Clinton delivered the speech at Yale University's College Class Day and kept in the tradition of bringing an "over the top hat."
In a sea of ostentatious hats worn by faculty and soon-to-be graduates -- ranging from an open book, a wedding veil and a lampshade -- Clinton, who graduated from its law school in 1973 and gave the 2001 commencement speech, came prepared.
"I brought a hat, too," Clinton, dressed in a ceremonial gown, quipped. "A Russian hat."
Clinton raised from the lectern a furry black Ushanka hat and held it up with her right hand in the air as the crowd erupted in applause.
"If you can't beat them, join them," she said.
Clinton went on to say that she was happy for all of the graduates -- even those whose ballots weren't tallied.
"Even the three of you who live in Michigan who didn't request absentee ballots in time," she said.
The speech went on to praise Yale University's acceptance of women into its vaunted institution and for changing the term "freshman" to "first year."
She mentioned how the institution's a cappella singing group, the Whiffenpoofs, bucked its all-male tradition this year and began welcoming women into its ranks.
Clinton used that to take a shot at herself.
"As for my long lost Whiffenpoofs audition tape ... I've buried it so deep Wikileaks can't find it," she joked. "If you thought my e-mails were scandalous, you should hear my singing voice."
Her speech took on a more sobering turn from there, expressing her concern that the country is in "one of the most tumultuous times" and that it's going to be a long fight ahead.
"It's not easy to wade back into the fight every day," she said.
Clinton was also full of hope that "standing up to policies that hurt people" is a battle worth fighting.
"I'm optimistic just how tough America has proven to be," she said.
Yale's Senior Class Day is an annual tradition at the university, described as a "colorful, informal event." The school's commencement ceremony will be Monday. They traditionally do not have a commencement speaker, though 2001 was an exception.