May 17, 1993

Thank you. Thank you very much. It is indeed an honor for
me to be part of this celebratory commencement at one of the
premier and oldest institutions of education in our country. I
want to thank President Hackney, the regents, the other honorary
degree recipients, faculty, alumni, family members, citizens but
most of all those of you who graduate this year from the end of
your various degree programs whom I had the privilege to watch
march by me just 15 minutes ago. I wish everyone in this stadium
and indeed everyone in this great city could have stood there
with us and watched not only the faces of individuals, many of
you look like you've been celebrating already, but the diversity,
the excitement, the hopefulness, the enthusiasm and the sense of
moving forward into a future that none of us can predict but for
which each of you has been well prepared.

Commencements are a time to stop and think about the past,
to celebrate this present moment and to look forward into the
future. There is no way that any commencement speaker at any
campus this spring could stand before you and tell you what will
happen. Not tomorrow, not next year, not for the rest of any of
your lives. But part of the reason commencement speeches have a
certain similarity and familiarity to them is because when one
does stand in front of a group like this, impressed by your
accomplishments and achievements, remembering one's own past, it
is an opportunity to talk about some of the ideals and values
that have withstood the test of time and which can be guiding
principals in lives well lead.

I started my morning on campus here sitting on the park
bench with Benjamin Franklin and I hope each of you has had that
same opportunity. The way that he sits there, in this relaxed
manor, the way he looks at you as you look back at him as though
he were making yet again an important point that needed to be
repeated, gives one a sense of the continuity of time and life
and history in this institution which is very reassuring. And
then when I opened the program for this commencement and saw the
quotation from Benjamin Franklin that I had intended to use as
well, I was struck by how at this moment what he began all those
years ago before we were even a country had special meaning.

Franklin was, as the program says, an advocate of good
citizenship. "We may make these times better if we bestir
ourselves," he wrote. The nobelist question in the world is
"What good may I do in it?" That is the question for this
commencement. That will be, I hope, the question you ask
yourselves as you journey through your life. That journey will
not always be an easy one, it will not always have clear
directions attached to it. As we are here in this magnificent
stadium we can remember the many Penn Relays that have been held
here and think often about the different kinds of events that
take place. And although I am always impressed by everyone of
them, sprints and hurdles and other track and field events, for
me life is not a sprint, it is a marathon. It is something you
prepare for and often you keep going through when times are
tough, when you may even know where you are heading. And one of
the questions to ask yourself is Franklin's. Because often by
asking "what good may I do in it?" you end up giving yourself
that direction and not only doing good but feeling good about

There are many people in this stadium today who are
responsible for your being here. Who believed in their journey,
who believed that as parents and family members they had
responsibilities to you and worked every day, often through hard
times, to try to fulfil them. Because a college degree is a
collective achievement because for every person dressed in black
here in front of me I know there are people in the stands who are
proud and often thinking back to when their checking accounts
looked more red than black as they sacrificed to make this day

And speaking of sacrifice, I just need to get this out of
way. A reporter asked me about my new haircut, I know its been on
all of your minds it is after all, the number one issue. I had a
friend call me from Japan who saw it on CNN. So I told him the
truth, that when the President called for sacrifice and asked
everybody at the White House to get a 25% cut I decided to go for
a 50% cut to do my part.

When I graduated from college in 1969, I too had dreams for
my life and I also hoped to be able as I fulfilled those dreams
to think about what good I might do if I bestirred myself. I
gave a speech at my commencement and I have had an occasion in
the last year to go back and re-read that. I see the idealism, I
see the excitement and I see some of the naivete that marked me
and marked many who are at the beginning of their adulthood. I
know that at twenty-one, I did not fully appreciate the political
and social restraints that one faces in the world. I know that I
assumed that we could overcome a lot of these obstacles that are
still with us, despite the progress we have made. But I am glad
that I felt idealistic at twenty-one because I think it is

important to feel that way and I have tried to maintain that
feeling as I have grown older.

My father, if he were here today, would tell you that the
reason I have changed from being a Goldwater Girl to a Democrat
is because I went to college. Not that he didn't approve of my
going to college, he always believed in education but that I came
out different than what he had sent. Some of you may have had
those conversations with your parents. What is it you learned
and why do you feel that way now? But always during my growing
up years and through college and beyond, what I loved and
respected about my father is that he always took what I believed
and cared about seriously, even when he disagreed very strongly.
And there was always in our home an opportunity for the kind of
discourse, one might say arguments, that mark people who care
deeply and who have ideals. Being twenty-one is a license to be
idealistic and I encourage all of us, no matter what age, to keep
renewing that license because our world needs us to do that.

The sixties were a time of momentous change in our country
but so are the nineties. Our world has changed dramatically from
the days of assassinations, of wars, of riots. But yet, as we
look around us today and we see all of the positive changes that
we have lived with, we know that there is still much to be done
in this, the most powerful nation on earth. Too many people work
too hard without ever getting ahead. The Philadelphia Inquirer,
in its Pulitzer Prize winning series of a year or so ago, in
talking about what has happened to the American Dream, made that
point forcefully. Many of the people in this stadium who have
worked hard for a living have seen the security they thought they
were working for, be endangered because the world around us is
presenting new economic challenges that we have to be prepared to
face. To few of our people today can meet those challenges and
take advantage of our new opportunities.

