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“We have work to do”: Hillary Clinton’s first speech since her concession was a call to action

Libby Nelson is Vox's policy editor, leading coverage of how government action and inaction shape American life. Libby has more than a decade of policy journalism experience, including at Inside Higher Ed and Politico. She joined Vox in 2014.

In her first public appearance since she conceded the presidential election to Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton went back to the work that has been a constant in her career: advocacy for children. At a Children’s Defense Fund gala, she told the audience to “believe in our country, fight for our values, and never, ever give up.”

Clinton was scheduled to make the speech long before she lost the election, and most of the attendees — as well as Clinton herself — probably expected a triumphant appearance, the president-elect revisiting the group where she started her career after law school. (The placard on her lectern even said “beat the odds.”)

Instead, a defeated candidate told the audience that some days, all she wanted to do was “curl up with a good book and our dogs and never leave the house again.” But she reminded the audience that she was not the only one suffering, invoking a child she met during the campaign in Nevada who was terrified that her parents would be deported. And Clinton called for the audience to overcome their own disappointment and persevere.

“I know this isn’t easy,” Clinton said. “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 run bare by this election run deep. But please listen to me when I say this. America is worth it. Our children are worth it.”

She quoted Martin Luther King Jr.’s frequently quoted maxim that “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

“Now, sometimes it can feel awfully long, believe me, I know,” she said. “But I also know it does bend” — but only because people work for it: “You refuse to stop pushing, and when you get knocked down, you get back up.”

“We have work to do,” she said. “And for the sake of our children and our families and our country, I ask you to stay engaged. Engaged on every level. We need you. America needs you … That’s how we get through this.”

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