WASHINGTON – Hillary Clinton reflected on her devastating defeat on Wednesday evening, acknowledging the difficulty of her loss for her supporters and urging them to persevere through the Donald Trump era.
In remarks that were equal parts pep talk and funeral dirge, Clinton encouraged her backers to "never, ever give up."
"I know this isn't easy. I know that over the past week a lot of people have asked themselves whether America is the country we thought it was," Clinton said at the annual gala of the Children's Defense Fund, the child advocacy organization where she started her legal career. "But please listen to me when I say this: America is worth it."
She added: "It's up to each and every one of us to keep working to make America better and stronger and fairer."
Clinton never cited the president-elect by name in her remarks, making only an oblique reference to the controversial policies that fueled his rise to the White House.
Instead, she focused on the future, asking her backers to "stay engaged on every level."
"We need you. America needs your energy," she said.
Clinton's surprising loss threw her party into a period of intense soul-searching, with an ascendant liberal wing blaming Clinton's campaign for failing to embrace a more populist economic message. In private calls with donors and Democratic officials, Clinton has largely attributed her defeat to the decision by the FBI to reexamine her use of a private server as secretary of state.
In her remarks, Clinton offered no accounting for any failures she may have made during her presidential campaign, though she admitted that the past week hasn't been easy.
"There have been a few times this past week when all I wanted to do was just to curl up with a good book or our dogs and never leave the house again," she ruefully admitted.
She chose friendly ground to make her first public appearance since her emotional concession speech in New York City last Wednesday. Her first job out of law school in the 1970s was for Children's Defense Fund founder Marian Wright Edelman. She later became a staff attorney and chairman of the group's board.
Throughout her campaign, she cited her work for the group as her "north star," sparking her interest in standing up against injustice toward children and families.
The group, which helps disadvantaged children, tried to return some of the affection on Wednesday night.
"We love her and we appreciate all the hard work she has done and say it's not going to be for naught," said Edelman, in her introductory remarks. "We're going to say that she is the people's president."
Still, in a sign of Clinton's new life as a private citizen, the event lacked many of the trappings of her presidential campaign. Security was light and she traveled with only a handful of aides.
Sprinkled throughout the small theater where she addressed donors and supporters were a handful of empty seats.