Hillary Clinton told graduates of Medgar Evers College on Thursday that the president is turning back the clock on civil rights and the progress the college’s namesake died for.
Clinton, who did not mention President Donald Trump by name, told students at a ceremony at the Barclays Center arena in Brooklyn that since the presidential election, “white supremacists are emboldened, and their numbers are on the rise.”
Clinton, a Democrat whom Trump beat in November, said, “We see official actions that turn us against one another and turn us back. The Muslim ban is a particularly egregious example, and yes, it is a ban, as the president himself made very clear this week.”
Clinton, who received an honorary degree at the college commencement ceremony, noted that some of the graduates were immigrants who worked their way through school.
Telling the story of Yahya Mused, a Yemeni student who had funded his education by working in a deli, she said: “I’m certainly glad he wasn’t banned from America!”
In a reference to Trump’s campaign slogan, “Make America great again,” Clinton told the graduates, “You embody what makes New York and America great already!”
Ken Sunshine, a political publicist who serves as a trustee of the college, noted the “irony” that Clinton was speaking at the same time former FBI Director James Comey was testifying before a U.S. Senate committee about his dealings with Trump.
The situation, Sunshine told the graduates, is “an embarrassment to this country, an embarrassment to this world.” Clinton applauded.
Speaking by video, Evers’ widow, Myrlie Evers-Williams, called Clinton “one of the most distinguished Americans in our history.”
Clinton pleaded with graduates to help organizations supporting immigrants and civil rights, such as the American Civil Liberties Union. She urged the audience not to be discouraged by setbacks.
“Losing an election is pretty devastating, especially considering who I lost to,” she said, but others like the college’s namesake, murdered civil rights leader Medgar Evers, have faced far worse.
“Never let anyone silence your voice,” she told the graduates.
Anti-Clinton demonstrators, mostly of Haitian ancestry, picketed the Barclays Center over former President Bill Clinton’s policies on Haiti, the Clintons’ family foundation and Hillary Clinton’s comments in the 1990s that young criminals are “super predators” with “no conscience, no empathy.”
The demonstrators said those words are racially coded language.
“Hillary has done nothing for our people. She’s taken from our people,” said David Huff, 68, a retired worker for New York City’s public housing authority.
Medgar Evers College, named after the civil rights leader who was slain in 1963 by a Klansman for trying to integrate the University of Mississippi, is graduating about 1,300 students, although only about a third of the seats reserved for graduates was full. The college is part of the City University of New York system.