Hillary Clinton’s critics say she’s just a self-interested politician, concerned only with extending her own power. But that is to ignore her lifetime serving a country she loves. That is to ignore her concession speech to Donald Trump today, a gracious, unwavering message to Americans that showed us all what it means to be a true patriot.
Clinton took the stage at the New Yorker hotel in Manhattan this morning, hours after her stunning defeat by Republican Donald Trump in the 2016 US presidential election. This was not the speech she expected to give. This was not the speech that journalists covering the election expected to hear. But out of this shock, the former secretary of state, senator, and first lady emerged as inspiring as ever.
“I still believe in America, and I always will,” Clinton said, as her husband, former president Bill Clinton, stood behind her, tears in his eyes.
Her running mate, Tim Kaine, introduced her to the room full of their closest supporters and advisers. Kaine, too, was glassy-eyed. His voice quaked as he expressed pride in his friend, citing a passage from the great American author William Faulkner. “They kilt us, but they ain’t whupped us yet.”
Clinton began her speech by congratulating her opponent, who has called for her imprisonment. “I hope that he will be a successful president for all Americans,” she said. “We owe him an open mind and a chance to succeed.”
She thanked the millions of Americans who voted for her, campaigned for her, knocked on doors for her, made calls for her. She thanked her family, her aides. She thanked the current president and first lady for all that they had done not just for the country, but for her personally. “To Barack and Michelle Obama, our country owes you an enormous debt of gratitude.”
Clinton is projected to narrowly win the popular vote, marking just the fifth time in American history that the candidate who received more raw votes lost the election. The first was the infamous “corrupt bargain” of 1824 when the House of Representatives picked John Quincy Adams over Andrew Jackson after both candidates failed to secure a majority of electoral votes.
Trump, who won more electoral votes, and thus will become president, tweeted in 2012 after Barack Obama’s re-election that the electoral college “is a disaster for a democracy.” Clinton phoned Trump last night to offer a private concession before her public speech today.
After conceding to Trump and thanking those who helped her along the way, Clinton addressed the women of America. “Nothing has made me prouder than to be your champion,” she said to them, the only moment her voice wavered. “To all the little girls who are watching this, never doubt that you are valuable and powerful,” she said.
Some say that our truest selves are revealed in defeat. If that’s true, then Hillary Clinton’s truest self is exceptional.
“I’m sorry that we did not win this election for the values we share and the vision we hold for this country,” she went on. “This is painful, and it will be for a long time.”
America will now reckon with the choice it’s made. No one truly knows what a Trump administration will entail. Half the country is fearful.
But Clinton, in defeat, showed us what it means to be a leader. She showed us how to persevere. She showed us that there is always a cause worth fighting for, no matter the odds against you, no matter the cost. And she showed us how to embrace the better angels of our nature.
“Never stop believing that fighting for what’s right is worth it,” she said. “It’s always worth it. And we need you keep up these fights now and for the rest of your lives.”
“There are more seasons to come and there is more work to do. Our best days are still ahead of us.”