In Turmoil of '68, Clinton Found a New Voice

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In September 1968, Hillary Diane Rodham, role model and student government president, was addressing Wellesley College freshmen girls — back when they were still called “girls” — about methods of protest. It was a hot topic in that overheated year of what she termed “confrontation politics from Chicago to Czechoslovakia.”

“Dynamism is a function of change,” Ms. Rodham said in her speech. “On some campuses, change is effected through nonviolent or even violent means. Although we too have had our demonstrations, change here is usually a product of discussion in the decision-making process.”

Her handwritten remarks — on file in the Wellesley archives — abound with abbreviations, crossed-out sentences and scrawled reinsertions, as if composed in a hurry. Yet Ms. Rodham’s words are neatly contained between tight margins. She took care to stay within the lines, even when they were moving so far and fast in 1968. While student leaders at some campuses went to the barricades, Ms. Rodham was attending teach-ins, leading panel discussions and joining steering committees. She preferred her “confrontation politics” cooler.

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