Hillary Rodham Clinton, 73, former First Lady and Secretary of State, appeared virtually as part of the opening night of the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights UK Ripples of Hope Festival on Wednesday.
Taking place at HOME, the Ripples of Hope Festival celebrates the power of people to make human rights a reality for all and covers topics including poverty, racial and gender inequality and climate change.
In conversation with human rights lawyer Baroness Helena Kennedy QC, Secretary Clinton engaged in a wide ranging conversation discussing the situation in Afghanistan, the rise of the populist ‘right’ and the fallout from the murder of George Floyd.
Clinton came across personable and at times humorous, making light of her loss of the electoral college vote to would-be President Trump in the 2016 election, and how she thrives on being viewed as a persistent annoyance to her adversaries.
While celebrating the human rights progress we have made, Clinton also highlighted many challenges we as a society are yet to overcome.
A major theme of the evening was the stark divide which cuts across our societies, and in societies around the world.
Sec. Clinton underlined her evaluation of a liberal democracy under attack by the rise of populist governments who wish to impose minority views and authoritarian leadership models on the larger society.
Though never mentioned by name, there were repeated implied jabs towards former President Trump.
She spoke of the problems posed by who she described as well funded and ideologically right wing nationalist authoritarian movements who disregard science and undermine democracy when they are unhappy with certain outcomes.
She promoted the need for solidarity against the anti-progressive views of these movements, highlighting the need for a long overdue structural change in order to overcome authoritarian demagogues who who play on people’s fears and practice disunity rather than unity.
Clinton also took aim at the ‘big tech’ companies, accusing them of poisoning the electorate through their permission of outrageous, absolutely false attacks and spreading of disinformation relating to recent elections and the COVID-19 pandemic.
When the conversation turned to racial inequality, Clinton acknowledged that there is now much greater awareness and acceptance that things have to change.
She said: “We are better off if we’re in an inclusive rather than exclusive society.
“We are making some headway but still not near enough.”
She explained how we must overcome this challenge by changing institutions and how they operate recognising systemic racism, as well as by looking inwards as individuals, acknowledging how we think about race and what our own biases might be.
Clinton felt the repercussions from the murder of George Floyd and the notoriety of the Black Lives Matter movement opened a lot of people’s eyes to the widespread problems not just in the United States but across the world.
She said: “There are so many people in situations across the world who’s human rights, who’s personal autonomy and dignity is being undermined and attacked every day.
“We need better laws, we need better understanding and we need to stand up to those who don’t want to learn those lessons.
“Awareness has to be translated into action.”
Described by Baroness Kennedy as the president that should’ve been, Sec. Clinton urged those in attendance to be part of a solidarity movement, promoting unity over disunity and solidarity against those who wish to undermine the progressive steps that are being taken across the world.
The evening came to a close with Kennedy posing a number of questions to Clinton submitted by members of the audience.
When asked how one should stand up to the rise of the populist ‘right’, she suggested the best course of action is to organise and fight in the electoral governmental level at every available opportunity.
She said: “Do everything you can to elect different kinds of leaders.
“Do not get discouraged, this is a long struggle to prevent the rolling back in advancements in human rights.”
The Ripples of Hope Festival continues this weekend with guest speakers including former Prime Minister Gordon Brown, poet laureate Simon Armitage and Mayor of Manchester Andy Burnham.
Tickets are available at https://www.ripplesofhopefestival.org/