Thursday, November 17, 2016

Hillary Clinton Reflects On Her Loss and Urges Her Supporters to Stay Engaged in Championing Children

 A very tired Hillary makes her first public appearance to support her favorite cause


Hillary Clinton was speaking on Wednesday at the annual gala of the Children's Defense Fund, where she started her legal career. In her first remarks since delivering her concession speech last week, Clinton,  urged Americans to continue fighting for values they believe in.

Clinton’s first job out of law school was for Children’s Defense Fund founder Marian Wright Edelman, who introduced her at the gala.
"Thank you, thank you. Oh, it is so wonderful to be here with all of you on behalf of the Children’s Defense Fund. I will admit, coming here tonight wasn’t the easiest thing for me,” Clinton said, reflecting on her loss in the presidential election. There have been a few times this past week when all I wanted to do was just 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 to work, it is Marian. I was listening backstage as Marian went through the 45 years that we have known each other and even reminded me of some things that I had not recalled, namely that this event was the very first event that my husband and I went to after he was elected president, and so it’s especially poignant and meaningful to me to be here again with all of you.

And I want to start by congratulating the terrific young people that we are celebrating tonight. You will hear more about each of them because each has faced painful challenges, violence and poverty, abandonment, but they never gave up. They never stopped reaching, never stopped dreaming and, yes, they have beaten the odds.

These fearless, generous, openhearted, determined young people represent a rising generation that should give us all much hope for the future. And they represent the continuing commitment of the Children’s Defense Fund and Marian Wright Edelman.
She has been committed to it all her life, and she has been helping the rest of us commit too. I am as inspired by Marian today as I was the first time I met her 45 years ago. And she told the story—I was a young law student, I had lots of hopes and expectations about what a law degree would enable me to do. I had the words of my Methodist faith ringing in my ears: “do all the good you can for all the people you can in all the ways you can as long as ever you can.”

She was the crusading legal activist, also a graduate of  Yale Law School, and she was translating her faith into a life devoted to children, service and social justice. Observing that, being part of that, is one of the greatest gifts anyone has ever given me.
I think of her taking the bar exam in Mississippi, the first black woman ever to do so, and then opening offices for the NAACP and a head start program for children who desperately needed it.
I think of her with Robert Kennedy in a tiny shack in the Delta, opening his eyes to the realities of poverty in America. I think of her with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., starting the Poor People’s Campaign and dreaming of an America of equality and opportunity.

For Marian it has always been about the children. That’s what matters, and that’s what has kept her going, helping to open public schools to children with disabilities in the 1970s, an effort I was honored to be part of. Working to expand Medicaid in the 1980s to cover more pregnant women and children in need. Standing with me and others in the 1990s to create the Children’s Health Insurance Program, improve foster care and create early head start, fighting in recent years to build a bipartisan movement to dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline and reform our criminal justice system, especially for juveniles, and spending countless hours mentoring and training the next generation of leaders and activists at Haley Farm.
The  Children’s Defense Fund works to give every child a healthy start, a head start, a fair start, a safe start and a moral start in life. And I cannot think of a more noble or necessary mission.  Marian has always believed in the words of Dr. King often repeated by President Obama, “The arc of the moral universe is long but it tends toward justice.”
Now sometimes it can feel awfully long, believe me I know, but I also know it does bend. It bends towards justice because people like Marian and so many of you, and there are people in this audience I’ve had the privilege of working with and admiring for so many decades. You refuse to stop pushing and when you get knocked down, you get back up.

I know many of you are deeply disappointed about the results of the election. I am too, more than I can ever express, but as I said last week, our campaign was never about one person or even one election. It was about the country we love and about building an America that is hopeful, inclusive and bighearted.
I didn’t get into public service to hold high office. Forty-five years ago, that would have seemed an absolute incredibly wrong-headed view, but I did decide to be an activist to use my law degree to help kids.

