Friday, April 22, 2016

Hillary Rodham on the possible and the impossible

Hillary Clinton, then Rodham, graduating senior, in her Wellesley College commencement speech, May 31, 1969:

[W]e feel that for too long our leaders have viewed politics as the art of the possible. And the challenge now is to practice politics as the art of making what appears to be impossible, possible.
That’s why I voted for Bernie Sanders.

This passage is widely quoted, appearing, for instance, in a biography. Clinton quoted from the passage in her 1992 Wellesley commencement address.

[The text of the speech on Wellesley’s website appears to have the passage wrong: “we feel that for too long our leaders have used politics as the art of making what appears to be impossible, possible.” Perhaps a line was dropped in transcription? The sentence reads as nonsense, unless “making what appears to be impossible, possible” means something like “making possible what ought to be unthinkable.” Increasing economic disparity, the influence of corporate money in politics: those might be two examples of what ought to be unthinkable. That’s why I voted for Bernie Sanders.]


June 21: Audio excerpts made available by Wellesley College confirm the sentences as I’ve quoted them here. (I’ve made one correction: “viewed politics,” not “used politics.”) The mistaken transcription on Wellesley’s website has been corrected.

comments: 2

john widdicombe said...

A word ready for a renaissance


Mugwumps were Republicans who supported Democratic presidential candidate Grover Cleveland in 1884 because they viewed their own party’s candidate, James G. Blaine, as corrupt. Many historians believe the Mugwumps swung the election to Cleveland by helping him win in New York and its 36 electoral votes.

After the election, the term came to mean someone who is independent or who remains undecided or neutral in politics.

Michael Quinion: “It hit the big time in 1884, during the presidential election that set Grover Cleveland against the Republican James G Blaine. Some Republicans refused to support Blaine, changed sides, and the New York Sun labeled them little mugwumps. Almost overnight, the sense of the word changed to turncoat. Later, it came to mean a politician who either could not or would not make up his mind on some important issue, or who refused to take a stand when he was expected to do so. Hence the old joke that a mugwump is a person sitting on the fence, with his mug on one side and his wump on the other.”

Michael Leddy said...

Thanks, John. Your comment reinforces my sense that intelligent and useful commentary on current events might sometimes best be found away from major media outlets. I haven’t heard a word of this history on CNN or MSNBC.