- REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
Bill Clinton created a very personal portrait of his wife, Hillary, who earlier was officially chosen to be the Democratic presidential nominee, when he spoke at the party’s convention Tuesday night.
He talked of meeting Hillary and courting her when they were both in law school at Yale University.
“The first time I saw her, we were, appropriately enough, in a class on political and civil rights,” he told an audience at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. “She exuded this sense of strength and self-possession that I found magnetic.”
Bill couldn’t manage to work up the nerve to introduce himself, he said, and one day Hillary caught him staring at her in the library.
“She said, ‘Look, if you’re going to keep staring at me, and now I’m staring back, we at least ought to know each other’s names. I’m Hillary Rodham, who are you?'” Bill recounted. “I was so impressed and surprised that, would you believe it or not, momentarily, I was speechless.”
He reminisced about taking long walks with her and meeting her family. He remembered the flowery skirt she was wearing when he saw her again after that meeting in the library. And he explained how it took some convincing for Hillary to marry him because she was so ambitious with her career.
“I had married my best friend,” Bill said. “I was still in awe after more than four years of being around her at how smart and strong and loving and caring she was, and I really hoped that her choosing me and rejecting my advice to pursue her own career was a decision she would never regret.”
Bill also characterized Hillary as a change agent.
“This is a really important point to take out of this convention,” he said. “If you believe in making change from the bottom up … you know, it’s hard, and some people think it’s boring. Speeches like this are fun. Actually doing the work is hard.”
Hillary is often criticized for being a “career politician” at a time when many Americans are rejecting the political establishment. The rise of Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who challenged Hillary for the Democratic nomination, and of this year’s Republican nominee, Donald Trump, are evidence of voters’ desire to see an unconventional leader in the White House.
But Bill tried to make the case that Hillary had always pushed for change in her political career and that she had a track record of accomplishments.
“I hear people say, ‘We need a change – she’s been around a long time.’ She has,” Bill said. “But she’s been worth every single year she’s put into making people’s lives better.”
He continued: “I can tell you this. If you were sitting where I’m sitting and you heard what I have heard at every dinner conversation, every lunch conversation, every long walk, you would say that this woman had never been satisfied with the status quo on anything. She has always wanted to move the ball forward. That is just who she is.”
Bill also characterized her as “insatiably curious,” a “natural leader,” a “good organizer,” and “the best darn change-maker” he had ever seen.
He then contrasted the message of the Democratic convention – which has been overwhelmingly positive and optimistic – with the anti-Hillary caricature that was amplified at the Republican convention, which was held last week in Cleveland.
“How does this square with the things that you heard at the Republican convention?” he asked. “One is real – the other is made up … We just have to decide which is which, my fellow Americans.”