Hillary Clinton reemerged for the first time after her unexpected election loss to Donald Trump.
In a speech to the Children’s Defense Fund in Washington, the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee urged supporters not to “lose heart, don’t give up on the values we share.” And she gave among the most personal testimonials ever about the original inspiration for her career in public service: her mother.
“I know this isn’t easy. I know that over the past week a lot of people have asked themselves whether America is the country we thought it was,” said Clinton, who appeared somewhat somber and without the extra makeup and coiffed hairstyle that had become her signature on the campaign trail.
“The divisions laid bare by this election run deep …. But please listen to me when I say this: America is worth it,” said Clinton. “I urge you, please don’t lose heart, don’t give up on the values we share,” she said. “I ask you to stay engaged, stay engaged on every level,” said Clinton. “That’s how we get through this.”
On the campaign trail, Clinton often cited the story of her mother as her inspiration for taking a job advocating for children out of law school instead of a higher-paying job with a traditional firm. Yet for the entirety of her political career, Clinton’s also been critiqued as unemotional or aloof, an observation few male candidates have contended with.
In her speech, Clinton offered a wide window into her emotions about her mother, which her closest friends have always cited as her inspiration.
Clinton’s mother, Dorothy, was abandoned by her parents at the age of 8 and put on a train with her 5-year-old sister, and then mistreated by her grandparents before becoming a housemaid at the age of 14.
“She beat the odds. She found a way to offer me the boundless love and support she never received,” said Clinton. “Sometimes I think about her on that train. I wish I could walk down the aisle” and find her.
“I dream of going up to her and sitting next to her and taking her in my arms and saying: ‘Look, look at me and listen. You will survive. You will have a family of your own. Three children," she said, choking up. "And as hard as it might be to imagine, your daughter will grow up to be a United States Senator, represent our country as secretary of State and win more than 62 million votes for president of the United States."
While Trump won the election based on electoral math, Clinton won the popular vote by more than 1 million votes, a number that continues to grow as states such as California continue to count ballots.
Clinton was introduced by Marian Wright Edelman, the president and founder of the Children’s Defense Fund who first met Clinton 45 years ago when the then-young law school student first began advocating on behalf of children.
“Coming here tonight wasn’t the easiest thing for me,” said Clinton. “There have been a few times this past week when all I wanted to do was curl up with a good book,” she said, “and never leave the house again.”
One thing she learned from Wright, said Clinton, is that “when you get knocked down, you get back up.”