Every child deserves to have the opportunity to live up to his or her God-given potential, and I believe the measure of any society is how we treat our children. And as we move forward into a new—and in many ways, uncertain—future, I think that must be the test for America and for ourselves. Despite the progress—and we have made progress under President Obama—more than 31 million children still live at or near poverty in America. And I hoped to have had the opportunity to build on the progress that President Obama has made because I know that we are stronger together when we are lifting each other up.
Let’s be clear, when I talk about children in or near poverty, this isn’t someone else’s problem. These aren’t someone else’s children. This is America’s problem because they are America’s children. Child poverty isn’t just an urban challenge or a black or Latino challenge, although children of color continue to suffer disproportionately from high rates of poverty, but make no mistake, there are poor children of every race and ethnicity.
Three out of every 10 white children in America are at or near poverty. That is more than 11 million kids. When you add in 11 million Latino children, more than 6 million black children, a million and a half Asian and American-Indian children, nearly 2 million children of two or more races, the scope and scale of this challenge becomes clear. Poor children live in every state and every congressional district, so they deserve the attention and efforts of every one of our representatives and leaders. And the measure of success must be: how many children and families climb out of poverty and reach the middle class? We know what works to support kids and give them opportunities to succeed.
Parents need good-paying jobs, affordable quality health care and childcare, to have help balancing the demands of work and family. Communities need investments that lift families up, not neglect that lets them fall further behind. There are millions of children who will go to school tomorrow in classrooms with crumbling ceilings, empty bookshelves and walls covered with mold. There are children in places like Flint, Michigan, drinking water poisoned by lead. And children all over our country face the daily danger of gun violence. We have to ask ourselves, what are we doing to give them the safe and healthy lives they deserve?
There are also children who are afraid today, like the little girl I met in Nevada who started to cry when she told me how scared she was that her parents would be taken away from her and be deported. No child should have to live with fear like that. No child should be afraid to go to school because they are Latino or African-American or Muslim or because they have a disability. We should protect our children and help them love themselves and love others.

So there is a lot of work to do as long as any child in America lives in poverty, as long as any child in America lives in fear, as long as any child—not just here but in the world—faces these challenges, there is work to do. Girls as well as boys in every country on every continent deserve that chance to fulfill their own potential. And it is going to take all of us doing our part.
I wrote a book 20 years ago called It Takes a Village. And a lot of people asked, what the heck do you mean by that? I meant what CDF has represented and understood from the beginning: None of us can raise a family, build a business, heal a community or lift a country by ourselves. We have to do it together.

So I urge you—I urge you, please, don’t lose heart. Don’t give up on the values we share. Look at the young people we are honoring tonight. If they can persevere, so must all of us, and if Marian has taught us anything, it’s there are so many ways to make a difference. Organizations like CDF have never been more important. Businesses, philanthropists, foundations, congregations of every faith have to step up too because there is work to be done in every community.

A lot of governors and legislators and mayors are pioneering new ways to support parents and provide children with early learning in red states as well as blue states. Many of our most important accomplishments for the wellbeing of children and families have come from both parties working together like the Children’s Health Insurance Program. That could never have happened without Republican leaders. Now it covers eight million kids, and even in this presidential campaign, for the first time ever, a broad consensus emerged about the importance of affordable quality childcare and paid family leave.

So we have work to do, and for the sake of our children and our families and our country, I ask you to stay engaged, stay engaged on every level. We need you. America needs you. Your energy, your ambition, your talent. That’s how we get through this. That’s how we help to make our contributions to bend the arc of the moral universe toward justice. I know this isn’t easy, I know that over the past week, a lot of people have asked themselves whether America is 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.

Believe in our country, fight for our values and never, ever give up because over the past two years, I have met so many people who reaffirmed my faith in our country, all kinds of people—young people starting businesses, people working in every way they could to make the world a better place, police officers who put their lives on the line, members of communities who work with the police to try to keep everybody safe, immigrants who worked so hard to become citizens and so many people who work long hours caring for children and the elderly, even when the pay is not enough to support their own families.

I met and had the chance to work and travel with mothers who lost children and turned around and started a movement for peace and justice.  Way back when I was in college, and I gave the commencement speech, I said to my classmates then that our goal should be to make what appears to be impossible possible. I may be older now, a mother and a grandmother. I have seen my share of ups and downs, but I still believe that we can make the impossible possible.  The stories of the people we’re honoring tonight, Marian’s story, all that she’s achieved—the Children’s Defense Fund has often made the impossible possible.

And then finally, as some of you heard me say during the campaign, I draw hope and sustenance from another person who influenced my life and still does every day, my mother. I have talked about her difficult childhood. She was abandoned by her parents when she was just 8 years old. They put her on a train to California all by herself in charge of her little sister, who was three years younger. She ended up in California, where she was abused by her grandparents, ended up on her own, working as a housemaid at 14 years old. She beat the odds. She found a way to offer me the boundless love and support she never received herself.
I think about her every day and sometimes I think about her on that train. I wish I could walk down the aisle and find the little wooden seat where she sat, holding tight to her younger sister, all alone and terrified. She doesn’t yet know how much more she will have to face and even suffer. She doesn’t yet know she will find the strength to escape that suffering. That’s still years off.

Her whole future is unknown, as it is for all of us, as she stares out at the vast country moving past her. And I dream of going up to her 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 for President of the United States.

Now, I can’t and you can’t go back in time and hug all those children that preceded us, but we can do that in the present. We can reach out to make sure every child has a champion because I am as sure of this as anything I have ever known. 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. Thank you. God bless you and God bless the work of the Children’s Defense Fund.

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