Hillary Clinton was expected to be giving a victory speech Tuesday night under a symbolic glass ceiling — representing her triumphant shattering of the final barrier for women in American politics.
Instead, she conceded the presidency Wednesday to President-elect Donald Trump in a drab hotel ballroom, with a message to the girls and young women she hopes will break that ceiling instead.
“To all the women, and especially the young women, who put their faith in this campaign and in me: I want you to know that nothing has made me prouder than to be your champion,” Clinton said, later continuing: “And to all of the little girls who are watching this, never doubt that you are valuable and powerful and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world to pursue and achieve your own dreams.”
Clinton’s speech was not about Trump. She said only that her supporters owe him “an open mind and a chance to lead.” But much of what she said served as an implicit rebuke to the president-elect.
She talked about the limitless power and possibility of girls and women, people whom Trump has judged based mostly on their sexual desirability.
She spoke about her vision of America as a place where the American dream was “big enough for everyone” — “people of all races, and religions, for men and women, for immigrants, for LGBT people, and people with disabilities” — after a campaign during which Trump called Mexicans criminals and rapists, proposed banning Muslims, and mocked a reporter with a disability.
She praised the rule of law and the peaceful transition of power — after Trump suggested during the campaign that, had he lost, he might not have conceded.
And while Trump’s campaign was based on his unique ability, as a reality star and Washington outsider, to change the country, Clinton underscored to her supporters that they could change the world without her in the White House, and told them to come out from their “secret, private Facebook sites” to stay involved.
“Our constitutional democracy demands our participation, not just every four years but all the time,” she said.
“I've had successes and setbacks and sometimes painful ones,” she said. “Many of you are at the beginning of your professional, public, and political careers — you will have successes and setbacks too. This loss hurts, but please never stop believing that fighting for what's right is worth it. … And so we need you to keep up these fights now and for the rest of your lives.”
And Clinton, who has now come closer to the presidency than any other woman in American history — first contesting the Democratic nomination as a close runner-up in 2008, then as the nominee eight years later — acknowledged that she would not be the one to break the glass ceiling. (What went unspoken is that Clinton is 70, and, unless Democrats’ fortunes turn around quickly, it might not be broken in her lifetime.)
“I know we have still not shattered that highest and hardest glass ceiling,” said Clinton, who famously said eight and a half years ago she put “18 million cracks” in that ceiling in 2008. “But someday someone will — and hopefully sooner than we might think right now.”