In an emotional speech, Monica Lewinsky broke her silence on her affair with former President Bill Clinton and spoke about the humiliation and bullying online that she experienced. At the Forbes Under 30 Summit she gave her first public address and announced her new mission to combat cyberbulling.
After years and years of silence, the 41-year-old former White House intern is becoming a public figure in her own right and on her own terms. First there was the essay she wrote for Vanity Fair. Now a speech at Forbes’ inaugural Under 30 Summit held in Philadelphia (full video below).
She has gone public indeed, joining Twitter @MonicaLewinsky a couple of hours before her speech and gaining tens of thousands of followers within hours. After her first Tweet #HereWeGo, her second Tweet was “excited (and nervous) to speak to #Under30Summit.”
She had said in her Vanity Fair essay “[T]hanks to the Drudge Report, I was also possibly the first person whose global humiliation was driven by the Internet.”
Now, even more pointedly, as Forbes reports, Monica Lewinsky began her address to the gathering of millennials, “My name is Monica Lewinsky though I’ve often been advised to change it.”
She continued, saying, “‘Overnight I went from being a completely private figure to a publicly humiliated one. I was Patient Zero, the first person to have their reputation completely destroyed worldwide via the Internet.”
Clearly emotional at the podium, she spoke with intense candor, saying, “Sixteen years ago, fresh out of college I fell in love with my boss.”
She went on to say, I lost my public self, or had it stolen. In a way, it was a form of identity theft. In 1998,
public Monica, that Monica, that woman’ was born. I was publicly identified and someone I did not recognize.”
She explained that in the days before Facebook, Twitter and Instagram that her humiliation and public shaming were driven by the “gossip, news and entertainment websites.” She added, “Of course, it was all done on the excruciatingly slow dial up. Yet around the world this story went. A viral phenomenon that, you could argue, was the first moment of truly “social media.”’
Reiterating what she had said in her Vanity Fair essay that the impetus for her coming forward was the tragic suicide of Rutgers student Tyler Clementi in the aftermath of his own cyberbullying incident which saw his roommates posting video online of him kissing another man.
She said, “That tragedy is one of the principal reasons I am standing up here today. “While it touched us both, my mother was unusually upset by the story, and I wondered why. Eventually it dawned on me: she was back in 1998, back to a time when I was periodically suicidal; when she might very easily have lost me; when I, too, might have been humiliated to death.”
Monica Lewinsky went on to speak of the devastating effects of cyberbullying both then and now, saying, “There is a compassion crisis, an empathy deficit. There’s no way to wrap your head around when it will end.”
Revealing how she was turning her life around, motivated by the Tyler Clemente tragedy to speak out, she said, “Having survived myself, what I want to do now is help other victims of the shame game survive, too. I want to put my suffering to good use and give purpose to my past.”