Wednesday night, Hillary Clinton spoke publicly for the first time since her concession speech a week ago. At a Children’s Defense Fund event in Washington, she spoke about the importance of fighting for America’s kids, but she also wove in another message, telling her supporters to persist, even after the devastating loss of the presidential race.
“I know many of you are deeply disappointed about the results of the election,” she said. “I am, too, more than I can ever express.”
Though her speech centered on fighting child poverty, she was straightforward in addressing her bruising defeat.
“There have been a few times this past week when all I wanted to do was just to curl up with a good book or our dogs, and never leave the house again,” she said.
Disappointment surfaced a few times in her remarks. After citing a quote from Martin Luther King Jr. — “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice” — she quipped, “Sometimes it can feel awfully long. Believe me, I know.” (King, by the way, was echoing the words of 19th century abolitionist Theodore Parker.)
Clinton also obliquely criticized President-elect Donald Trump. She said that she recently spoke to a Nevada girl who cried because she was afraid her parents would be deported. During his campaign, Trump promised to deport millions of immigrants who are in the country illegally.
“No child should have to live with fear like that,” Clinton said. “No child should have to be afraid to go to school because they are Latino or African-American or Muslim or because they have a disability.”
She addressed the despair that many of her supporters feel: “I know this isn’t easy,” she said. “I know that over the past week a lot of people have asked themselves whether America is the country we thought it was.”
“But as I said last week: Our campaign was never about one person or even one election,” Clinton said. “It was about the country we love and about building an America that is hopeful, inclusive and bighearted.”
Clinton’s ties to the Children’s Defense Fund are decades old. She went to work for the fund after graduating from Yale Law School, and she has spoken about knocking on doors to find out why children weren’t in school, as well as interviewing teenagers jailed alongside adults. She later became a board member and then board chair of the Children’s Defense Fund.
The event honored Clinton for her work for children over her lifetime, and it also honored five high school seniors receiving scholarships from the fund.
In her speech, Clinton echoed her campaign trail messages: She referred to her Methodist faith, spoke admiringly of her mother, and touched on child care and paid leave, two of her key election issues.
Clinton finished her speech by providing what could have been a counterpoint to Trump’s Make America Great Again slogan. “I am as sure of this as anything I have ever known: America is still the greatest country in the world,” she told the crowd. “This is still the place where anyone can beat the odds. It’s up to each and every one of us to keep working to make America better and stronger and fairer.”