Hillary Clinton on Wednesday night made her first public appearance since delivering her concession speech a week ago today, making an emotional plea for the country to focus on helping underprivileged children while acknowledging the pain she feels after her unexpected failure to defeat Donald Trump for the presidency.
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Speaking at the Children's Defense Fund's 26th annual Beat the Odds Celebration in Washington, D.C., Clinton said, "I know this isn't easy. I know that over the past week a lot of people have asked themselves whether America was the country we thought it was. The divisions laid bare by this election run deep. But please listen to me when I say this: America is worth it. Our children are worth it."
Clinton, who was honored at the gala for her dedication and contributions to the organization and child advocacy throughout her career, admitted, "coming here tonight wasn’t the easiest for me. There have been a few times this past week that all I wanted to curl up with a good book or our dogs and never leave the house again. But if there is anyone who knows how to pick yourself up and get back on your feet and get back to work it is [CDF founder and president] Marian [Wright Edelman]."
When Clinton spoke about the struggles her late mother, Dorothy Howell Rodham, endured as a child, she became noticeably emotional. "I dream of going up to her," Clinton said, "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. 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 as president of the United States.'"
She continued, "America is still the greatest country in the world. 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."
Clinton's speech highlighted an issue she made a central theme of her campaign: helping children. And this may provide a hint about her plans.
She asked her supporters to “stay engaged on every level.”
Clinton made a reference to the racial tensions that prominent during the election, discussing a young girl she met on the campaign trail in Nevada who feared her parents would be deported.
"No child should have to live with fear like that. No child should be afraid to go to school because they're Latino or African-American or Muslim or because they have disability. We should protect our children and help them love themselves and love others," she told the crowd.
The CDF is a nonprofit advocacy group that has worked for more than 40 years to champion programs for underprivileged children, including efforts to combat poverty, prevent abuse and neglect and provide access to health care and education. When she graduated from law school, Clinton went to work for the CDF and touted her commitment to the organization in the early stages of her campaign. She included the group in her nomination acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention.
The CDF event highlighted the stories of five high-achieving students who have overcome adversity to excel academically and give back to their communities. Each of the high school seniors was given a $10,000 scholarship and a laptop computer to help them pay for college and navigate the admissions process.
Clinton’s loss to Donald Trump surprised many because most polls before Election Day showed her in the lead. But exit polls showed voters were looking for an outsider who could shake up Washington, and for many, Trump fit that mold better than Clinton.
As the last of the election results continue to trickle in, Clinton is actually ahead of Trump in the popular vote by more than 1 million. However, Trump sealed his victory last week by winning the Electoral College, 290 to 232. (The contest in Michigan, with the remaining 16 electoral votes, remains close and uncertified, with Trump ahead by less than 1 percentage point.)
Clinton concluded her remarks with a charge to her supporters:
"Believe in our country, fight for our values, and never, ever give up," she said.