Hillary Clinton spoke publicly for the first time since privately conceding the presidential election to Donald Trump, addressing the nation just before noon Wednesday from the Wyndham New Yorker hotel in Midtown Manhattan.
Clinton was accompanied Wednesday morning by her running mate, Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, and surrounded by dozens of her campaign staffers, some in tears. Her supporters gave her a rousing standing ovation when she entered the room. She smiled and declared, “I love you, too,” to those who cheered her.
“Last night, I congratulated Donald Trump and offered to work with him on behalf of our country,” Clinton said. “I hope that he will be a successful president for all Americans. This is not the outcome that we wanted or worked so hard for, and I’m sorry that we did not win this election…. But I feel pride and gratitude for this wonderful campaign that we built together. This vast, diverse, creative, unruly and energized campaign. You represent the best of America, and being your candidate has been one of the greatest honors of my life.”
Fighting back tears at times, Clinton acknowledged the crowd’s disappointment, saying she — “and tens of millions of Americans” — felt it, too.
“This is painful, and it will be for a long time,” Clinton said. “We have seen that our nation is more deeply divided than we thought. But I still believe in America, and I always will.”
Clinton also addressed those across the country who had supported her, describing her volunteers as “the best campaign anybody could have ever expected or wanted” — and even seemed to give an unspoken shout-out to “Pantsuit Nation,” a no-longer-secret Facebook group for Clinton’s biggest fans.
“And to the millions of volunteers, community leaders, activists and union organizers who knocked on doors, talked to neighbors, posted on Facebook — even in secret private Facebook sites,” she said to laughter. “I want everybody coming out from behind that and make sure your voices are heard going forward.”
Clinton encouraged those watching to not be discouraged, particularly “young people” who might be at the beginning of their careers.
“I’ve had successes and I’ve had setbacks,” Clinton said. “You will have setbacks, too. This loss hurts. But please, never stop believing that fighting for what’s right is worth it. It is. It is worth it.”
Clinton and former president Bill Clinton both wore the color purple. Their daughter, Chelsea Clinton, looked on as her mother thanked their extended family for campaigning fervently on her behalf.
“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,” Hillary Clinton said. “I know we still have not shattered that highest and hardest glass ceiling, but someday, someone will and hopefully sooner than we might think right now. … And to all 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 closed by calling on those to continue fighting for the country and saying that she believed in its future.
“I am so grateful for our country and for all it has given to me,” Clinton said. “I count my blessings every single day that I am an American and I still believe, as deeply as I ever have, that if we stand together and work together, with respect for our differences, strength for our convictions and love for this nation, our best days are still ahead of us. Because you know, I believe we are stronger together and we will go forward together. And you should never, ever regret fighting for that.”
An emotional Kaine spoke first, saying he and his wife remain proud of Clinton.
“She has been and is a great history maker in everything she has done,” Kaine said, adding that she had blazed trails “in a nation that is good at so many things but has made it uniquely difficult for a woman to be elected to federal office.”
“Finally, I’m proud of Hillary because she loves this country,” Kaine said. “She’s been in battles before where if it didn’t go her way, she accepted it, but then woke up the next day and battled again … and that love of country I think is obvious to everyone.”
Kaine closed by saying that much work remained and quoted William Faulkner: “They kilt us but they ain’t whupped us yit,” he said, to loud applause.
Polls leading up to Election Day had widely predicted Clinton would win the presidency. Though some states remain too close to call — and it appears increasingly likely Clinton will win the popular vote — Trump pulled out a decisive number of electoral college votes in a stunning upset.
Clinton had been staying about a mile away at the Peninsula Hotel — very close to Trump Tower. Late Wednesday morning, she took a short car ride to the New Yorker, a historic Art Deco hotel in Midtown Manhattan.
As a light rain fell Wednesday morning, a few harried campaign staffers corralled reporters and photographers on the sidewalk on one side of the New Yorker hotel doors and supporters and Clinton staff on the other.
At 8:30 a.m., Clinton’s top image-maker Greg Hale, the man responsible for sets, backdrops and all manner of atmospherics for her biggest rallies, wandered alone on the hotel’s third floor. In the ballroom, work crews put up a simple riser where Clinton spoke. Behind her was a row of American flags.
The concession speech was a stark contrast to what had been planned for Clinton on election night.
Thousands of Clinton’s supporters had gathered Tuesday night at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center for what was supposed to be a victory party for the Democratic candidate.
The Washington Post’s Anne Gearan, who covered Clinton’s campaign, noted that a photograph of the stage at the Javits Center “reveals what the campaign had planned for her victory speech.”
On the stage was a map showing the United States cast in blue.
“The lighted USA outline was invisible in the room,” Gearan notes. It was meant to be revealed when Clinton spoke upon being declared president-elect — under the dramatic glass ceiling of the Javits convention center.
That never occurred. Instead, Clinton campaign manager John Podesta appeared around 2 a.m. Wednesday and addressed her crestfallen supporters, urging them to go home and get some rest.
The overhead camera shot showed Podesta at the end of a gloomy election-night rally in New York.
Anne Gearan contributed to this post.