While she acknowledged the challenges the world currently faces, she also emphasized the ways in which the students could continue to be part of the solution as well.
Clinton told the students that they have “already demonstrated the character and courage” that will help them “navigate this tumultuous moment,” and that they must continue to exhibit this resilient behavior.
“Everyone gets knocked down, what matters is whether you get up and keep going,” she continued. “This may be hard for a group of Yale soon-to-be graduates to accept, but yes, you will make mistakes in life, you will even fail, it happens to all of us no matter how qualified and capable we are. Take it from me.”
But Clinton expressed optimism about “just how tough” America has already proven to be.
This ability to get back up when you’re down is not sufficient, however. Clinton also told the students to practice “radical empathy.”
“Healing our country is going to take, what I call, radical empathy,” she said. Even in times of great polarization, “as hard as it is, this is a moment to reach across divides of race, class and politics. To try to see the world through the eyes of people very different from ourselves and to return to rational debate, to find a way to disagree without being disagreeable, to try to recapture a sense of community and common humanity.”
Clinton also reminded the students that they are capable of change, calling on them to engage politically, by voting and staying abreast of current events.
Although she warned that we are living at a time when “fundamental rights, civic virtues, freedom of the press, [and] even facts and reason are under assault,” Clinton expressed optimism that we are “also witnessing an era of new moral conviction, civic engagement, and a sense of devotion to our democracy and country.”
If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em
Of course, Clinton didn’t miss the opportunity to poke a little fun as well.
Noting the Yale tradition of wearing an over-the-top hat on Class Day, Clinton pulled out one of her own—a Russian one.
“I brought a hat too. A Russian hat,” she told the crowd. “I mean, if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em,” she said, while raising a furry black Ushanka hat for everyone to see.