Following Yale Class Day tradition, all attendees wore hats and headgear of their choice, oftentimes lighthearted: Clinton went with a Russian-inspired hat, likely a nod to the ongoing debate over Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
"Look, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em, " she joked.
Clinton continued: "We're living at a time when fundamental rights, civic virtues, freedom of the press, even facts and reason, are under assault like never before. But we are also witnessing an era of new moral conviction, civic engagement and a sense of devotion to our democracy and country."
The former U.S. Secretary of State also touched on issues Americans are still grappling with, including the mounting number of school shootings. She noted several instances in which Yale students were subject to discrimination, including a student whose father was deported and a black student who was confronted by police for sleeping on campus.
"As hard as it is, this is a moment to reach across divides of race, class and politics," Clinton said. "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, a graduate of Yale Law School, also served as Yale's Class Day speaker in 2001 and received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree during the 2009 commencement.
Echoing a message of persistence she shared last year with the Wellesley College class of 2017, Clinton noted a lesson she learned in the months after losing the 2016 presidential election to president Donald Trump.
"Everyone gets knocked down, what matters is whether you get up and keep going," Clinton said. "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."
Ultimately, Clinton said the graduating students "need to be ready to lose some fights," but also hold tight to the resilience they have developed.
"This is a battle hardened to hope, tempered by loss and clear-eyed about the stakes. We are standing up to policies that hurt people. We're standing up for all people being treated with dignity," Clinton said."The fact that some days it is so hard to keep at it, just makes it that much more remarkable that so many of us are in fact keeping at it."
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