WELLESLEY, MA - MAY 26: Hillary Clinton listens during commencement at Wellesley College May 26, 2017 in Wellesley, Massachusetts. Clinton graduated from...
Darren McCollester

Hillary Clinton reflects on the ‘assault on truth and reason’

Hillary Clinton delivered the commencement address at Wellesley College earlier today, and she made no explicit references to Donald Trump. She didn’t identify any GOP officials or conservative media outlets by name. She mentioned the Republican Party once, but only to note to her audience that, years ago, she served as the president of the Wellesley College Young Republicans.

But if you missed her remarks, it’s also fair to say the former Secretary of State’s speech wasn’t exactly subtle.
Hillary Clinton returned to her alma mater, Wellesley College, Friday to deliver a fiery commencement address that attacked President Donald Trump and his policies  –  but it was her implicit comparisons between Nixon’s resignation and the current administration that drew the loudest cheers.

Clinton lashed out at what she described as the “unimaginable cruelty” of Trump’s budget proposal and the pervasiveness of conspiracy theories and internet trolls. But when she talked about the mood on campus in 1969, the year she graduated, she got her biggest reception.

“We were furious about the past presidential election, of a man whose presidency would eventually end in disgrace with impeachment for obstruction of justice – after firing the person running the investigation into him at the Department of Justice!” she said.
She was referring, of course, to Nixon, though the Wellesley audience seemed to pick up on the parallels to a certain other Republican.

But what struck me as especially notable was Clinton taking some time to reflect on the “assault on truth and reason.”
“You are graduating at a time when there is a full-fledged assault on truth and reason. Just log on to social media for ten seconds. It will hit you right in the face. People denying science, concocting elaborate, hurtful conspiracy theories about child-abuse rings operating out of pizza parlors, drumming up rampant fear about undocumented immigrants, Muslims, minorities, the poor, turning neighbor against neighbor and sowing division at a time when we desperately need unity. Some are even denying things we see with our own eyes, like the size of crowds, and then defending themselves by talking about quote-unquote ‘alternative facts.’

“But this is serious business. Look at the budget that was just proposed in Washington. It is an attack of unimaginable cruelty on the most vulnerable among us, the youngest, the oldest, the poorest, and hard-working people who need a little help to gain or hang on to a decent middle class life. It grossly under-funds public education, mental health, and efforts even to combat the opioid epidemic. And in reversing our commitment to fight climate change, it puts the future of our nation and our world at risk. And to top it off, it is shrouded in a trillion-dollar mathematical lie. Let’s call it what it is. It’s a con. They don’t even try to hide it.

“Why does all this matter? It matters because if our leaders lie about the problems we face, we’ll never solve them. It matters because it undermines confidence in government as a whole, which in turn breeds more cynicism and anger. But it also matters because our country, like this College, was founded on the principles of the Enlightenment – in particular, the belief that people, you and I, possess the capacity for reason and critical thinking, and that free and open debate is the lifeblood of a democracy. Not only Wellesley, but the entire American university system – the envy of the world – was founded on those fundamental ideals. We should not abandon them; we should revere them. We should aspire to them every single day, in everything we do.

“And there’s something else. As the history majors among you here today know all too well, when people in power invent their own facts, and attack those who question them, it can mark the beginning of the end of a free society. That is not hyperbole. It is what authoritarian regimes throughout history have done. They attempt to control reality – not just our laws and rights and our budgets, but our thoughts and beliefs.”
These warnings ring true for a reason.

While we’re on the subject, New York’s Rebecca Traister’s new piece on Clinton’s “surreal post-election life” was published online today. It’s worth your time.

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton reflects on the 'assault on truth and reason'