Hillary Rodham in 1965, when she was president of Wellesley College’s Young Republicans, shown here with the cover page of her senior thesis from 1969 on radical the thesis Saul D.
The senior thesis of Hillary D. Rodham, Wellesley College class of 1969, has been speculated about, spun, analyzed, debated, criticized and defended. But rarely has it been read, because for the eight years of Bill Clinton’s presidency it was locked away. As forbidden fruit, the writings of a 21-year-old college senior, examining the tactics of radical community organizer Saul D. Despite the fervent interest in the thesis, few realize that it is no longer kept under lock and key. But can an academic paper from nearly 40 years ago really unlock the politics and character of any former student, much less the early Democratic front-runner for the White House?
This is your chance to decide before the the thesis spin machines get their hands on it. Just as conservative authors have speculated, it was the Clintons who asked Wellesley in 1993 to hide Hillary Rodham’s senior thesis from the first generation of Clinton biographers, according to her thesis adviser and friend, professor Alan H. Schechter, who describes taking the call from the White House. Wellesley’s president, Nannerl Overholser Keohane, approved a broad rule with a specific application: The senior thesis of every Wellesley alumna is available in the college archives for anyone to read — except for those written by either a «president or first lady of the United States.
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Saul Alinsky in Chicago’s Woodlawn neighborhood in 1966. Rodham noted his «exceptional charm» but questioned his effectiveness. There Is Only the Fight’: An Analysis of the Alinsky Model. Many authors on the long shelf of unsympathetic Clinton biographies have envisioned the thesis as evidence of Marxist or socialist views held by young Hillary — or conversely as proof of her political agnosticism, a lack of any ideology besides a brutal willingness to attack opponents and accumulate power in the Alinsky style. David Brock, in his 1996 biography, «The Seduction of Hillary Rodham,» called her «Alinsky’s daughter.
Barbara Olson, the conservative lawyer and commentator, used an Alinsky quote to open every chapter of her 1999 book, «Hell to Pay: The Unfolding Story of Hillary Rodham Clinton. Olson, who died in the Sept. 11 terror attacks, had charged in her book that the thesis was locked away because Clinton «does not want the American people to know the extent to which she internalized and assimilated the beliefs and methods of Saul Alinsky. Under Wellesley’s rule, Clinton’s thesis became available to researchers again when the Clintons left the White House in 2001 — available only to those who visit the Wellesley archives.
But few have made the trip, and the document’s allure continued to grow. Bill O’Reilly waved a few pages on Fox TV in 2003, chiding Wellesley for hiding Clinton’s analysis of a «far left» activist. Peggy Noonan, the former Reagan speechwriter writing in The Wall Street Journal in 2005, decried the continued suppression of «the Rosetta Stone of Hillary studies. Just last month, an anonymous commentator lamented on the conservative Web site Free Republic, «She’s a Marxist.
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