(WELLESLEY, Mass.) — Young women from around the world attending a women’s leadership conference at Wellesley College in Massachusetts had only to look to the stage to see examples of how women can rise to become among the most powerful people in the world. Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and current Secretary of State Hillary Clinton both addressed the Inaugural Women in Public Service Institute and took questions from the young women in the audience, considered to be some of the best and brightest in the world.
In Clinton’s nearly hour-long question and answer session, she reflected on her life in public service and her time at Wellesley as a student more than 40 years ago. Inevitably Clinton’s possible run for the presidency in 2016 came up, with one audience member beginning a question with “If you are elected the first woman president…” that saw the crowd erupt in such a sustained cheers and applause that it took a few minutes for the young woman to finish her question.
Clinton herself talked about the role of women in American politics. “We know we’ve got to keep pushing at that glass ceiling. We have to try to break it,” she said.
“Obviously, I hope to live long enough to see a woman elected president of the United States,” said Clinton to thunderous applause.
Secretary Clinton also spoke about foreign policy challenges in conflict areas like Sudan and South Sudan, Yemen and Afghanistan, but when she reflected on her time at Wellesley and the course of her own life, she gave deeply personal advice. Speaking as if she were dishing to a group of girlfriends, Clinton told the students to believe in themselves and their causes, and to be open to life’s opportunities.
“When I was here all those years ago I never could have predicted the course of my life, never. I never could have sat where you are sitting and said to myself: Okay. I’m going to graduate from Wellesley, then I’m going to go to Yale Law School, then I’m going to meet a guy from Arkansas and I’m going to fall in love,” she said to a laughing crowd. “And then I’m going to move to Arkansas, and then I’m going to marry him, and then he’s going to be governor, and then he’s going to President. I mean, that is not how life works. I mean, really, right?” she said smiling.
Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who graduated from the college 10 years before Clinton, greeted the current secretary of state warmly with a hug when Clinton first took to the stage. Amid raucous applause from the crowd, Albright and Clinton held each other’s hands and faced the audience. Clinton paid tribute to the first woman secretary of state in her speech.
“There are many longtime friends here in the audience and distinguished leaders, young and young at heart, from around the world, but I am particularly pleased that you just had a chance to hear from my friend and predecessor both at Wellesley and in the State Department,” said Clinton. “I’ve had apparently a habit of following in Madeleine’s footsteps, and I have to say it always does work out for the best. So thank you so much, Madeleine,” she joked.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Matt Egan, CNN
Rob McLean and Joshua Berlinger, CNN