"Let me just get this out of the way: No, I'm not over it," Clinton told Yale students at the college's annual Class Day ceremony on Sunday.

Students traditionally wear outlandish headgear to Class Day festivities, and Clinton began her half-hour speech by pulling out her own special hat: a traditional Russian hat, meant to be a shot at her former adversary, Donald Trump.

"If you can't beat 'em, join 'em," Clinton told the students.

But she didn't just troll the president without ever calling him out by name, she also showed humility and made light of her own mistakes. 

"If you thought my emails were scandalous, you should hear my singing voice," she said, making a reference to a presumably non-existent audition tape for one of Yale's famed vocal groups. Clinton received her law degree from Yale in the 1970s.

But Clinton went further than just using a little self-deprecation. She continued by saying that while she still regrets the mistakes made during her most recent presidential campaign, she also sees a silver lining:

"I still think, though, that understanding what happened in such a weird and wild election in American history will help us defend our democracy in the future."

There's a lot going on in this statement: while owning her missteps, she simultaneously implicates her opponent as a threat to the republic. 

The speech, overall, is notably better than most she made while campaigning. Clinton, to these ears and eyes, tends to lose her edge when the stakes are higher. 

But the real lesson she has for us comes in her prescription for the current "full-fledged crisis in our democracy," as she puts it.

"I believe healing our country is going to take what I call radical empathy," Clinton tells the students.

She explains that this process must involve reaching across divides of race, class and politics to "return to rational debates... and disagree without being disagreeable."

It may seem like Clinton is trying to have it both ways here, by first trolling Trump, implicating him as a threat to democracy, then turning around and advising empathy.

But reading between the lines, it's clear that Clinton has little interest in encouraging the electorate to empathize with its current commander in chief. She sees him instead as a target worthy of trolling with a topper.

Rather, it's Trump's supporters she wants to reach with surgical strikes of sympathy. The same supporters she once referred to as a "basket of deplorables."

She's still playing politics here; condemning her one-time opponent while appealing to voters, including those who once condemned her. But it's rhetoric with a high level of emotional intelligence. 

How does all this amount to advice for the graduates she's addressing?

Simple. Clinton implores the students to value resilience, warning them that they will make mistakes and fail, no matter how qualified they may be for a job.

"Take it from me," Clinton said.

Published on: May 21, 2018
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