Late last night, when the house finally fell quiet, I listened to Hillary Clinton's speech. In the middle of listening, my husband recommended we press pause on Hillary 2016 and switch over to another broadcast: Hillary 1969.
What happened next shouldn't surprise anyone. Of course the student sounds different from the politician. But I wasn't prepared for how different.
Of course I don't expect a presidential candidate to sound like a newly graduated WASP hippie-llectual.
But the different in tone and style is astounding.
In 1969, she speaks fluidly. Her speech is a straight view into her mind. She sounds comfortable at the mic, as if she were born on a podium and was capable of living authentically there.
In 2016, she speaks in blocks. Each one is a weight. She must carry. For the American people. She does not say anything interesting, and she does not say anything interestingly. This is her mask.
Hillary has a reputation as a poor orator, but she was gifted in 1969. She was precise, sincere, confident, and it could be thrilling to listen for how her thinking would turn as she spoke.
How many Americans would have voted for a woman like that to be their president?
This is no diss on Hillary. (My vote will be for her in November.) This is maybe a reflection of the effects of political life on a brilliant young woman between the years 1969 and 2016 in America.
UPDATE: Before I wrote this, I hadn't seen this NPR story from yesterday that puts Hillary's 1969 speech in context. It's even more of a contrast than I knew.
The remarks you hear on that partial recording above are in part extemporaneous, in reaction to the commencement speaker, an African American senator who told the students to be grateful for the progress already made and not to push too hard with more protests.
Hillary responded by saying, off the cuff, that the protests were the young generation's attempt to transform politics from "the art of the possible, to the art of making the impossible, possible."
Her speech made national news. The New York Times quoted Hillary as saying that young people were "searching for a more immediate, ecstatic, and penetrating mode of living."
"Every protest, every dissent, whether it's an individual academic paper or a parking-lot demonstration, is unabashedly an attempt to forge an identity in this particular age," she said.
Wow. Again, it's not just what she says. It's how she says it.