NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) - 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.
None of the 10 honorary degree recipients spoke during the
morning ceremony held for the university at large, where Yale
handed out 2,868 undergraduate and graduate degrees. It was the
school's 308th commencement ceremony.
Clinton did speak for about five minutes during the Yale Law
School's separate commencement event held in the early afternoon.
There, the 60-year-old Clinton reminisced about her days at Yale,
saying the law 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
She expressed hope that every graduate would "use every
creative gene you have" in order to work "on behalf of the public
Clinton drew laughs from the crowd when she jokingly apologized
for taking Yale Law School Dean Harold Hongju 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.
In a nod to the rough job market, Clinton also urged the new law
school graduates to apply for work in the Obama administration, at
the State Department and with the United States Agency for
Koh said after the law school ceremony he hoped his students
learned from Clinton "what is possible to achieve in one
"Everyone who got the honorary degrees were in these seats not
that long ago," Koh said. "And you know, what they know is, they
could be a mother, a lawyer and U.S. senator, Secretary of State,
presidential candidate. There's no limit. That's what they should
think. There's no limit to what they can do."
Actress and activist Mia Farrow was among the parents in the
audience who heard Clinton speak. Ronan, Farrow's 21-year-old son
with director Woody Allen, completed a law degree and is currently
going through the security clearance process to work in the Obama
administration, she said.
"It was inspiring and wonderful to have a son graduating. And
to hear those words (from Clinton) and to see a path, a clear path
ahead. He's joining government and this is a proud day for all the
parents here," she said.
Erin Phillips, 24, is headed to Boston to clerk for a federal
district court judge, and was also inspired by Clinton's visit.
"We heard some rumors last night that she was coming. I was
really excited," Phillips said after the ceremony. "I think it
meant a lot and I think everyone has been kind of uniformly
thrilled about it. It was a nice surprise."
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, Nobel Prize-winning economist Thomas
Schelling and Pulitzer Prize-winning writer John McPhee were among
the others receiving honorary degrees from the university Monday.
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