Hillary Clinton, former senator, secretary of state, and most recently, presidential candidate, was in Toronto on Thursday evening to promote her new memoir, What Happened, about the outcome of last year’s American election.
The enthusiastic crowd of about 5,000 at the Enercare Centre was comprised of mostly women, many in pantsuits — though there was a sprinkling of more colourful satirical outfits, like one woman in a full Statue of Liberty get-up (crown and all), encouraging U.S. voters abroad to register.
The evening opened with a bewilderingly corny entertainment act, a crooner who sang a set including “Time To Say Goodbye,” “Sway,” and “Hold On.” Then Clinton came out, five minutes earlier than her scheduled time (!), resplendent in red and beaming at the audience.“A lot of Canadians have been struggling to understand how someone who won three million more votes than their opponent can lose an election,” she said with a wry smile. “And I know that feeling.” Her adoring audience laughed and cheered in response.
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After a 10-minute solo address outlining the key takeaways from her loss, Clinton sat down for a Q&A with Caroline Codsi, president of Women in Governance. Though this felt scripted at times, the unfiltered fury and disappointment of Clinton’s book was present — Clinton was not afraid to lay blame on those she believes contributed to Trump’s win, including James Comey, the former head of the FBI, whose “unprecedented intervention,” she said, was the “principal reason I lost the election.” A through line of her talk, however, was the importance of women continuing to push forward. Here are five key takeaways:
Women need to keep running for office
“The only way to get sexism out of politics is to get more women into politics,” she said. A political career can be “downright infuriating,” Clinton said, but also “deeply rewarding.” And no matter what a woman’s political views are, simply being in the room makes a difference. Clinton pointed to the absurdity in a photo taken at the White House earlier this year that featured a group of men discussing women’s health without a single woman in the room.
Self-care is a thing for good reason
After her heartbreaking loss, Clinton did what normal people do: She went on long hikes, binge-watched TV, indulged in glasses of Chardonnay and did a lot of yoga. “Yes, alternate nostril breathing really does work,” she confirmed.
Women’s progress is in danger
“We have to be aware that there is a kind of blowback going on,” she said in response to a question about the role sexism and misogyny played in her campaign. Clinton pointed to two scenarios since Trump’s election where female senators, Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren, were literally silenced by their Congressional peers.
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We need to support the next generation of leaders
When asked why she didn’t attend the Women’s March the day after Trump was inaugurated, Clinton said she wanted to make space for “new voices” in progressive movements. When talking about potential candidates for the 2020 election, she said she hoped many of them would be women, and that she couldn’t wait to be able to support one.
Clinton began the evening by saying that everyone gets knocked down, that “everyone faces loss and disappointment.” But giving up isn’t an option for her, and that’s why she created an organization called Onward Together, to encourage grassroots activism in the spirit of the resistance. “I’m convinced we can take on the challenges we face and get back on track,” she said. The last few words of her talk were a call to action: “Resist, insist, persist and enlist.”
More on Clinton’s Toronto talk: