Hillary crehan



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Description: WELLESLEY, Mass. (AP) -- Hillary Rodham Clinton, cheered at her all-female alma mater after being buffeted by male Democratic rivals, said being a student activist at Wellesley College in the 1960s

WELLESLEY, Mass. (AP) -- Hillary Rodham Clinton, cheered at her all-female alma mater after being buffeted by male Democratic rivals, said being a student activist at Wellesley College in the 1960s had helped pave her path to a White House bid.

''In so many ways, this all-women's college prepared me to compete in the all-boys club of presidential politics,'' she said Thursday to cries of support.

Clinton spoke at Wellesley two days after a rocky debate performance in which she fought off criticism from six male presidential rivals. Thursday's event had a decidedly ''You go, girl'' flavor, with reminders of the pioneering nature of her candidacy.

In Tuesday's debate, the New York senator was grilled about her integrity, electability and tendency to sidestep tough questions. Her comments at Wellesley and a new fundraising appeal from campaign manager Patti Solis Doyle suggested there was an element of sexism at play.

''On that stage in Philadelphia, we saw six against one. Candidates who had pledged the politics of hope practiced the politics of pile on instead,'' Solis Doyle wrote. ''Her opponents tried a whole host of attacks on Hillary. She is one strong woman. She came through it well. But Hillary's going to need your help.''

At Wellesley, hundreds of students jammed a campus auditorium to see Clinton, many wearing T-shirts that said, ''I can be president, too.'' They danced in the aisles to songs like ''Every Little Thing She Does is Magic'' and a few shouted ''We love you, Hillary!''

For her part, the former first lady reminisced about the ''camaraderie of smart, ambitious women'' she'd enjoyed in college but said times had changed significantly since then.

''When I came to Wellesley, I never in a million years could have imagined I'd one day return as a candidate for the presidency of the United States,'' she said. She added that the idea of a female president would have been met with derisive laughter in those days.

Clinton chose Wellesley to announce the formation of ''Hillblazers,'' her campaign's new effort to cultivate support nationally among college students.

While polls show female voters are her strongest constituency, rival Barack Obama enjoys strong support on college campuses, too, and his campaign is counting on a strong showing among students, especially in Iowa's leadoff caucuses Jan. 3.

''We're really excited that a Wellesley woman could be the first woman president. But people really like Obama, too. So there's a need to do research,'' said Eileen Crehan, a senior majoring in math and biology.

Clinton peppered her stump speech with several student-friendly promises, such as making college more affordable and helping to end the carnage in Darfur. She said she would unveil a detailed plan next week to deal with the challenges of global warming.

''The challenges you face today are no less profound than ones faced by previous generations of Americans,'' she said. ''You deserve a president who will meet those challenges head on. A president who is committed to your future. A president who will never again play politics with women's health and women's lives.''

Clinton also entertained the audience with tales of her years on campus, when strict curfews were enforced and boys were allowed in students' rooms only on Sunday afternoons.

''We had to observe what was called then the 'two feet rule.' That meant two out of four feet had to be on the floor at all times. Try it sometime,'' Clinton said to laughs and cheers.

She reminisced about delivering the commencement speech her senior year -- a call for activism among young people that won national attention at the time.

''I have to admit it wasn't the most coherent address, and I sort of cringe when I read that I actually said things like 'coming to terms with our humanness' and 'inauthentic reality,''' she said. ''But I still believe as strongly today as I did then in my statement that politics is the art of making what appears to be impossible possible.''

Politics aside, students said Clinton's visit had brought a lift to the campus, which is reeling from news that a Wellesley student had been arrested last week and accused of trying to stab a former boyfriend to death.

Later at a rally at the University of New Hampshire, Clinton said students would be critical to helping her campaign and changing the country -- something she linked to her campus days.

''I believed that when I was in college, that I could make a difference. We protested the Vietnam War, we marched for civil rights, we fought to bring more minority students and faculty to the campus. We even tried to make it clear that we wanted to live differently. We wanted to make a statement about who we were.''

In Iowa, meanwhile, EMILY's List, a group that seeks to elect Democratic women who support abortion rights, said it planned to contact as many as 100,000 women in the state and encourage them to support Clinton in Iowa's caucuses.

The group said it plans to contact likely Clinton supporters who wouldn't normally attend the caucuses.






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