As the crowd jammed into the Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts on Wednesday, eight lines of ticket holders moved through security checkpoints and into the lobby, where students, faculty, and staff were thronging.
Inside the main floor of the theater, television cameras lined the back of the venue amid the growing hum of the crowd awaiting the start of the keynote address for The Edmund Fusco Contemporary Issues Forum that would be delivered by former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.
At the first mention of her name by UConn President Susan Herbst, the audience exploded with applause, surpassed moments later when the former First Lady and U.S. Senator from New York walked to the center of the stage.
Before she entered the Jorgensen Center, Kelsey Barringham ’13 (CLAS) said she was hoping to hear Clinton talk about moving the nation in a new direction.
“As former Secretary of State and someone who may have an impact on policies in the future, I’d like to see what direction she thinks the country is going in and what changes she sees coming on the major issues,” said Barringham, who is pursuing an MSW with a certificate in nonprofit management at the UConn School of Social Work in West Hartford.
Standing in the lobby with friends, Sarah Moessner ’16 (CLAS), a second year political science student, said: “I expect to hear a lot about her experiences as a senator and as Secretary of State. I don’t expect to hear too much about her running for office in 2016 because it’s not official.”
During an hour of lecture remarks followed by answering questions submitted by the University community, Clinton drew applause and laughter as she expressed her thoughts on national and global issues, reminisced about her 40 years of public life, and voiced her hopes for the future.
Answering a question about what it’s like in the White House when a decision needs to be made on intervening in a critical situation, Clinton described the events leading up to President Barack Obama’s decision to order the attack on the suspected hiding place of Osama bin Laden in the mountains of Pakistan.
“It was an incredible experience,” Clinton said to the rapt audience. “The President took a day to decide. In the Situation Room a small group of us were watching a video feed. We couldn’t see inside the compound. We’re sitting there seeing one of the helicopters clip the wall and go down. It was a horrifying moment. But because of contingency planning, other helicopters could go in. Then we got the word Bin Laden had been killed. For me, it was justice being done. It was something I thought people in the country had the right to expect. … I was very proud to be part of the team in the Situation Room.”
After noting the Huskies’ dual NCAA Championships won by the men’s and women’s basketball teams earlier this month, Clinton said it is important for citizens to help address the nation’s challenges by participating in the democratic process. “Citizenship is a team sport. We can’t afford to leave anyone sitting on the bench. Everyone has to participate.”
She drew loud applause later in answering a question about the harsh partisanship at play in the nation’s capital that stalls legislative action and continues to divide voters.
“Don’t support the non-compromising people,” she said to applause. “Look for candidates that support your beliefs but are mature enough to listen [to each other].”
As she was leaving Jorgensen, Barringham said Clinton’s remarks met her expectations.
“I liked a lot of what she had to say, especially what she said about making sure there are opportunities open for us young people entering the job market,” she said. “I completely agree with what she said about not supporting people who don’t support compromise. I think that is a missing part of the dialog. It’s incredibly important while moving forward that we are able to sit down and have those conversations.
“It’s about time we see some change.”