At a certain level, calls for public comment on the crisis in Ferguson, Missouri, from former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton were a little awkward. She is, after all, a private citizen who holds no office. Clinton remained silent, but so too did other former Secretaries of State like Madeleine Albright and Colin Powell – and no one found their silence politically problematic.
That said, though Clinton is not even a candidate for any public office, it’s also fair to characterize her as more than just a former cabinet official. She maintains a unique leadership position in American public life and it was not unreasonable to think Clinton would weigh in on the national conversation.
Today, as my msnbc colleague Alex Seitz-Wald reported, the former Secretary of State did exactly that.
Hillary Clinton broke her silence Thursday on the shooting of Michael Brown, addressing the tragedy that tipped off two weeks of racially fraught violence in Ferguson, Missouri for the first time during a speech at a tech conference in San Francisco.“Watching the recent funeral for Michael Brown, as a mother, as a human being, my heart just broke for his family. Because losing a child is every parent’s greatest fear and an unimaginable loss,” she said at the beginning of her paid remarks to the Nexenta OpenSDx Summit. “But I also grieve for that community and for many like it across our country.”
Clinton spoke for nearly five minutes, but did not use notes or a teleprompter.
Beyond the shooting death itself, Clinton went on to reflect on the systemic and institutional issues that helped spark local protests, “We can’t ignore the inequities that persist in our justice system that undermine our most deeply held values of fairness and equality,” she said. “Imagine what we would feel and what we would do if white drivers were three times as likely to be searched by police during a traffic stop as black drivers instead of the other way around.”
Clinton went on to praise the White House’s handling of the crisis. “I applaud President Obama for sending the attorney general to Ferguson and demanding a thorough and speedy investigation,” she said, “to find out what happened, to see that justice is done, to help this community begin healing itself.”
As for the shocking images associated with the police response to Ferguson protests, Clinton added, “This is what happens when the bonds of trust and respect that hold any community together fray. Nobody wants to see our streets look like a war zone, not in America. We are better than that.”
Finally, the former Secretary of State noted that today is the 51st anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.
“It was 51 years ago today that Martin Luther King Jr. called us to live out the true meaning of our creed, to make the dream real for all Americans,” Clinton said. “And that mission is as fiercely urgent today as when he stood on the steps of the Lincoln memorial and the hot august sun all those years ago.”