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Davis, California

Monday, April 15, 2024

Hillary Clinton gives speech at UC Davis


Clinton spoke about women in politics, Russian involvement, gun reform

On Oct. 9, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton addressed a packed crowd in the Mondavi Center, who greeted her with screams of “I love you.” In Clinton’s first speech at UC Davis, she talked about her recently-published memoir, “What Happened,” which addresses her becoming the first-ever female Democratic Party presidential nominee, the unprecedented 2016 presidential election and its aftermath.

UC Davis Chancellor Gary May introduced Clinton, whom he said needed “absolutely no introduction.” The night’s event comprised two parts: Clinton gave a speech focused mainly on the issues she touches on in “What Happened” and then sat down with moderator Scott Syphax, the CEO of a Sacramento nonprofit, to answer questions mainly about the election.

Both at the beginning of her speech and toward the end of the Q&A portion, Clinton addressed the need for an increase in gun restrictions in the wake of the mass shooting in Las Vegas.

“One of the fatalities [was] a UC Davis graduate by the name of Michelle Vo,” Clinton said. “I read about how last week Michelle’s friends and family as well as members of the UC Davis community have remembered her as a joyful, kind person who made friends everywhere she went. She was just 32 years old. Every time there’s a mass shooting, people claim, ‘Well, it’s somehow impolite or too soon to address the need for common sense gun safety reform.’ I disagree. It’s always time and what better time than now?”

Clinton, who spoke in front of a wall stocked with copies of “What Happened,” said that the book is her “most candid” and “most personal effort” yet to write about personal experiences.

Fourth-year African American and African studies major Denisha Bland was chosen to address house rules before the event started; backstage, she shook Clinton’s hand and took a photo. Bland said she was “so excited” when Clinton thanked her by name in her speech.

To hear her say my name, […] it felt like she really cared,” Bland said. “I also liked her spirit and I wish she would have had that spirit through the election and showed her truth.”

Speaking openly about her reaction to the election, Clinton said she spent a significant amount of time with her family before deciding to get back to work.

“I […] started a new organization called Onward Together,” Clinton said. “It is designed to […] encourage the outpouring of activism and engagement that we’re seeing across America now. I still yell at my TV, [but] it helps a lot to be able to channel the worry and the pent-up emotion into something constructive. I hope that many of you here tonight will come to that same conclusion about how important it is to stay engaged, stay active [and] fight for causes and candidates you believe will make a difference. There is too much at stake not to speak up about the things that matter most.”

At several points throughout the night, Clinton addressed Russian involvement in the presidential election. When asked by Syphax whether she thought the scandal could be “larger than Watergate,” she said yes.

“Everyone, regardless of political party, should be disturbed by the fact that Russian agents used Facebook and Twitter […] to place targeted attack ads and negative stories intended not only to hurt my chances but to fan the flame of division within our society,” Clinton said. “New research […] found that content posted by Russian trolls and bots had been shared upwards of 340 million times. We’ve never seen it on a scale like this. When it comes to the threat we face from Russia, we need to get serious about cybersecurity and closing loopholes in our election process, get tough with Putin [and] get to the bottom of what really happened in 2016.”

One continuing theme throughout the event was the topic of women in politics. Syphax inquired as to the advice Clinton might give to senators such as Kamala Harris or Elizabeth Warren or other women who might run for president in the future.

“You have to have a high pain threshold, because the double standard is alive and well,” Clinton said. “Kamala was questioning Jeff Sessions, who […] deserves to be questioned, and […the] chairman tells her, ‘Enough.’ One commentator said she’d been ‘Hillary’d.’ For any woman in politics — [or] in the public eye — you have to call it out, but you have to do it in a way that doesn’t create a backlash against you for calling it out. It’s a constant balancing act. The final thing I would say to them is […] just be prepared if we have another reality TV campaign to have the most horrible lies said about you.”

The final question Syphax asked was whether Clinton would “indulge” the audience and read a part of her prepared victory speech to the audience; the request was met with a roar of applause.

“This summer, a writer asked me if I could go back in time and tell anyone in history about this milestone, who would it be?” Clinton said. “And the answer was easy — my mother, Dorothy. You may have heard me talk about her difficult childhood, she was abandoned by her parents when she was just eight years old. I think about my mother every day. I dream of going up to her [at eight] and sitting down next to her, taking her in my arms and saying, […] ‘As hard as it might be to imagine, your daughter will grow up and become the president of the United States. America is the greatest country in the world, and from tonight going forward, together we will make America even greater than it has ever been for each and every one of us.’”

When speaking about her future, Clinton said she is “not going anywhere.”

“If you take nothing else away tonight, please understand I am here to tell you we cannot just move on,” Clinton said. “The lessons we draw, or fail to draw, from 2016 will help determine whether we can heal our democracy and protect it in the future [and] whether we can begin to bridge the divide that is tearing up so much of America. I’m going to do everything I can going forward as an active citizen to speak [up] and I hope you will do exactly the same. I’m confident and optimistic that we’ll win together.”


Written by: Hannah Holzer — campus@theaggie.org


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