“In the past, I felt like I had to be careful in public, to keep my guard up,” Hillary Clinton said to a packed crowd at the Paramount Theater in Seattle on Monday night. “Well, those days are over.”
And so began a 90-minute conversation between Clinton and author Anne Lamott in support of Clinton’s new book, “What Happened,” about the 2016 election: how she was defeated by Donald Trump, what his election means to democracy and what people can learn and do in the wake of it all.
Clinton walked out in a black-and-white jacket and pants to a sustained standing ovation. The cheering continued long after she sat down.
“As a person, I’m OK,” she assured the crowd. “As an American, I’m really concerned.”
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In the time after the election, she said, there were times she wanted to pull the covers over her head. She read a lot of mysteries “because the bad guy gets it in the end,” watched a lot of HGTV and organized her closets.
“And yes,” she said. “I had my fair share of Chardonnay.”
There were many things that worked against her last November, most notably sexism in politics, she said.
The more professional men are, the more people like them, Clinton said. It’s not the same for women.
“The more professionally successful we are, the less people like us,” she said. “Women are seen favorably when they’re advocating for others, but unfavorably when we advocate for ourselves.”
I hope she continues to inspire us and give us the motivation to fight and never forget where we came from and what we’ve done.
Tahmina Watson, a Seattle immigration lawyer
Other forces were at work to prevent her from becoming the first woman president, she said. Dissatisfied voters, the political press, the intervention of the FBI and “information warfare from the Kremlin,” which she called “a clear and present danger to Western democracy.”
She spoke of how Russian hackers planted ads on social media, influencing the results. There was massive voter suppression, she said. These are things European countries caught on to and that American voters need to be aware of, and to fight against – something Clinton plans to do from now on.
“For all those people who say, ‘Go away and keep quiet,’ I say ‘Noooo,’” she said, her voice rising over the cheers. “I’m not going anywhere but into the middle of the debate about our future.”
The crowd – which paid between $155 and $646 to be there – was predominantly women, some of whom used walkers to get to their seats, and some who barely filled them, like 5-year-old Julianne Pederson, who came up from California with her mother, Gina. Julianne wore a lavender pantsuit lined with Wonder Woman fabric and a string of pearls from her grandmother.
“I’m here to see Hillary Clinton because she’s the toughest girl in the world!” Julianne said, then paused. “One of them.”
Said Gina: “I just want her to understand the issues Hillary Clinton has had to work through all this time.”
“I just wanted to see her,” said Bianca Walser, who flew up from Menlo Park, Calif. to attend the event with her sisters. “I don’t know if it will make me feel better. It might stir it up all over again.”
Tahmina Watson, a Seattle immigration lawyer who was “a tiny, tiny, tiny part” of Clinton’s immigration team, wore a T-shirt that read “Dirty Immigration Lawyer.”
To see Clinton, she said, “is renewing the fight in me. I hope she continues to inspire us and give us the motivation to fight and never forget where we came from and what we’ve done.”
Kaia McCready, 10, sat with her friend Willa Chin, 11. The two attended the Women’s March in Washington, D.C. last January with their mothers. They had been hoping to witness the inauguration of the first woman president. They came to see her here instead.
“Hillary Clinton is a genius, and she is willing to sit in the same room as Donald Trump and not scream in his face,” McCready said. “She’s very respectful.”
The audience? It had its moments. People booed at the mention of Trump’s name, at the phrase “emails.” One person yelled “Impeach!”
But Clinton turned the conversation to the positives: The women who had gotten involved in politics since her defeat. The ongoing investigation into the Trump campaign.
And while the Republican tax bill is “horrible,” she said (“It will explode the deficit and debt and inequality”), those who voted for it have nothing left to do but try to get re-elected.
At one point, Lamott asked: “How do you keep yourself from thinking there is a vast right-wing conspiracy?”
“Well, I do think that,” Clinton said. “I know (Russian President) Vladimir Putin. And the reason he so much wanted to elect the other guy is because I know him.”
Putin wants, among other things, to undercut Western democracy, Clinton said. And Trump, she said, “doesn’t just like Putin, he wants to be like Putin.”
Do not lose heart. Do not get discouraged. Do not get overwhelmed by the stream of hateful words and actions.
Thankfully, she said, we have laws that prevent that kind of rule.
When Lamott asked what three significant things people can do, Clinton was warmer than most had ever seen her.
“Do not lose heart,” she began. “Do not get discouraged. Do not get overwhelmed by the stream of hateful words and actions.”
She urged people to be compassionate, and recommended that they find friends and family members who can lift them up when they’re down.
“Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good,” she said. “Democracy is mess, and compromise is at the core of it. You can’t be convinced that if you don’t get it all, it can’t be legitimate.”
Voting is paramount to our democracy, she said: “Everyone you know, harass them to make sure they register to vote.”
And never lose hope, she said. She recalled her mother’s childhood, when she was rejected by her parents and at eight years old, was put on a train from Chicago to Los Angeles with her 5-year-old sister in tow to live with their grandparents, who also rejected them.
But there were small kindnesses. Clinton’s mother had a teacher who gave her lunch every day. And when she was 14, she became a housekeeper for a family that allowed her to attend high school.
“As I got older, I asked her how did she not become bitter and broken, mean and hateful,” Clinton said. “At every point, she said, someone showed her kindness.
“So when I think about hope, I think about small acts of kindness,” she said. “That recognition of one another’s humanity. That sense of yes, we are all in this together. And that is the core of my hope.
“I find hope everywhere,” she said. “And I hope you do, as well.”