Hillary Clinton’s law school days set her course to the White House

I am privy to three stories about Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonMark Cuban says he's decided not to run for president Trump official criticizes ex-Clinton spokesman over defunding police tweet Poll: Biden leads Trump, Cunningham neck and neck with Tillis in North Carolina MORE. They’re not secrets, but not everyone knows them. I believe the time has come to share them.

Probably the most important one is this. Some years ago I was visiting with friends on the Yale Law School faculty who had taught both Hillary Clinton and Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonDavis: 72 hours cementing the real choice for November Top Democratic pollster advised Biden campaign to pick Warren as VP How Obama just endorsed Trump MORE. I asked the professors what the two of them were like as students. In most law school classes, students argue issues all the time, and at Yale they are as likely to involve policy as straight law. As a result, law school there is almost a three-year seminar on what government should be doing. The Clinton’s former teachers said both Hillary and Bill were super smart, but Bill was willing to argue any side of a position and say anything. 

Hillary Clinton, according to the professor, was nothing like that. Over three years, she would argue her point and stick to it. I think that’s important for people to know, because her enemies keep accusing her of being willing to say anything expedient.

The second story also is telling about her character. A friend of mine is politically well-connected and was appointed an ambassador by President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaThe Hill's 12:30 Report: NYT publishes controversial Tom Cotton op-ed The millions of young people forgotten amid pandemic response Poll: Biden leads Trump, Cunningham neck and neck with Tillis in North Carolina MORE. Some career civil servants in the embassy didn’t get along with the ambassador and complained to the State Department. Secretary of State Clinton took the side of the career staff over my friend, the big donor and fundraiser, and the ambassador was out. I like my friend, but the incident convinced me that what Hillary Clinton’s enemies say is just not true. Political expediency is not driving her.

The last story is the most poignant to me. On another of my visits to Yale Law, some months before Hillary Clinton announced her decision to run, I heard her give a speech to fellow alumni and students. Like many people would do on an occasion like that, she talked about how Yale Law had influenced her and her life. She explained that working for families, children and women has been a consistent theme. It’s what she stands for and has worked for, at every stage of her life.

What really struck me was when she talked about which teachers had influenced her the most. I knew those people, my own teachers, who taught family law at Yale, and who ran the well-known Yale Child Study Center treating children and families, where Hillary volunteered as a student.

Everyone has heard of Hillary’s work for the Children’s Defense Fund, and how she stood up for women’s rights as Secretary of State, but not everyone knows the roots of her commitment: in her law student days.

Hearing her talk in a very personal way about her teachers, people I knew, sold me on her authenticity. Her detractors who claim she has no positive message, no theme, just haven’t been listening to her. It’s really her constant message – working for families, women and children. And these incidents made it very personal for me.

Maybe you had to be there. I wish you could have been.

Levine is a professor of law at the University of Southern California. He was the founder of the Western Center on Law and Poverty and the National Senior Citizens Law Center. He is a Yale Law School Graduate and a psychoanalyst. 


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