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Sally Yates to Wellesley College students: Be yourself

Sally Yates spoke Monday at the Madeleine Korbel Albright Institute for Global Affairs at Wellesley College.
Kelly Fitzsimmons
Sally Yates spoke Monday at the Madeleine Korbel Albright Institute for Global Affairs at Wellesley College.

Sally Yates, the former acting attorney general who found herself suddenly out of work for refusing to defend President Trump’s controversial travel ban, says she wouldn’t do anything differently.

Addressing Wellesley College students Monday, the career prosecutor called herself a “rules girl” who was merely obeying the law, at least as she understands it.

“I was in the chair. I was the acting attorney general, and I needed to do my job,” Yates said. “So that’s what I did.”

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Yates is the first of several prominent women who will speak this month at Wellesley’s Madeleine Korbel Albright Institute for Global Affairs, named for the former secretary of state who’s an alum of the women’s college. (Other speakers will include former US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman, TV journalist Andrea Mitchell, Wellesley professor Katharine H.S. Moon, and Albright.)

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Asked what advice she’d give to young women, some of whom, with any luck, will be our future leaders, Yates said: “We’re at a point now where I think the most powerful woman you can be is your authentic self. . . . I can remember trials where I was very conscious of not coming across as too aggressive. I felt like I had to take the edge off because if I was too assertive, I’d alienate not only the men in the room but other women. . . . Those days are over. You should be comfortable in your own skin and be your authentic self.

“If we are going to grab hold of this moment, like I think we all really should,” Yates said, “we should all be empowered to be who we really are.”