Tuesday 25 September 2018

'The fight is far from over' - Hillary Clinton gives impassioned speech in Dublin

Former US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton gives a public lecture at Trinity College Dublin. Picture: Maxwells
Former US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton gives a public lecture at Trinity College Dublin. Picture: Maxwells
Former US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton gives a public lecture at Trinity College Dublin. Picture: Maxwells
Former US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton gives a public lecture at Trinity College Dublin. Picture: Maxwells
Former US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton gives a public lecture at Trinity College Dublin. Picture: Maxwells
Former US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton gives a public lecture at Trinity College Dublin. Picture: Maxwells
Caitlin McBride

Caitlin McBride

Former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton delivered an impassioned speech about the merits of democracy during a special visit to Dublin.

She was being recognised with an Honorary Doctorate at Trinity College Dublin and spoke to a crowd at the university's Edmund Burke Theatre, an audience including students, activists and politicians, including former Tanaiste Frances Fitzgerald.

The hour long engagement was sprinkled with signature Hillary presentation: discussing the ongoing fight for women's rights, the increasingly powerful influence over the West by Russia with just the right amount of humour.

"A lot has happened since I was last in Ireland. I became a grandmother twice over, which is just about the greatest thing in th world. As you may have heard, I ran for president. The grandparenting went great, but the other part, not so much," she said.

Former US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton gives a public lecture at Trinity College Dublin. Picture: Maxwells
Former US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton gives a public lecture at Trinity College Dublin. Picture: Maxwells

"I also wrote a book called What Happened. It's about the future as much as the past, about everything I've learned when it comes to standing up for facts and rational debate; protecting democracy and forging a path forward in a world that feels like it's been turned upside down. that seems to be a particularly relevant topic today."

Mrs Clinton touched on the controversy around children's detention centres in border states in the US as a result of President Trump's zero tolerance immigration policy, saying that the fight has just begun.

"We are living through an era when fundamental rights, civic virtue, even facts and reason are under assault like never before. As we have been painfully reminded in my own country, the consequences are severe," she said.

"Over the last few weeks, Americans from every political background, ideology and walk of life watched, heartbroken, as immigrant families were ripped apart, and immigrant children were treated cruelly as political pawns.

Former US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton gives a public lecture at Trinity College Dublin. Picture: Maxwells
Former US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton gives a public lecture at Trinity College Dublin. Picture: Maxwells

"Yet, even in this dark hour, we are witnessing an outpouring of moral conviction, civic engagement and commitment to standing up for the most vulnerable among us. In response to this onslaught of attacks on our values, millions of people have become unlikely activists - calling their elected representatives, flooding social media, organising rallies, protests and marches, contributing to front line grousp.

"In fact, it was because of the outcry from every corner of our country that the Trump administration was finally forced to take a step to end family separation. Though the fight is far from over, and the children are not yet reunited with their families."

Mrs Clinton went on to congratulate for Ireland's youth for mobilising in support of the recent abortion referendum, in which 66.4% of people voted to appeal the eighth amandement. She was particularly focused on tailoring her speech to the Trinity students in attendance, encouraging them to exercise their democratic rights.

"These last few years in Ireland have been a testament to the power of young people to shape the future - from the 2015 marriage equality referendum, which saw historic youth turnout, to this year's abortion referendum," she said.

Former US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton gives a public lecture at Trinity College Dublin. Picture: Maxwells
Former US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton gives a public lecture at Trinity College Dublin. Picture: Maxwells

"No demographic is better positioned to be a force on the side of democracy, progress and equality. But that outcome is far from inevtiable."

After speaking for 30 minutes, she sat down for a conversation with former Irish president and TCD chancellor Mary Robinson, and took three questions from the audience, one from the president of Trinity Philosophical Society, to which she quipped, "It's great being around so many presidents."

When asked about the source of her resilience, Clinton commended her mother Dorothy for instilling in her an impenetrable sense of durability.

"My mother had a very difficult life, she was neglected by her two young parents," she said.

"I didn't know any of this when I was a little girl, but as I became older and learned more about her life, I asked her how she survived that. How did she keep going? And she told me that at critical points in her life, people showed her kindness - never underestimate the power of kindess.

"My mother always said to me, 'Look, everybody in life gets knocked down. The question is whether you get back up and keep going'. It sounds simple but it was just emblazoned on my heart and so for everything, I've ever done and accomplished, in failures as well as the successes, I think she was the one that put me on that path."

Later in the afternoon, she was granted a honorary degree in a private ceremony alongside four other distinguished individuals including American philanthropist Dr James Simons, President of the Confederation of the British Industry Paul Dreschler, archivist at the Irish Architectural Archive, Ann Rowan; and co-founder of the  Young  Scientist Exhibition,  Dr Tony Scott.

On Thursday she met with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar at Government Buildings.

The informal discussion came on the same day European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker and the EU's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier also held talks with Mr Varadkar in his Dublin offices.

A spokesman for the Taoiseach said: "Hillary Clinton was in Dublin on business today and paid a courtesy call to the Taoiseach. They had a wide ranging chat on a range of issues including world affairs and gender equality."

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