After bitter defeat, Hillary Clinton tells supporters, ‘I am ready to come out of the woods’
Hillary Clinton speaks at the Society of Irish Women’s annual dinner on St. Patrick’s Day in her late father’s hometown in Scranton, Pa., Friday, March 17, 2017.
Hillary Clinton said she was “ready to come out of the woods” during a St. Patrick’s Day speech Friday night in Pennsylvania in front of an overflow crowd — an indication that she plans to shed the low profile she has kept since the election.
Clinton, the presidential candidate and a former secretary of state, made the comments at the end of a nearly 20-minute talk that she gave at a yearly St. Patrick’s Day celebration held by a women’s group in Scranton — in the northeast corner of a battleground state that made for one of her most surprising electoral losses in November.
Clinton, whose grandfather and father grew up in Scranton, spoke about her family’s connections to the area, including many summers she spent at a nearby lake as a child. But at the end of the speech, given in the ballroom of a local Hilton hotel, her words turned, if only glancingly, to current affairs.
“I’m like a lot of my friends right now. I have a hard time watching the news, I’ll confess,” she said, according to a video of the event. “I am ready to come out of the woods and to help shine a light on what is already happening around kitchen tables, at dinners like this.”
Guest speaker Hillary Clinton greets supporters after her speech the Society of Irish Women annual dinner on St. Patrick’s Day, Friday, March 17, 2017, in Scranton, Pa.
Butch Comegys/The Times & Tribune
Clinton spoke to a crowd of nearly 700 people, according to Mary Clare Kingsley, a president of the Society of Irish Women, which held the event: about 500 people in the ballroom and an additional 175 who watched the speech via video in an overflow room. Kingsley said it was the largest attendance for the event, surpassing the total when the group hosted Barack Obama during the presidential campaign of 2008.
The group hoped for years to land Clinton and sent her an invitation letter in December.
“We figured if anyone could motivate women, who better to have there than her,” Kingsley said.
Taking the stage before the dinner was served, Clinton spoke at length about her grandfather, who came to Scranton with his parents when he was 3, the sixth of an eventual 11 children from a family that left the coal mines in England “searching for a better life and more opportunity.”
Hillary Clinton speaks at the Society of Irish Women’s annual dinner on St. Patrick’s Day in Scranton, Pa., Friday, March 17, 2017.
She emphasized their connection to industrial prosperity in the United States, speaking glowingly of her grandfather’s job at a lace mill in the area, where she said he worked as a teenager until his retirement more than 50 years later.
And she told the story of her father, who “hopped a freight train” to Chicago dreaming of bigger opportunities — “I don’t recommend this,” she said — and ended up selling textiles before serving in the Navy during World War II.
She also spoke of her own visits to Scranton with her family as a child and trips to a nearby lake, Lake Winola.
“The house that my grandfather built did not have indoor plumbing,” she said. “So, don’t tell anybody this, we’d go down to the lake.”
Kingsley, who described herself as a Clinton supporter, said the atmosphere in the room during Clinton’s speech was “ecstatic.”
Lackawanna County, where Scranton is, voted narrowly for Clinton, 49.8 percent to Donald Trump’s 46.3 percent, but Trump received a significantly higher percentage of votes than the previous two Republican nominees. But his victory in Pennsylvania was the first time since 1988 the state went to a Republican presidential nominee.