Clinton urges backers to ‘stay engaged’ as she reflects on election defeat

US Democratic Nominee Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton has reflected on her US election defeat, acknowledging the difficulty of the loss for her supporters and urging them to persevere through the Donald Trump era.

Speaking at the annual gala of child advocacy body the Children’s Defence Fund – where Mrs Clinton started her legal career – the defeated Democratic presidential candidate encouraged her backers to “never, ever give up”.

She told an audience in Washington: “I know this isn’t easy. I know that over the past week a lot of people have asked themselves whether America is the country we thought it was.

“But please listen to me when I say this: America is worth it.”

She added: “It’s up to each and every one of us to keep working to make America better and stronger and fairer.”

Mrs Clinton never referred to President-elect Trump by name in her remarks, making only an oblique reference to the controversial policies which fuelled his rise to the White House.

Instead, she focused on the future, asking her backers to “stay engaged on every level. We need you. America needs your energy,” she said.

Mrs Clinton’s surprising loss threw her party into a period of reflection, with an ascendant liberal wing blaming her campaign for failing to embrace a more populist economic message.

In private calls with donors and Democratic officials, Mrs Clinton has largely attributed her defeat to the decision by the FBI to re-examine her use of a private email server during her time as US secretary of state.

In her remarks, Mrs Clinton did not address any personal failures during her presidential campaign, though she admitted that the past week has not been easy. “There have been a few times this past week when all I wanted to do was just to curl up with a good book or our dogs and never leave the house again,” she admitted.

Mrs Clinton chose friendly ground to make her first public appearance since her emotional concession speech in New York City last Wednesday.

Her first job out of law school in the 1970s was for Children’s Defence Fund founder Marian Wright Edelman. She later became a staff attorney and chairman of the group’s board.

Throughout her campaign, she cited her work for the group as her “north star”, sparking her interest in standing up against injustice towards children and families.

The group, which helps disadvantaged children, tried to return some of that affection on Wednesday night.

“We love her and we appreciate all the hard work she has done and say it’s not going to be for naught,” said Ms Edelman in her introductory remarks. “We’re going to say that she is the people’s president.”

Still, in a sign of Mrs Clinton’s new life as a private citizen, the event lacked many of the trappings of her presidential campaign. Security was light and she travelled with only a handful of aides.

Sprinkled throughout the small theatre where she addressed donors and supporters were a handful of empty seats.

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