CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (AP) — Hillary Clinton implored a crowd at Harvard University on Friday to stand up for “the truth, facts and reason” as attacks on the rule of law, free press and elections threaten to undermine American democracy.
The former Democratic presidential candidate, secretary of state, U.S. senator and first lady, called on audience members to vote and get involved in issues they care about as she accepted the university’s Radcliffe Medal for her leadership and human rights work.
She said Americans also need to combat “fake news” — deliberately false stories passed off as news — by subscribing to newspapers and “supporting brave journalism and reporting.”
“We need more outlets for reliable information,” Clinton said. “Attempting to erase the line between fact and fiction, truth and an alternative reality, is a core feature of authoritarianism. The goal is to make us question logic and reason and sow mistrust.”
At other points, Clinton expressed hope about the new wave of activism on women’s rights, gun violence and other issues, but cautioned that activism concentrated online and on social media also needs to translate into real political change.
“We’re living through a time when fundamental rights, civic virtue, freedom of the press, even facts and reason are under assault like never before,” she said. “But we’re also witnessing an era of new moral conviction, civil engagement and a sense of devotion to our democracy.”
During a wide-ranging conversation with Democratic Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, Clinton expressed caution about President Republican Donald Trump’s ongoing talks with North Korean leaders over their nuclear weapons program.
“We’ve been down this road numerous times with the North Koreans,” she said. “We have to go in with eyes wide open and a certain degree of skepticism.”
She also reflected on the State Department she once led, expressing hope that non-political appointments will continue to serve and a new generation will also seek out government service.
“There’s a lot of discouragement when it comes to entering the civil service,” she said. “This too shall pass, and we’re going to need a vigorous, well-prepared federal government to pick up the pieces.”
When asked in a series of quick-answer questions what company she would most like to serve as CEO, Clinton answered without hesitation: Facebook.
“Most people in our country get their news, true or not, from Facebook,” she said, noting the company’s recent efforts to address the spread of false news and information on its platform. “It’s really critical to our democracy that people get accurate information.”
Harvard said Clinton was chosen for the medal because she’s a “champion for human rights,” a “skilled legislator” and “an advocate of American leadership” on the world stage.
Previous recipients include Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, former U.S. Senator Elizabeth Dole and former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who gave a personal tribute to Clinton at the Radcliffe event.
Radcliffe College was the all-women’s counterpart for the once all-male Harvard College. It was fully merged with the university in 1999 and became the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard.