Hillary Clinton surprises Yale grads

May 25, 2009 12:19:21 PM PDT
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton made a surprise return to her alma mater on Monday, picking up an honorary degree from Yale University 36 years after earning her law degree from the Ivy League school. Graduates celebrating commencement at Yale erupted in cheers as Clinton was introduced. In keeping with Yale tradition, the names of honorary degree recipients are a closely held secret, although word began trickling out Sunday of Clinton's participation.

Clinton, 60, spoke for about five minutes at the law school graduation ceremony and reminisced about her days at Yale, saying the school was an "encampment for protests and frivolity" when she arrived in the fall of 1969.

She met her future husband, Bill Clinton, at the school the following year, 22 years before he was elected the nation's 42nd president.

She expressed hope that every graduate would "use every creative gene you have" in order to work "on behalf of the public good."

Clinton drew laughs from the crowd when she jokingly apologized for taking Yale Law School Dean Harold Koh "away from the law school and putting him to work in Washington." Koh was nominated by President Barack Obama to be legal adviser to the State Department, and remains a possible nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court.

In a nod to the rough job market, Clinton also urged the new graduates to apply for work in the Obama administration and the State Department.

Clinton was last in New Haven in 2008, when she visited Yale the day before the Connecticut presidential primary and her own failed presidential bid. She then fondly recalled her days attending Yale Law School and her early career as a child advocate at the Yale Child Study Center.

She spoke to Yale graduates once before, in 1991 when she gave the traditional Class Day speech, which is the major address to graduating seniors held the day before commencement. This year's Class Day address was delivered Sunday by author Christopher Buckley, a 1975 Yale graduate.

Sculptor Richard Serra and Pulitzer Prize-winning writer John McPhee were among the others receiving honorary degrees from the university Monday.


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