Hillary Clinton delivered the commencement address at her alma mater, Wellesley College, Friday, 48 years after she was the school’s first-ever student commencement speaker when she graduated in 1969.
In one of her most high-profile appearances since losing the presidential election, Clinton doled out biting criticism of President Trump’s tumultuous administration, albeit without mentioning him by name.
Pointedly, she referenced the political climate at the time of her 1969 speech, when “we were furious about the past presidential election of a man whose presidency would end with disgrace with his impeachment for obstruction of justice, after he fired the man running the investigation into him at the Department of Justice.” This reference to Richard Nixon’s Watergate scandal was an apparent connection to Trump, who sparked a firestorm by suddenly firing James Comey as FBI director earlier this month (although Nixon resigned before he was actually impeached).
Clinton also warned graduates of a “full-fledged assault on truth and reason,” referring to Kellyanne Conway’s now-infamous utterance, “alternative facts.”
“Some are even denying things we see with our own eyes,” she said. “Like the size of crowds,” she added, an apparent jab at the Trump administration for falsely claiming the largest inauguration crowd size in history.
“When people in power invent their own facts,” Clinton warned, “and attack those who question them, it can mark the beginning of the end of a free society.”
Joking, “You may have heard that things didn’t exactly go the way I planned,” at the top of the speech, Clinton nonetheless encouraged graduates to intensify their involvement in civic life and run for office. (Though she cautioned, “It’s certainly not for the faint of heart.”)
Referencing her new political venture, Onward Together, which will organize people opposed to Republican policies and recruit liberal candidates to run for office, Clinton also thanked those who were mobilized in the wake of her loss.
“One of the things that gave me the most hope and joy after the election, when I really needed it, was meeting so many young people who told me that my defeat had not defeated them.”
As her speech came to a close, Clinton referenced her status as the first woman to win a major party’s nomination for president.
“Doors that once seemed sealed to women are now open,” she continued. “They’re ready for you to walk through or charge through.”
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