Clinton Urges Backers to Look to November
Sunday, June 8, 2008
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, the most successful female presidential candidate in U.S. history, officially ended her campaign yesterday with a forceful promise to help elect Sen. Barack Obama -- and the declaration that, even though she had failed to "shatter that highest, hardest glass ceiling," a gender barrier had been crossed.
Four days after Obama secured the delegates needed to win the Democratic nomination, Clinton gave him her unqualified endorsement, finally putting to rest questions about whether she would help unite the party for the general election. In generous and, at times, soaring terms, Clinton described her cause as united with Obama's, saying that electing him would achieve the goals of universal health care, a strong economy and the end of the war in Iraq.
"We may have started on separate journeys, but today our paths have merged," Clinton said.
Clinton, who began her candidacy as the overwhelming favorite to win her party's nomination, discouraged rehashing the long and divisive Democratic primary campaign, instead asking her supporters -- some of whom, still resentful, booed when she mentioned her former rival during the speech -- to "take our energy, our passion, our strength, and to do all we can to help elect Barack Obama the next president of the United States."
"When you hear people saying, or think to yourself, 'if only' or 'what if,' I say -- please don't go there," Clinton said. "Every moment wasted looking back keeps us from moving forward."
She continued: "Life is too short, time is too precious, and the stakes are too high to dwell on what might have been. We have to work together for what still can be. And that is why I will work my heart out to make sure that Senator Obama is our next president, and I hope and pray that all of you will join me in that effort."
It was a final, emotional end of a year-and-a-half-long effort in which Clinton won more than 17 million votes and dozens of primary contests.
Clinton was met with a deafening roar the moment she entered the atrium at the National Building Museum, where thousands of supporters gathered for her speech. "Well, this isn't exactly the party I planned," she began, smiling broadly. With her were her daughter, Chelsea; her husband, former president Bill Clinton; and her mother, Dorothy Rodham, who turned 89 years old three days earlier.
The crowd's undiminished enthusiasm was an indication of the challenges facing Obama. Ann Lewis, one of Clinton's longtime friends and advisers, acknowledged that that kind of fidelity "is not switched with the turn of a faucet."
But Clinton expressed no ambivalence about ending her bid and turning her attention to the fall campaign. Although she did not mention Sen. John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee, by name, she repeatedly encouraged her supporters to remember why they had worked for her and why Obama would fulfill those same goals. She said nearly a dozen times that it is imperative to "help elect Barack Obama our president."
And in one of her most passionate descriptions of social progress, Clinton characterized both Obama's success and her own as the result of historic struggles that must continue. At one point, she said she wanted to talk on "a personal note," and said she identified with women who have faced discrimination in their lives.
"Like millions of women, I know there are still barriers and biases out there, often unconscious, and I want to build an America that respects and embraces the potential of every last one of us," Clinton said.