ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Hillary Rodham Clinton opened th commencement season yesterday with a rousing pitch for her health care proposal, bluntly telling graduating students at the University of Michigan that their futures depended on its enactment.
"At the root of our economic and human challenge," Mrs. Clinton declared to an audience that filled nearly half the huge Michigan Stadium, "lies the fact that although we are the richest country in the world, we spend more money and take care of fewer people than many countries that are not as rich as we when it comes to health care."
Seeking to put the issue in personal terms, Mrs. Clinton decried how "we turn our backs on the people who are in this stadium today who have sacrificed to have enabled you to attend this university, but themselves can't count on health care if they need it."
After receiving an honorary doctor of laws degree, Mrs. Clinton, wearing a black robe, opened her half-hour address by imploring the 4,600 graduate and undergraduates in the ceremony to rise to the world's new challenges. But the first lady wound up the address as if it were a stump speech, as she promoted health care and another "great issue," the national service plan that President Clinton outlined Friday, calling it "a domestic Peace Corps."
Her speech was a striking contrast to the commencement speech she gave at Wellesley College a year ago, when she emphasized family and told the graduates that they can succeed both "by making policy or by making cookies." Yesterday, on a sunny, breezy morning, she emphasized political action.
"When I graduated [from Wellesley] in 1969, I, like many of you, had dreams for my own life, but also for the world into which I was going," Mrs. Clinton told the Michigan audience of nearly 50,000. "In a commencement speech I talked about that. And going back and reading it now, I see the idealism, I see the excitement. And I know that at 21, I was perhaps unable to appreciate the political and social restraints that one faces in the world. But I'm glad I felt like that when I was 21, and I have always tried to keep those feelings with me."
Her voice rose along with the cheers rising from the stands. "I want to be idealistic," she continued. "I want to care about the world."