Hillary Clinton visits law school for leadership conversation

Clinton was the keynote speaker for the Tsai Leadership Center’s week-long series on “Transformational Leadership.”

Staff journalists

Dawn Kim, collaborating photographer

On Thursday afternoon, swarms of excited students gathered outside the Sterling Law Building, waiting to see former Secretary of State and 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton LAW ’73 walk out of school.

Clinton returned to her alma mater this week for an event titled “Leadership Conversation with Dean Heather K. Gerken.” About 400 people attended his conference, which was organized by the Tsai leadership program. The event was closed to the press and public, with law school students or affiliates – faculty, staff and visiting fellows – being permitted to attend. Some law school-affiliated undergraduate students may also register for the event.

“Secretary Clinton’s conversation with Dean Gerken was a remarkable, perhaps even unique, experience that we were privileged to bring to students,” wrote Mary Herrington, executive director of the Chae Private Sector Initiative for the Tsai Leadership Center. “For us at the Tsai Leadership Program, it was an honor to welcome the Secretary and hear her definition of leadership, and particularly to hear stories about his own development as a leader.

During the event, Gerken asked both prepared and extemporaneous questions, with topics ranging from Clinton’s material work as a senator and cabinet member to her decision to run for public office.

The conference was part of a week of events focusing on “transformational leadership” organized by the Tsai Leadership Program at law school. The goal of the program is to expose law students to innovative leaders in all fields, ultimately broadening the focus of a traditional legal education.

According to Alvaro Perpuly ’23, Clinton’s speech was a unique window into the life of public service and political work at the highest level.

“As someone interested in public service,” Perpuly wrote to the News, “it is inspiring to hear stories of resilience and leadership like his own – someone who has dedicated his life to fighting for others. despite major challenges and pushbacks.”

Perpuly said attendees filled both levels of the Levinson Auditorium, which has a capacity of 450 people. Students who failed to make it to the conference gathered outside the Law Building to see Clinton for themselves.

Shaezmina Khan ’23 told The News that she originally wanted to attend the event because of her interest in foreign policy, but also found it helpful to hear Clinton reflect on her career.

For Khan, Clinton’s message asserted that students did not necessarily need to establish a “rigorous itinerary” for the course of their lives while in college or law school.

“It’s really nice to see people graduating from the institutions you’re in right now and to hear how they envisioned their trajectory when they were your age,” Khan told The News. “[Clinton] said when she was in law school, she had absolutely no idea what she was going to do next. So we don’t need to plan everything. Processing everything along the way is very, very helpful.

Now, nearly fifty years after Clinton graduated from YLS, she has served as First Lady and Secretary of State of the United States. Clinton was also New York’s first female senator. As the Democratic candidate for President of the United States in 2016, Clinton is also the first American woman to receive a presidential nomination from a major political party.

Khan noted that Clinton’s position as a leading female figure in American politics made the event particularly meaningful for her — and, Khan said, for many other women in the room.

“She’s the first woman to do a lot of different things,” Khan said. “She was very, very bold as Secretary of State and when she was running as the first [prospective] woman president… She was a trailblazer and opened many doors, whether we agree with her policies when she was under Obama or not.

Clinton spent a total of four years in New Haven: three at law school — where she was one of 27 women in her class of 235 — and a fourth, after graduation, at the Yale Child Study. Center.

While in law school, she served on the editorial board of the Yale Review of Law and Social Action, which the Hartford Courant described as “the radical mainstream counterpart Yale Law Journal”.

“It’s such an exhilarating experience to hear from someone who has not only sat in the seats you’re sitting in, but also served in the highest levels of government,” said Yash Chauhan ’26, who was also present at Thursday’s event.

This isn’t the first time Clinton has returned to Yale. In 2017, she returned to law school for a discussion with Gerken about the 2016 election – in which she won the popular vote but lost the Electoral College, leading to Donald Trump assuming the presidency. In 2018, Clinton was the class day speaker for the undergraduate class of 2018. 2018 marked the second time Clinton spoke at Yale’s graduation weekend; She also spoke at ceremony 2001.

Tsai also hosted Rhonda Joy McLean LAW ’83 and author Gretchen Rubin LAW ’94, among others.

The program launched in November 2021funded by donations from alumni of Joseph Tsai ’86 LAW ’90, Clara Wu Tsai, Eugene Ludwig LAW ’73, Carol Ludwig, Michael Chae LAW ’97, and Alexa Bator Chae LAW ’97.


Anika Seth writes about admissions, financial aid, and alumni as well as diversity, equity, and inclusion at Yale. She also presents the weekly print edition of the News as Managing Editor of the Production Office and is Co-Chair of Diversity and Inclusion. Anika previously covered STEM at Yale, specifically new facility projects and investments. Originally from the DC metro area, Anika is a sophomore at Branford College majoring in biomedical engineering and women’s, gender and sexuality studies.


Ines Chomnalez covers Yale Law School. She is a sophomore at Pierson College majoring in history and cognitive science.

Nancy I. Romero