Clinton’s first words since concession speech: ‘All I wanted to do was curl up … never leave the house again’

WASHINGTON — is acknowledging the difficulty of her loss in the race for her and urging them to persevere through the Donald Trump era.

In remarks that were equal parts pep talk and funeral dirge, encouraged her backers to “never, ever give up.”

“I know this isn’t easy. I know that over a lot of people have asked themselves whether America is the country we thought it was,” Clinton said at the annual gala of the Children’s Defense Fund, the child advocacy organization where she started her legal career. “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.”

Cliff Owen/AP
Cliff Owen/APHillary Clinton addresses the Children's Defense Fund in Washington, Nov. 16, 2016.

Clinton never cited the president-elect by name in her remarks, making only an oblique reference to the controversial policies that 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.

Clinton’s surprising loss threw her party into a period of intense soul-searching, with an ascendant liberal wing blaming Clinton’s for failing to embrace a more populist economic message. In private calls with donors and Democratic officials, Clinton has largely attributed her defeat to the decision by the FBI to re-examine her use of a private server as secretary of state.

In her remarks, Clinton offered no accounting for any failures she may have made during her presidential campaign, though she admitted that the past week hasn’t 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 ruefully admitted.

She chose friendly ground to make her first public appearance since her emotional concession in New York City last Wednesday. Her first job out of law school in the 1970s was for Children’s Defense Fund Marian . 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 toward children and families.

Yuri Gripas/AFP/Getty Images
Yuri Gripas/AFP/Getty ImagesHillary Clinton greets Children's Defense Fund founder Marian Wright Edelman in Washington on Nov. 16, 2016.

The group, which helps disadvantaged children, tried to return some of the 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 Edelman, in her introductory remarks. “We’re going to say that she is the people’s president.”

Still, in a sign of 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.

About Lisa Lerer, The Associated Press