The University Record, May 10, 1993

Hillary Clinton: U-M’s reputation for excellence goes far beyond state borders

By Mary Jo Frank

Excellence is not found in any single moment in our lives. It is not about those who shine always in the sun or those who fail to succeed in the darkness of human error or mistake. It is not about who is up or down today or this week. It is about who we are, what we believe in, what we do with every day of our lives.

Hillary Rodham Clinton, May 1, 1993

Individuals, institutions and even nations can strive for excellence, first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton told graduates of the class of 1993.

Speaking to a warm and receptive crowd under sunny skies in Michigan Stadium May 1, Clinton said that U-M is steeped in tradition and its reputation for excellence goes far beyond state borders.

“I’ve always thought of Michigan as one of those institutions whose commitment to academic excellence and to public service certainly made it stand out above so many others,” said Clinton, the first first lady to speak at a U-M commencement.

Recalling her own idealism when she graduated from Wellesley College 24 years ago, Clinton told the graduates, “I want to be idealistic. I want to care about the world. I want to be connected to other people and I hope that you will as well.”

The United States faces obstacles today—just as it did when she graduated—Clinton noted, citing nuclear proliferation, starvation, political instability and ethnic hatred.

“At home we watch our cities crumbling under the dual assault of drugs and guns that create a level of violence that is unacceptable. It is not any longer possible for us to postpone confronting what we are doing to our children in these cities where they can not even leave their homes in safety to walk to school.”

She predicted that like previous generations, the graduates will look for a balance of work, family and service, a balance between their rights as individuals and responsibilities to family, community and country.

Clinton called on the graduates and their families and friends to become involved in “two great issues on the horizon where you can make a contribution”—national service and health care.

Her husband’s proposal for a domestic peace corps, whereby young people can help pay for college through community service, Clinton said, will allow young people to help themselves by helping others.

Leader of the task force working on a new national health care plan, Clinton predicted that if the nation fails to deal with the health care crisis, “we won’t be able to put our country on a firm and stable footing for the future.”

“At the root of our economic and human challenge lies the fact that although we are the richest country in the world, we spend more money and take care of fewer people than many countries that are not as rich as we [are] when it comes to health care,” she said.

If the nation does nothing, the money we now spend on health care, which is 14 percent of all goods and services produced in the United States, will rise by the year 2,000 to more than 18 percent—or almost $1 out of every $5 Americans earn. The problem can’t be ignored, Clinton said.

She called on the graduates to make a contribution.

“Be involved. Make your voice heard. Embrace the challenges and don’t lose heart when the buzzer sounds because there will always be ways for you to demonstrate your excellence if you don’t give up. It is the same for your country.”