Ex-first lady Hillary Clinton, now a democratic presidential candidate, visited the female college, where she used to study. She said that being a student activist in Wellesley College in the 1960s helped her in her political career.
"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 female-friendly flavor, with reminders of the pioneering nature of her candidacy. The U.S. has never had a woman president.
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."
Hundreds of students jammed a campus auditorium to see the New York senator, 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" before she arrived, and a few shouted "We love you, Hillary!"
For her part, Clinton 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.
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.
She reminisced about delivering the commencement speech her senior year _ a call for activism among young people that won national attention at the time.
Clinton winced remembering some of the flowery language she had used.
"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."