Losing the 2016 presidential election was “pretty devastating, especially considering who I lost to,” Hillary Clinton told graduates of Medgar Evers College on Thursday.
But Clinton said that setback “pales in comparison” to the heartbreak endured by Myrlie Evers-Williams, the widow of the slain black civil rights leader for whom the Brooklyn college is named.
Clinton urged the graduates to follow the example of Evers, who was assassinated in 1963, and of Evers-Williams, who has continued to fight for civil rights for more than 50 years.
“Never let anyone silence your voice,” Clinton said. “Medgar Evers faced constant threats because of his work. His house was firebombed by white supremacists. But he refused to back down.”
Clinton, a Democrat who served as first lady, U.S. senator and secretary of state, did not mention Republican President Donald Trump by name but criticized his policies including the travel ban affecting citizens of several predominantly Muslim countries.
She noted that graduate Yahya Mused worked in a deli across the street from Medgar Evers College after arriving in New York from Yemen, one of the countries targeted by the travel ban.
“He made sandwiches for students and professors. And today he's graduating with honors,” Clinton said. “I'm certainly glad he wasn't banned from America.”
Clinton spoke as former FBI director James Comey was telling Senate members in sworn testimony that Trump had fired him to interfere with his investigation of Russia's role in the election. Clinton made no mention of Comey.
Medgar Evers College is part of the public City University of New York system, the largest urban university in the United States.
Clinton said she visited the Medgar Evers campus last year and was asked if she would come back and speak at commencement.
“I said yes,” she said. “Now, I wish I had flown in from the White House, but I'm just as happy to be here anyway!”