It’s hard to imagine anyone wanting to trade places with Monica Lewinsky. Not only is she destined to be remembered in textbooks as the “other woman” in one of America’s most infamous sex scandals (culminating in the first presidential impeachment since Reconstruction), but she continues to be a cheap and popular punchline in the contemporary zeitgeist. A decade-and-a-half may have passed since her name was a staple in headline news and talk-show monologues, but “Lewinsky” is still synonymous with everything from soapy political melodrama in general to the specific sex act she performed on President Bill Clinton.
Viewed from this perspective, it’s hardly surprising that she eventually returned to the spotlight in an attempt to revise her public identity. More striking is the fact that her recent speech at Forbes’ “30 Under 30 Summit” not only offered valuable insights about her role in America, but by extension drew attention to how the Internet has fundamentally changed our culture. Even as political punditsspeculate as to her potential effect on Hillary Clinton’s probable presidential campaign or debate whether she should be chiefly remembered as a victim or villain (all of which, it must be emphasized, are valid questions) we shouldn’t overlook the universal lesson Americans can pick up from both Lewinsky’s legacy.