed a report about these kids, and that helped influence ultimately the Congress to adopt the proposition that children with disabilities, physical or otherwise, should have equal access to public education.

(APPLAUSE)

You saw the results of that last night when Anastasia Somoza talked.

(APPLAUSE)

She never made fun of people with disabilities; she tried to empower them based on their abilities.

(APPLAUSE)

Meanwhile, I was still trying to get her to marry me.

(LAUGHTER)

So the second time I tried a different tack. I said I really want you to marry me, but you shouldn’t do it.

(LAUGHTER)

And she smiled and looked at me, like, what is this boy up to? She said that is not a very good sales pitch. I said I know, but it’s true. And I meant it, it was true.

I said I know most of the young Democrats our age who want to go into politics, they mean well and they speak well, but none of them is as good as you are at actually doing things to make positive changes in people’s lives. (APPLAUSE)

So I suggested she go home to Illinois or move to New York and look for a chance to run for office. She just laughed and said, are you out of you mind, nobody would ever vote for me.

(LAUGHTER)

So I finally got her to visit me in Arkansas.

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