Clinton suspends campaign, endorses Obama

On Saturday, Hillary Clinton exited the presidential race, gave enthusiastic support to Barack Obama and spoke of what she and her supporters had accomplished on behalf of the women who'll follow.

Published June 7, 2008 6:09PM (EDT)

As expected, in a speech she gave today before thousands of supporters, Hillary Clinton suspended her race for the presidency and endorsed Barack Obama.

The hall in which she spoke, located in the National Building Museum, had some ironic significance for Clinton and her family -- it was a site for victory celebrations for husband Bill Clinton in 1992 and 1996. This time, there would be no victory party, as she herself acknowledged when she began her speech, saying to the gathered crowd, "this isn't exactly the party I'd planned, but I sure like the company."

The speech was, naturally, loaded with the sort of things you expect from a concession speech. Clinton thanked her supporters, her staff, her family -- and, most importantly, she made an enthusiastic declaration of her support for Obama.

"The way to continue our fight now, to accomplish the goals for which we stand is to take our energy, our passion, our strength, and do all we can to help elect Barack Obama, the next president of the United States," Clinton said. "In his own life, Barack Obama has lived the American dream, as a community organizer, in the State Senate, as a United States senator. He has dedicated himself to ensuring the dream is realized. And in this campaign, he has inspired so many to become involved in the democratic process and invested in our common future."

Clinton also made a call for party unity, which has been in short supply in recent days, something John McCain and his fellow Republicans have sought to exploit. "I understand that we all know this has been a tough fight, but the Democratic Party is a family," Clinton said. "And now it's time to restore the ties that bind us together and to come together around the ideals we share, the values we cherish, and the country we love.

"We may have started on separate journeys, but today our paths have merged. And we're all heading toward the same destination, united and more ready than ever to win in November and to turn our country around, because so much is at stake."

Finally, a good deal of her message focused on her historic role as the woman who got closest to becoming a major party's presidential nominee.

"[W]hen I was asked what it means to be a woman running for president, I always gave the same answer, that I was proud to be running as a woman, but I was running because I thought I'd be the best president," Clinton said. "But I am a woman and, like millions of women, I know there are still barriers and biases out there, often unconscious, and I want to build an America that respects and embraces the potential of every last one of us."

Then her message turned to her supporters, and to the legacy she leaves for the women who will follow in her footsteps. "You can be so proud that, from now on, it will be unremarkable for a woman to win primary state victories, unremarkable to have a woman in a close race to be our nominee, unremarkable to think that a woman can be the president of the United States. And that is truly remarkable, my friends," Clinton said, continuing:

To those who are disappointed that we couldn't go all of the way, especially the young people who put so much into this campaign, it would break my heart if, in falling short of my goal, I in any way discouraged any of you from pursuing yours...

Although we weren't able to shatter that highest, hardest glass ceiling this time, thanks to you, it's got about 18 million cracks in it and the light is shining through like never before, filling us all with the hope and the sure knowledge that the path will be a little easier next time.

That has always been the history of progress in America. Think of the suffragists who gathered at Seneca Falls in 1848 and those who kept fighting until women could cast their votes.

Think of the abolitionists who struggled and died to see the end of slavery. Think of the civil rights heroes and foot soldiers who marched, protested, and risked their lives to bring about the end of segregation and Jim Crow...

Because of them, Barack Obama and I could wage a hard-fought campaign for the Democratic nomination. Because of them and because of you, children today will grow up taking for granted that an African-American or a woman can, yes, become the president of the United States. And so when that day arrives, and a woman takes the oath of office as our president, we will all stand taller, proud of the values of our nation, proud that every little girl can dream big and that her dreams can come true in America.

And all of you will know that, because of your passion and hard work, you helped pave the way for that day.

By Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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