Hillary Clinton Gives Closing Speech | ALA Annual 2017

Courtesy of ALA

An attentive crowd of more than 3,200 listened to Hillary Clinton give the closing keynote for The American Library Association (ALA) Annual conference on June 27. The politician reflected on her time as a presidential candidate and U.S. Senator from New York, but not before expressing how grateful she was to be among librarians in her native Chicago. "Any chance I have to come and say thank you, I am so glad to do." After thanking outgoing ALA President Julie Todaro, for her leadership, she remarked, "The phrase Madame President is still one of my favorites." The politician, also known for her tenure as Secretary of State and First Lady, stated that her forthcoming memoir, scheduled to be released this September from Simon & Schuster, will be her most personal to date. The still untitled work will give readers an idea of what it is really like to run for president, especially if you're a woman. "It's about resilience, how to get back up after a loss," she said to applause. "And I think that's something we can all relate to." She continued, "It's important we begin a conversation about what we stand for and the values we hold dear." Emphasizing that we need libraries and critical thinkers now more than ever, Clinton explained that her love of reading has seen her through good and hard times. "After this election one of the things that helped me most—aside from long walks in the woods and the occasional glass of chardonnay—was, once again, going back to the familiar experience of losing myself in books," she mused to much laugher. Among Clinton's recent reads are Elena Ferrante's Neapolitan Novels and books by Louise Penny, Donna Leon, Jacqueline Winspear, Charles Todd, and Mary Oliver. She has also reread The Return of the Prodigal Son: A Story of Homecoming by Henri J. M. Nouwen and The Complete Poetry by Maya Angelou, while also enjoying nonfiction works such as The Jersey Brothers: A Missing Naval Officer in the Pacific and His Family's Quest to Bring Him Home by Sally Mott Freeman and The View From Flyover Country: Essays by Sarah Kendzior. The politician is currently reading a growing stack of books that people send her, accompanied by notes saying, "This one helped me, I hope it will help you." Her 1996 book It Takes a Village will be adapted for younger audiences by Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers this September to coincide with the release of her memoir. She plans on reading It Takes to a Village to her grandchildren Charlotte and Aiden alongside their favorites such as Curious George, Goodnight Moon, and The Runaway Bunny. In recounting the encouragement she received in childhood, Clinton mentioned being exposed to the works of authors such as British poet T. S. Eliot and Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoyevsky. "If we're serious about raising curious, empathetic, brave citizens,” Clinton argued, “that starts with raising readers...Books really do help us understand one another, help us consider perspectives we may not have thought about before, shatter stereotypes, [and] spark important conversations.” She pointed out that libraries are one of the few places in America that are shared by people from all walks of life. Clinton also expressed her appreciation for 11-year-old Marley Dias, creator of #1000BlackGirlBooks; organizations such as We Need Diverse Books; and Philadelphia librarians who have administered Narcan to patrons in need. "As librarians you go above and beyond every single day to serve the needs of the people in your communities...The library can be a lifeline...A place to know you're not alone." The audience nodded when she mentioned how the ongoing digital divide, and the multifaceted roles librarians play as conflict mediators, therapists, and social workers.
For Clinton, libraries and democracy go hand-in-hand. "Long before fake news and alternative facts were familiar terms, librarians were teaching media literacy. You helped learners of all ages figure out how to sort truth from fiction, and how to build an argument based on rational evidence," she said to laughter and applause. "I'm told that even here at this conference some of you have had to duck out of sessions to call Congress and urge them not to eliminate federal funding for libraries," which prompted nods of agreement.
She reminded the audience that librarians are guardians of the First Amendment, the freedom to read, and the freedom to speak. By highlighting banned and challenged books, she continued, librarians are standing up to censorship. "That's why, as librarians, once again you have to be on the front lines of one of the most important fights we have ever faced in the history of our country; the fight to defend truth and reason, evidence and facts," Clinton said amid cheers. "Even when it feels hard, even when it feels thankless, please know you are making a difference...Don't give up...You're standing up for tens of millions of others who need your voice, your advocacy, your quiet commitment." The full video of the speech is included below. [embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2bDQIP45OuY[/embed]
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