Tara Golshan · Friday, May 26, 2017, 3:29 pm
Hillary Clinton didn’t have to say his name.
Addressing the graduating class at Wellesley College Friday, Clinton’s commencement speech delivered punch after punch at the man who robbed her of the presidency: Donald Trump.
She took jabs at the right-wing Pizzagate conspiracy, the White House’s “alternative facts” — from the crowd size at inauguration to “drumming up rampant fear about undocumented immigrants” — and compared his administration to that of Richard Nixon.
Clinton returned to her alma mater to give the 2017 commencement speech 48 years after becoming the first student to deliver a commencement speech in her role as Wellesley class president — a historic moment that landed her on the pages of Life magazine in 1969.
Now, having been first lady, a senator, and secretary of state, and with two failed presidential runs under her belt, Clinton gave a speech that was far from a rosy picture about the joys of entering the real world. Rather, she said this class was “graduating at a time when there is a full-fledged assault on truth and reason” — making a call to action.
“As the history majors among you here today know all too well, when people in power invent their own facts and attack those who question them, it can mark the beginning of the end of a free society,” she told the graduating class. “That is not hyperbole. It is what authoritarian regimes throughout history have done. They attempt to control reality.”
Here are some of her most striking moments:
1) Clinton makes subtle comments about impeachment
She wasn’t talking about Trump — well, not explicitly.
Instead, Clinton was recalling the start of her career as an activist during the height of the Vietnam War protests, explaining a time of dishonesty from top officials, mass casualties abroad, and “deep differences over civil rights and poverty.”
She was talking about Richard Nixon, but everyone in the audience got the message. This was really more about a comparison to Trump:
We were asking urgent questions about whether women, people of color, religious minorities, immigrants would ever be treated with dignity and respect. And by the way, we were furious about the past presidential election of a man whose presidency would eventually end in disgrace with his impeachment for obstruction of justice.
2) Clinton took a swing at fake news — from right-wing conspiracies to inauguration crowd sizes
Nothing was sugarcoated in Clinton’s speech. She spoke of a reality in which the most powerful have waged war against truth, and where a fringe right has been given an elevated platform:
You are graduating at a time when there is a full-fledged assault on truth and reason. Just log on to social media for 10 seconds. It will hit you right in the face.
People denying science, concocting elaborate, hurtful conspiracies theories about child abuse rings operating out of pizza parlors. Drumming up rampant fear about undocumented immigrants, Muslims, minorities, the poor. Turning neighbor against neighbor and sowing division at a time when we desperately need unity.
Some are even denying things we see with our own eyes. Like the size of crowds. And then defending themselves by talking about “alternative facts.”
3) Clinton said what Trump is doing is like that of authoritarian regimes
This assault on facts, Clinton said, is not a characteristic of a democracy — rather, she said this can be the mark of “the end of a free society”:
As the history majors among you here today know all too well, when people in power invent their own facts and attack those who question them, it can mark the beginning of the end of a free society.
That is not hyperbole. It is what authoritarian regimes throughout history have done. They attempt to control reality. Not just our laws and our rights and our budgets, but our thoughts and beliefs.
4) She called the budget “an attack of unimaginable cruelty”
Clinton’s speech comes the same week the White House released its budget proposal for Congress. While the proposal is far from anything that will be actually enacted in Congress, it represented a truly conservative vision for America — what Clinton decried as an “attack of unimaginable cruelty on the most vulnerable”:
Look at the budget that was just proposed in Washington. It is an attack of unimaginable cruelty on the most vulnerable among us, the youngest, the oldest, the poorest, and hard-working people who need a little help to gain or hang on to a decent middle-class life.
It grossly underfunds public education, mental health, and efforts even to combat the opioid epidemic. And in reversing our commitment to fight climate change, it puts the future of our nation and our world at risk.
And to top it off, it is shrouded in a trillion-dollar mathematical lie. Let's call it what it is. It's a con. They don't even try to hide it.
5) This speech was a call to the resistance — with some jokes along the way
Earlier this month, Clinton made an announcement that she was officially joining the resistance against Trump, starting a Super PAC, Onward Together, to recruit the next generation of Democratic leaders.
On Friday, her speech was a call to those leaders, asking the graduating class to stand up and fight:
Here’s what I want you to know: We got through that tumultuous time. We revved up the engine of imagination and innovation. We turned back a tide of intolerance and embraced inclusion. The we who did those things were more than those in power who wanted to change course. It was millions of ordinary citizens, especially young people, who voted, marched, and organized.
And of course, she talked about the loss in November, but she brushed it off with a joke about cleaning her closets and drinking just enough white wine:
You may have heard that things didn’t exactly go as planned, but you know what? I’m doing okay. I’ve gotten to spend time with my family, especially my amazing grandchildren. Long walks in the woods. Organizing my closets, right? I won’t lie — Chardonnay helped a little.