Hillary Clinton has failed in her attempt to become the 45th president of the United States of America and the first woman president in the history of the country. It wasn’t without a fight — Clinton is still on track to win the popular vote — but that fact offers little solace to her supporters and the majority of Americans who voted for her.
"I know how disappointed you feel, because I feel it too," Clinton said in her concession speech on Wednesday. "And so do tens of millions of Americans who invested their hopes and dreams in this effort. This is painful, and it will be for a long time."
Clinton’s concession speech was graceful and powerful — a call for unity at a time when the nation’s instinct seem against it. She also touched on the importance of confronting setbacks and disappointments and living through them, declaring that no one should be afraid to fight for what they believe is right.
Her address actually echoed the speech that is widely regarded as the first of her political career: her 1969 commencement address to her classmates at Wellesley College.
The address followed remarks by then–Republican Sen. Edward Brooke of Massachusetts, who argued against student protests that were taking place across college campuses. (Many of these protests were in response to the Vietnam War and military recruitment and alleged racial discrimination.) He said the protests "mistake the vigor of protest for the value of accomplishment."
Clinton ad-libbed a response to Brooke, while grounding her words in the question of what to do when reality and idealism don’t match up. She said (emphasis mine):
So we arrived at Wellesley and we found, as all of us have found, that there was a gap between expectation and realities. But it wasn't a discouraging gap and it didn't turn us into cynical, bitter old women at the age of 18. It just inspired us to do something about that gap. What we did is often difficult for some people to understand. They ask us quite often: "Why, if you're dissatisfied, do you stay in a place?" Well, if you didn't care a lot about it, you wouldn't stay.
Though Clinton made that statement in 1969, it’s just as eloquent and relevant today. It offers up a challenge that cuts through political affiliation, gender, class, race: to not let disappointment or setbacks eat away at you but inspire you instead.
While this might not be the legacy Clinton wanted to create for herself, that doesn’t make it any less powerful.