From The Washington Post:
But the story not yet told is how out of character Clinton’s inflammatory Wellesley speech was. At a time when the country was questioning the system, Clinton was known for working squarely within it. She was a conciliator, not a bomb thrower.
On graduation day, the onetime Goldwater Girl reinvented herself as a provocative voice speaking for her angry generation. With the national media closely following campus upheaval that spring, Clinton stole the spotlight by rebuking a Washington symbol she had helped elect. She undercut Wellesley’s president, once her ally in tamping down campus unrest.
Clinton’s remarks transformed her, virtually overnight, into a national symbol of student activism. Wire services blasted out her remarks, and Life magazine featured a photo of her, dressed in bold striped bell-bottoms. Clinton soon caught the attention of leading figures of the left, including civil rights activist Vernon Jordan and her future mentor, Children’s Defense Fund founder Marian Wright Edelman. By the fall, when she entered Yale Law School, where she later met her future husband, Bill, her name was well known.
Clinton’s speech was an early illustration of political instinct, the ability to sense the moment for a strategic strike. Her performance surprised everyone, even her close friends.
“We’re not interested in social reconstruction,” she corrected the speaker, Sen. Edward Brooke of Massachusetts. “It’s human reconstruction.”
Her impromptu attack was over in a flash, and Wellesley President Ruth Adams set out to repair the damage.
Adams fired off a letter to Brooke, then the nation’s highest-ranking black elected official, apologizing for Clinton’s intemperate remarks.
“Courtesy is not one of the stronger virtues of the young,” she wrote Brooke on June 5, 1969, in a letter The Washington Post recently discovered in his archived papers. “Scoring debater’s points seems, on occasion, to have higher standing.”