Hillary delivered her Luskin Lecture at UCLA this afternoon and was awarded the UCLA Medal, their highest honor. The front of the medal has the UCLA seal with a banner of the school’s motto: “Let there be light.” The back has a picture of Royce Hall, the venue where this event took place, as presenter, university Chancellor and CEO Gene Block explained.
She began her address with an anecdote telling the audience that when she and Bill Clinton were younger they were in LA and visited Campbell’s bookstore where they purchased a few botanical prints which have made the rounds with them and now are in their Chappaqua home. She said every time she looks at them she thinks of UCLA.
Moving on, and before getting to the main messages of her lecture, she took a few moments to speak about the situation in Ukraine and clarify previous remarks and actions. Voicing support for President Obama’s position, she stated unequivocally that Putin has violated international law. She called on all parties to work toward reconciliation and support for all Ukrainian citizens.
Calling Putin a “tough guy with thin skin” whose vision of a greater Russia is a re-Sovietized Russia, she said he is squandering Russia’s potential. She encouraged her fellow Americans to recognize the complexity of the situation and support diplomacy as we all seek a path toward deescalation.
Then she launched into her lecture proper which concerned the dilemma of ensuring college graduates find jobs after graduation. Saying that one-third in the 16-24 age group is out of both work and school she told the audience that a generation is being deprived of rights and opportunities that earlier generations took for granted.
Recounting her personal experiences with her first job at 13 which, she said, gave her a sense of responsibility and moving on to her law school job with the Children’s Defense Fund, she stressed the personal skills that develop from a first paid job. While internships can be valuable, she stated that unpaid internships need to give way to on-the-job training and that industries need to move interns into positions of paid employment.
Recalling some of her experiences as secretary of state, she told her audience that in countries where young people cannot find employment the economies also suffer, but she also stressed that government alone cannot solve this problem and explained how the Clinton Foundation is working on programs that bring young people into the work force. She also pointed out the importance of training people for the jobs that are actually there and cited a Clinton Global Initiative effort that aims to draw talent into the burgeoning healthcare industry.
Calling for workforce training and cooperation, she reiterated her support for compromise and an end to policy-making in evidence-free zones. She closed her prepared remarks with a call for her audience to bring the light from UCLA with them when they graduate.
The Q&A session began with more questions about the Ukraine situation. Specifically the question was whether leaders who do not stand up to Putin will face the same kind of disapproval as those who did not stand up to Hitler. Hillary said there is not one right way to respond. Clarifying her remarks from yesterday regarding Germany’s 1938 claims of protecting German minorities outside its borders, she stated that she was not making a comparison between Hitler and Putin but rather adding perspective.
She went to to specify that when the USSR dissolved there was a commitment to leave European borders alone, and that while there was an agreement to maintain the Black Sea Fleet in place, it was clear that the location was within Ukrainian borders. The commitment, she went on, was violated with Russia’s 2008 invasion of Georgia where Russian-seized territories have not been relinquished. She called Germany key in resolving the crisis due to its fuel dependence on Russia and the path delicate.
Asked about the effectiveness of her 2009 “reset” with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, she specifed that there were clear objectives, accomplishing the New START Treaty and achieving rights of transit that were indeed met by that reset and that progress made with Medvedev was primarily with regard to those goals.
Questions then turned to elections – presidential elections particularly – and the likelihood of a woman president. Hillary pointed out that many countries have preceded the U.S. down this path but also pointed out that the hardest, highest glass ceiling is somewhat easier to crack in parliamentary democracies where the head of state is not the head of government and allowed that the diminishing of resistance to the idea of a woman president is a sign of progress.
A follow-up question addressed the nomination process. Hillary said the hybrid process works differently for different people and did not predict any changes there.
On the issue of the Affordable Care Act, she took a two-pronged approach saying people need to appreciate what has been accomplished and that perhaps things need to be better explained citing parents’ ability to keep adult children on their plans to age 26, emphasis on preventive care, ending preexisting condition discrimination, a new transparency on disparities in cost for services and medications, and the inclusiveness of Medicaid expansion where it has been implemented. Challenges to ACA, she said were ideological, political, and commercial.
In response to a question about her evolution on marriage equality she gave credit to Chelsea saying her activism was greatly responsible for enlightening her view but did remind her audience that very early in her tenure as secretary of state she extended spousal benefits to partners of Foreign Service officers (we should not forget that, either). She told the audience that much of the world is far behind the U.S and Europe on this issue. Many world leaders deny that there are any LGBT people in their countries and gay people are persecuted in many nations.
The final question was what can liberal arts graduates do to change the world. Hillary encourage them to pursue exposure to all that is available to them, believe that they can effect change, and, as her hero Eleanor Roosevelt said, “grow skin like a rhinoceros.”
She advised them to take criticism seriously but not personally and to attend to the source. She told the women that there is still a double standard that will manifest itself in comments about appearance. She advised them to learn how they want to present themselves and to be persistent.
Closing with advice from her own mom (one of my favorite people), she quoted Dorothy Howell Rodham telling her that you can be a bit walk-on in someone else’s play or you can be a star in your own. Great advice for young people!