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Convention Speaker: First Lady Hillary Clinton
U.S. Senate candidate from N.Y.

By Karen Foerstel
Congressional Quarterly

In 1964, Hillary Rodham made local history when she became the first girl to run for student council president of her Chicago high school. She lost badly to the captain of the football team.

Today, Hillary Rodham Clinton is again making history as the first first lady to run for the U.S. Senate. She is hoping that her bid this year for the open seat of retiring New York Democratic Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan turns out better than her first race 36 years ago.

Between the two elections, Clinton has undergone a dramatic transformation. The daughter of a small businessman and stay-at-home mother, Clinton was raised as a Republican.

She made her bid for high school student council as a Young Republican. While in college, she worked in Washington for then-Rep. Gerald Ford, R-Mich. (1949-73).

But as she moved from high school to Wellesley, her politics began to change. Clinton has credited the beginnings of that transformation to a high school debate project. The teacher set up a mock classroom debate between Democratic presidential candidate Lyndon B. Johnson and Republican Barry Goldwater. A solid "Goldwater Girl," Clinton wanted to represent her candidate, but the teacher forced her to argue Johnson's side. As she read about Johnson and his politics, she began to consider new political avenues.

In her senior year at Wellesley, in 1969, her classmates chose her to give the commencement speech at graduation. She railed against the political status quo and social elitism. Excerpts from the speech ran in Life Magazine. From Wellesley, Clinton went on to study law at Yale, and after earning her degree she joined the Children's Defense Fund as a staff attorney.

In 1974, Clinton become one of just two women lawyers on the staff of the House Judiciary Committee considering the impeachment of President Richard M. Nixon.

A year later, as Clinton was quickly gaining attention from prestigious law firms along the East Coast, she decided to put her ambitions on hold and move to Arkansas, where she married a fellow Yale law school student, Bill Clinton.

During her early days in Arkansas she taught criminal law at the University of Arkansas law school and ran a legal aid clinic. At 30, Clinton was picked to head the Legal Services Corp.

When her husband was elected governor, Clinton led a task force to improve education in Arkansas, which introduced some of the earliest standards for schools and testing for teachers in the nation. After coming to the White House in 1993, President Clinton placed his wife at the forefront of his top domestic policy goal - overhauling the nation's health care system.

She chaired the Task Force on National Health Care Reform, which recommended a massive restructuring to guarantee health care coverage for all Americans. In the end, however, the package proved too big for Congress to swallow and it died without a vote in either chamber.

Along with health care, the first lady has focused much of her attention on improving the status of America's children. In 1995 she wrote the best-selling book, "It Takes a Village," donating more than $1 million from its proceeds to various children's causes.

© 2000 The Washington Post Company


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