In an emotional video released Wednesday, former secretary of state Hillary Clinton for the first time publicly delivered the victory speech she had been planning to give in November 2016 if she had prevailed over Donald Trump in that year’s presidential election.
If she had bested Trump in 2016, Clinton would have become the first female president of the United States. She also ran for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008, ultimately losing in a hard-fought primary campaign against Barack Obama, who went on to win the presidency.
For the first time ever, @HillaryClinton reads parts of her victory speech she hoped to deliver 5 years ago.— Adam Smith (@AdamJSmithGA) December 8, 2021
“A writer asked me, if I could go back in time and tell anyone in history about this milestone, who would it be? My mother.” pic.twitter.com/78rS64JN0d
“So, this was supposed to be the victory speech that I would have delivered on election night in New York on November the 8th of 2016,” Clinton said in the MasterClass video as she introduced her remarks. “I’ve never shared this with anybody. I’ve never read it out loud. But it helps to encapsulate who I am, what I believe in and what my hopes were for the kind of country that I want for my grandchildren, and that I want for the world, that I believe . . . is America at its best.”
Clinton began her speech by declaring that Americans had “renewed our democracy, and because of the honor you have given me, you have changed its face forever.”
“My fellow Americans, today you sent a message to the whole world: Our values endure, our democracy stands strong and our motto remains ‘E Pluribus Unum’ — out of many, one,” Clinton said. “We will not be defined only by our differences. We will not be an ‘us’ versus ‘them’ country. The American Dream is big enough for everyone.”
In the speech, Clinton referenced the history-making nature of her would-be victory.
“I’ve met women who were born before women had the right to vote,” Clinton said. “They’ve been waiting 100 years for tonight. I’ve met little boys and girls who didn’t understand why a woman has never been president before. Now they know, and the world knows, that in America, every boy and every girl can grow up to be whatever they dream, even president of the United States.”
At one point, Clinton grew emotional as she spoke about her mother, Dorothy Rodham, who died in 2011.
“This summer, a writer asked me if I could go back in time and tell anyone in history about this milestone, who would it be? And the answer was easy: My mother, Dorothy,” Clinton said.
She spoke about the abuse and abandonment her mother faced as a child, and how she “still found a way to offer me the boundless love and support she never received herself.”
Rodham and her younger sister grew up in Chicago, in a violent home, former Washington Post reporter Anne E. Kornblut wrote in 2011. After their parents’ divorce, the girls — Dorothy, 8, and Isabelle, 3 — were sent by train to live with their paternal grandparents in California, where they faced more mistreatment.
The girls’ grandparents were stern disciplinarians who discouraged visitors and once confined Dorothy to her bedroom for a year, allowing her to leave only for school, as punishment for going trick-or-treating. Dorothy Rodham moved out at age 14 and worked as a housekeeper while attending high school.
“I think about my mother every day. Sometimes, I think about her on that train. I wish I could walk down the aisle,” Clinton said in the MasterClass video, pausing as she got choked up.
“I wish I could walk down the aisle and find the little wooden seats where she sat, holding tight to her even younger sister — alone, terrified,” she said. “She doesn’t yet know how much she will suffer. She doesn’t yet know she will find the strength to escape that suffering. That is still a long way off. The whole future is still unknown, as she stares out at the vast country moving past her.”
Clinton said she dreamed of sitting down next to her mother, embracing her and telling her, “Look at me. Listen to me. You will survive. You will have a good family of your own, and three children. And as hard as it might be to imagine, your daughter will grow up and become the president of the United States.”
In the closing words of the speech, Clinton appeared to make a reference to Trump’s “Make America Great Again” campaign slogan — a phrase that, unbeknown to Clinton at the time, the country would end up hearing nearly every day over the next four years.
“I am as sure of this as anything I have ever known: America is the greatest country in the world, and from tonight going forward, together we will make America even greater than it has ever been, for each and every one of us,” Clinton said. “Thank you, God bless you, and may God bless America.”