Hillary Clinton accepts award from LBJ School honoring public service

Gracie Awalt

The Lady Bird Johnson Auditorium was at full capacity as students and faculty watched Hillary Clinton accept the first-ever In the Arena award from the LBJ School of Public Affairs.

The LBJ School honored Clinton, former first lady, Secretary of State and 2016 Democratic presidential candidate, at a private evening ceremony Tuesday. The ceremony was followed by a conversation between Clinton and LBJ School Dean Angela Evans. The award honors an individual who has demonstrated a commitment to pursuing the greater good in public service, according to a press release from the LBJ School.

“Few political leaders today have such a distinguished record of public service and are as mired by dust and sweat as Secretary Clinton,” Evans said. “Fewer have gone so courageously into that arena.”

Created this month, the award is inspired by a quote from a speech titled “The Man in the Arena” delivered by former president Theodore Roosevelt at the Sorbonne in Paris, France, in 1910. The physical award itself was created by students from the School of Design and Creative Technology at the College of Fine Arts.

When asked by Evans what advice she had for students who are addressing an issue that requires persistence and patience, Clinton said students today face a fast-paced arena that is manipulated by political coverage.

“Having that commitment that keeps you going through the good times and the hard, the successes and the failures, is the only thing that ever finally does produce results,” Clinton said. “If you’re in the arena, you can’t, in my experience, be there just for your own gratification. If you’re not there on behalf of a cause larger than yourself, and you face a setback, it’s hard to keep going.”

Clinton said respect has been lost in Congress and the Senate, and exposure to people with differing experiences and opinions would help solve this conflict. She said universities provide this landscape for compromise and learning.

“Education is key, but continuing education, trying to create more opportunities for people to find themselves with those who they think are different and finding out that they actually have some things in common would go a long way towards breaking down some of these barriers,” Clinton said. 

Clinton said she hopes the LBJ School will produce graduates who hold people accountable for the truth and who don’t turn their backs on humanity by being captivated by corporate, ideological or religious interests. 

“Every conference you hold, every publication you put out and every student you graduate, they may not all agree, but they will have a mindset that will not be lazy and will not be manipulated into agreeing with falsehoods and private agendas instead of striving for the public good,” Clinton said. “I can’t think of anything more important to do than that right now.” 

Chloe Latham Sikes, educational leadership and policy graduate student, said she came to see Clinton speak because it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Clinton’s extensive experience in public service made her deserving of the award, she said.

“I think being in the arena is difficult,” Latham Sikes said. “I also feel this way as a policy student. It is very tempting and seems necessary to be a purist on certain policy issues, and it’s difficult to be in a compromising situation.”