WELLESLEY, Mass. (AP) — Hillary Clinton peppered her Wellesley College commencement address Friday with barbs aimed at her rival in last year’s presidential election, criticizing President Donald Trump’s budget proposal as a mean-spirited “con.”
The former Democratic presidential nominee never mentioned Trump by name even as she lashed out at his proposed budget as “an attack of unimaginable cruelty on the most vulnerable among us.”
She said during her speech at her alma mater that the spending proposal fails to address critical issues such as opioid addiction and climate change. “It is shrouded in a trillion-dollar mathematical lie,” she said. “Let’s call it what it is. It’s a con. They don’t even try to hide it.”
Clinton also painted a portrait of a political environment where some are hostile to the fundamentals of an enlightened society and are engaged in “full-fledged assault on truth and reason.”
She said people on social media can deny science and concoct “elaborate, hurtful conspiracy theories about child abuse rings operating out of pizza parlors.”
“Some are even denying things we can see with our own eyes, like the size of crowds,” she said, a reference to the Republican president’s false claims about the size of his inauguration crowd.
“When people in authority invent their own facts and attack those who question them, it can mark the beginning of the end of a free society,” she said.
Clinton urged graduates to listen to those they may disagree with and get out of their internet bubbles, despite the push-back they may receive.
“In the years to come there will be trolls galore online and in person eager to tell you that you don’t have anything worthwhile to say or anything meaningful to contribute,” she said.
“They may even call you a nasty woman,” she said, referring to a comment Trump made to her during a debate.
Clinton said she understands the anger that some of the graduating members of the class might be feeling in the wake of the election. She said she felt similar outrage as she was graduating 48 years ago.
She said in her classmates distrusted authority and were angry at the growing casualties in Vietnam — and the occupant of the White House.
“We were furious about the past presidential election of a man whose presidency would eventually end in disgrace with his impeachment … after firing the person running the investigation into him,” she said, drawing a parallel between Richard Nixon and Trump.
She said graduates shouldn’t be afraid of their ambition, dreams or even their anger, calling them powerful forces that can be harnessed to make a difference in the world.
Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said Clinton’s speech was a “stark reminder” of why she lost the election.
“Instead of lashing out with the same partisan talking points, Hillary Clinton would be wise to look inward, talk about why she lost, and expand the dwindling base of Democrat Party supporters,” she said.
Clinton’s speech marked a return engagement of sorts for Clinton. She delivered the first student commencement address 48 years ago in 1969, the year she graduated from the all-women’s school. She also delivered the 1992 commencement speech.
Clinton appeared relaxed and joked at times during the speech.
She said after her defeat she was able to rely on her family, her grandchildren and long walks in the woods.
“I won’t lie, chardonnay may have helped,” she added.