Four Things That Matter to Millennials, From Lena Dunham’s Interview With Hillary Clinton

“I don’t trust anybody who says that they didn’t have some questions in their 20s.”
Lena Dunham and Hillary Clinton

Photos from Shutterstock.

Did you know that before going to law school, Hillary Clinton took a road trip to Alaska, where she got a job gutting salmon in a fishery? She wasn’t very good at it, but says the experience prepared her for a career in politics.

Clinton shared stories like this in an interview with Lena Dunham, the creator, writer, and star of HBO’s hit series Girls. The interview appeared in the first installment of Lenny Letter, a weekly feminist-leaning email newsletter produced by Dunham and Jenni Konner that covers everything from politics to women’s health and style.

Among other things, the conversation gives readers a glimpse of a 20-something-year-old Clinton. She talks about organizing against her college’s limit on male visiting hours, the indecision people face after college, and letting life take you places you never thought possible. For Clinton that was Arkansas, and eventually the White House.

“I don’t trust anybody who says that they didn’t have some questions in their 20s,” says Clinton. “That’s a period of such exploration and often torment in people’s lives.”

Dunham makes no secret of being a Hillary fan. In the newsletter’s introduction, Dunham talks about the time in third grade when she wrote her term paper on Clinton’s famous comment in 1992 about not being a “cookies and tea” housewife.

While at times it feels like Clinton is pandering to Lenny’s target audience—young women—readers do gain some insight on the Democratic front-runner’s positions on key millennial issues, like student debt.

Here are four ways Clinton says her politics will help millennials.

1. Student debt

The national student debt burden is $1.3 trillion, and affects nearly 40 million people. Clinton says that while most people make good faith efforts to repay their loans, “after a certain point, it’s counterproductive.”

“I’ve met young people that can’t move out of their parents’ homes,” Clinton says. “They have dreams to start their own business; they can’t afford to do it. They can’t even afford to get married. So we are not only squashing their hopes and dreams, we’re hurting the economy.”

Clinton’s plan? Helping more students refinance their student loans and move to income-based repayment plans. She also wants to implement a debt forgiveness program for students after a period of 20 years in repayment.

2. Police reform

After a number of high profile police killings, police and community race relations are a question every candidate must face. Clinton focuses on how police officers are trained.

“It’s not only a question of white versus black,” says Clinton. “It is a question of how force is used, how our law enforcement are trained, what kind of mindset they have as they go about their daily jobs,” says Clinton.

3. Campus sexual assault

The problem of rape on university campuses is not just its prevalence, but that incidents often go unprosecuted. As of 2014, the Bureau of Justice Statistics found that 80 percent of sexual-assault crimes against students go unreported to police.

“You have the right to be protected, and to be heard and believed,” says Clinton.

Clinton suggests universities put resources toward curricula that explore the importance of consent, making the criminal justice system (as opposed to universities) responsible for prosecuting some cases, and encouraging ongoing conversations about sexual assault beyond first-day orientations.

“I want to fast-track this,” Clinton tells Dunham. “Everybody needs to up their game.”

4. Voting

Millennials have the lowest voter turnout of any other age group. Dunham suggests that’s due to a feeling of “disenfranchisement” between millennials and a political arena that sees young people as self-obsessed.

“You don’t have to run for office, you don’t even have to be actively involved,” Clinton says. “You do have to exercise your brain in deciding what you believe and who you will support. Study enough to say that if I vote for this person over that person I am more likely to see progress in something I care about.”

Watch other clips from Clinton and Dunham's interview here.