They have not been prepared, they have not been prepared to
negotiate this new world because in too many cases families are
not offering the kind of stability and structure that builds
skills and confidence in children. And other institutions
including our schools are not setting high expectations and
working hard to assure that children achieve those expectations.
We have to learn how to make change our friend because no one can
repeal the laws of change or tell you it will turn around and be
the way that it once was. So today more than ever, we need to
focus our attention on our children, give them the stability and
structures they need and once again make education the passport
to the American dream that it used to be. Because as we look
around us, we see that there is a lot of work to be done.

We can look at places that are now on our front pages that
we never heard of a few years ago, with names like Bosnia or
Somalia. We can watch the spread of ethnic hatred, nuclear

proliferation, starvation, and the kinds of problems that come
into our living rooms whether we want them or not. And here at
home we watch our cities crumbling under the dual assault of
drugs and guns that create a level of violence that is
unacceptable. Within a few miles from this campus on this
beautiful day we know that there are children whose parents are
afraid to let them play outside. Who cannot faithfully walk to
school. We know there are young people who are beset by
hopelessness and despair. How can we claim to be civilized when
our children can not even leave their homes in safety? How much
longer will we permit those kinds of conditions, in which drugs
and guns determine the quality of life to continue?

Now is a good time for us at this commencement to take a
deep breath and decide how each of us will deal with these
challenges. Because if you do not shape your life, circumstances
will. Like generations of Americans, you will look for the right
balance in your lives. A balance of work, and family and
service. A balance between your rights as individuals and your
responsibilities to yourselves, your families, your communities,
your country and our world. I hope your experience here at this
university will serve as a guide. Here you have met people from
diverse backgrounds. You've had your ideas and beliefs tested
you've had to learn what you're willing to stand for and stand
against. You have been part of a microcosm of the restless and
diverse country we call America. You have seen people from every
kind of background, every religion, every continent on this
earth. You know well that you have had an opportunity to argue
about what you think should happen and you've even had the chance
to argue seemingly contradictory positions. Because if your
college years were anything like mine, you have probably been in
a position to take different positions even more than once in an
evening's discussion, to try out these new ideas and to try out
what your real values and beliefs are.

What we have to do here at this university and in this
country, is to find a way to celebrate our diversity and debate
our differences without fracturing our communities. We must
always uphold the idea of our colleges as incubators of ideas and
havens for free speech and free thought. And our country and our
colleges must also be communities. Communities of learning, not
just book learning but people learning. Where every person's
human dignity is respected. Freedom and respect are not values
that should be in conflict with each other. They are basic
American values that reinforce each other. But, we cannot debate
our differences nor face our mutual challenges unless and until
we respect each other, men and women, young and old, across the
ethnic and racial lines that divide us. I know that you share,
you share the general distress that any acts of hate, hateful
acts, hateful words, hateful incidents that occur too frequently
today in our communities and even on our college campuses. In a

nation founded on the promise of human dignity, our colleges, our
communities, our country should challenge hatred where ever we
find it. But we should listen as well as lecture, confront
problems not people and find ways to work together to promote the
common good. We must be careful not to cross the line between
censoring behavior that we consider unacceptable and censuring,
that's u and o. For the all the injustices in our past and our
present we have to believe that in the free exchange of ideas
justice will prevail over injustice, tolerance over intolerance
and progress over reaction.

And we have seen that in our own history, in the struggles
over civil rights, worker's rights, women's rights, human rights.
We have seen how movements armed only with the power of their
ideas have prevailed over ingrained prejudices and entrenched
injustices. That is why is it always time for a free and open
discussion in every college and every community throughout our
country about how we can live together, bring out the best in
each other, make our diversity a source of strength and not
weakness. We are all in this together and we have to recognize
that because as the President had said, we don't have a person to
waste in this interdependent world in which we live.

Now how do we strike the right balance between individual
rights and responsibility? How do we create a new spirit of
community given all of the problems we are so aware of?
Regrettably the balance between the individual and the community,
between rights and responsibilities has been thrown out of kilter
over the last years. Throughout the 1980's we did hear too much
about individual gain and the ethos of selfishness and greed. We
did not hear enough about how to be a good member of a community,
to define the common good and to repair the social contracts.
And we also found that while prosperity does not trickle down
from the most powerful to the rest of us, all too often
indifference and even intolerance do.

