Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton delivered the commencement address today at her alma mater, Wellesley College, urging graduates from the all-women’s college to believe in themselves and their abilities during “dark” times. But among all the encouraging words and inside jokes were jabs against her former presidential campaign rival Donald Trump. Lots of them.
Clinton was relaxed and loose before the fawning crowd. When she lost her voice twice early on in the speech, she lavishly paused to unwrap a throat lozenge as the audience laughed and cheered, the stuff of campaign-era Infowars conniptions now fodder for dark told-you-so humor.
After lilting through greetings and formalities, Clinton got to the well-done, ketchup-drenched meat of her speech, not pulling any punches as she dove into her opinion of the current state of the world.
Speaking of the 2016 campaign, Clinton quipped “Things didn’t go exactly as I planned. But you know what? I’m doing okay.”
Clinton explained that since November, she’d been spending time with her family, going for long walks in the woods, organizing her closet, and drinking Chardonnay.
The crowd then cheered as though Chardonnay isn’t the worst wine.
The former New York senator used the rest of her address to give the Wellesley class of 2017 a pep talk. She recalled how when she was in college, the country was experiencing a dark time, living under a president that would eventually be impeached for obstruction of justice, after firing the person responsible for investigating him.
“You are graduating at a time when there is a full-fledged assault on truth and reason,” the former First Lady continued as the cheering from the Nixon/Trump joke died down. “Just log onto social media for 10 seconds, it will hit you right in the face. People denying science, concocting elaborate, hurtful conspiracy theories about child abuse rings operating out of pizza parlors.”
Clinton was referring to the conspiracy theory known as Pizzagate, a widely-debunked fringe notion that Clinton aides were trafficking children through a DC pizza restaurant called Comet Ping-Pong. One of the theory’s chief proponents, Mike Cernovich, reportedly retains a close relationship with some members of the Trump administration.
Hillary’s turn as Roastmaster General was just getting started. She went on, condemning those in power who try to twist the truth to fit an agenda, and warning students that one of the hallmarks of authoritarian regimes is the obstruction of the truth.
“Some of the things we can deny with our own eyes. Like the size of crowds,” said Clinton, referring to the Trump administration’s bizarre early attempts to prove the president’s inauguration was attended by more people than any other inauguration in history, a claim easily debunked by photographic evidence.
Moving beyond the Trump administration’s low-hanging fruit, Clinton dove in on policy. “Look at the budget that was just proposed in Washington,” she said, referring to the newly-released Trump budget. “It is an attack of unimaginable cruelty among the most vulnerable among us.” She called the budget a “con.”
Her audience laughed as though experiencing catharsis, for a few isolated minutes living in the Clinton-led reality that conventional wisdom suggested would await them after November 8.
Clinton’s voice held as she offered words of comfort to the graduates of the small private college. “If you feel powerless, don’t. Don’t let anyone tell you your voice doesn’t matter.”
“In the years to come,” she said, “there will be trolls galore, online and in person, eager to tell you that you don’t have anything worthwhile to say or anything meaningful to contribute. They may even call you a nasty woman.”
But the former Secretary of State’s words weren’t bereft of actual advice for the class of 2017. Tucked into her Trump jabs was an appeal to the elite graduates to engage with the very people who put Trump in power. “Your learning, listening and serving should include people who don’t agree with you politically,” she said.
She spoke of economic and cultural alienation of people who “feel left behind and looked down on” by the wealthy and powerful.
“Their anger and alienation has proved a fertile ground for false promises and false information,” Clinton warned. “Their economic problems and cultural anxiety must be addressed or they will continue to sign up to be foot soldiers in the ongoing conflict between ‘us’ and ‘them.’”
Despite how much of her speech was devoted to the man who defeated her in November, Clinton never once mentioned President Trump’s name. It’s hard to fathom that this wasn’t a deliberate exclusion.
Clinton wrapped up her speech with the standard ‘good luck’ to the grads. Based on her assessment of the current state of American politics, they’ll need it.