One eloquent description of the inter-connection between
individual identity and the individual's responsibility to
society comes from Vaclav Havel, the playwright who is now the
President of the Czech Republic. He went to prison during the
communist regime in Czechoslovakia because he could neither be
free as an individual nor responsible as a member of a community.
Because the community in which he found himself suppressed
thought, speech, religion and the other rights we cherish, and
undermined individual responsibility and respect among citizens.
Havel wrote to his wife Olga from prison, "Everything meaningful
in life is distinguished by a certain transcendence of individual
human existence beyond the limits of mere self-care toward other
people, toward society, toward the world. Only by looking
outward, by caring for things that in terms of pure survival, you
needn't bother with at all, and by throwing yourself over and
over again into the tumult of the world with the intention of

making your voice count only thus will you really become a

Each of you will be defining the meaning of your own life by
your actions from this day forward just as you have, consciously
or unconsciously, to this point. How you make those decisions
and those turning points as to what you believe in and who you
are, will at the end, sum up the life you have lead. There are
many opportunities and some of you have already seized them.
This campus has an extraordinary number of people who have
committed themselves to public service while they are here. This
country is about to be committed to national service because it
is time for us to once again create opportunities for all people,
but particularly young people, to be of service. Just as in my
generation, with the help of people like Senator Wofford,
President Kennedy challenged young people to be of service to the
country and the world, today we have a new call to
responsibility. A domestic peace corp that will help young
people pay for college or job training by performing community
service, helping children learn to read and write, working in
hospitals, helping the homeless, cleaning up the environment,
helping yourselves, finding meaning by helping others.

There is also a great opportunity that some of you are
already seizing. Because of part of my husband's, "Summer of
Service," proposal, a grant has already been awarded to a program
here in Philadelphia, "Immunize Children At Early Risk, I Care".
It will put 150 college age students from throughout Philadelphia
to work this summer. They will immunize more than 5,000
children, they will earn money for college, they will make a
contribution to the community and I would argue they will have an
opportunity to find some meaning in their lives that teaches them
about who they are. When they come home from this immunization
effort and look into their mirrors they will see people who have
been changed by that experience.

We also have a great opportunity as a country to face a
problem that is not only one of finance and delivery systems and
buzz words like that but which challenges really, again, who we
are as a people. And that is the challenge of health care. The
first medical school in our country started at the University of
Pennsylvania. The issue of health care bounded onto the national
agenda because of the election of Harris Wofford. And it is time
now as a nation to recognize that we have a chance to provide
health care to all of our people and to do so in a more
economical and humane way than we have up until now. I have
traveled all over this country and I can tell you, based on
personal experience that antidote after antidote, that although
we are the richest country in the world and we have the best of
medical care available in the world we spend more money on health
care and take care of fewer people than our competitors who provide
health care to all of the people and have better outcomes
for the money that they spend on it. What we have instead is a
patch work non-system. People who are employed but without
insurance, people who have pre-existing conditions and can not
get insurance, people who thought that they were part of an
employment contract and would always have their health care being
taken care of who are now watching that be stripped away through
lay-offs and other kinds of changes. Most people in this country
who are uninsured get up every day and go to work. They would be
a lot better off when it comes to health care if they went on
welfare. What kind of signal does it send to the 37 million
uninsured Americans, 82% who work or who are in the families of
workers, to be able to say that? What kind of responsibility
does that imply?

Health care is an important issue also for the economy. As
all of these Wharton graduates will soon discover first hand, if
they have not already in their work experience, we have given
away competitive advantage after competitive advantage because
our major companies pay more in health care benefits every single
year in a system that is out of control. The expense of that
health care makes too many products more expensive than the
competition. We in effect say to our manufacturers," tie both
arms behind you then get out in the world and compete and make
jobs for Americans." Unless we do something now, by the year
2000 almost one out of every five dollars that you will earn will
be spent on health care. And that will be spent without insuring
one more American, providing better health care in any rural
communities or any inner city. We need to make some solemn
commitments and change in the direction of insuring that every
American will be secure. If you change jobs or if lose your job
you will still be insured. If you get sick or if you have a pre-
existing condition you will still be insured. If you are an
older American and need help with prescription drugs and a start
on long term care, particularly in your home, you will be
insured. If you are a physician, or a nurse, or a pharmacist or
a dentist, you will no longer spend 20-40% of your time and
income filling out countless, meaningless forms. If you are an
employer who has been struggling to maintain health insurance
benefits for your employees you will see that cost stabilize and
decrease over time.

This health care issues is not just an issue of economics,
although it is that. It is a human issue, it is a social issue
and it goes to the very root of who we are as a people. Can we
take care of ourselves and be more responsible about our health,
can we take better care of our families, can we have a healthier
country? I'm betting that the answer to all those is, yes.
Because I'm betting that in these very exciting and challenging
times, as we move toward a sense of community and define the
common good in terms that include us all but set standards by
which to judge our progress together, that there will be contributions
from all of us that will meet the challenges we face.

And for each of you, I think you are living in very exciting
times and I hope that as you go forth from this university you do
so with the kind of high spirits and enthusiasm I saw today. And
that you understand that this marathon we all run for, which none
of us knows where the end will be, cannot only be an exhilarating
experience, but it can be one that leads to meaning in a
challenging time for us as individuals and for us as a people.
Thank you all. And Godspeed.