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May 26, 2017

Former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton returned to her alma mater on Friday to address graduating students at Wellesley College. The wet, gray day did little to dampen enthusiasm or extinguish Clinton's fiery speech.

At times Clinton’s speech felt more like a political rally, with professors and students wearing campaign buttons and the biggest applause line coming when Wellesley President Dr. Paula Johnson introduced the College's most famous graduate.

"She was the first woman ever nominated for the U.S. presidency by a major party, and she won the popular vote," Dr. Johnson announced to roaring cheers.

Taking the podium under a big white tent, Clinton started her address by urging graduates to chart their own course and she joked about how she's been handling last November's stunning loss.

"Long walks in the woods. Organizing my closet, right?” Clinton deadpanned. “I won't lie. Chardonnay helped a little, too."

Without saying Donald Trump’s name, Clinton made repeated references to the president with blunt criticism.

"You are graduating at a time when there is a full-fledged assault on truth and reason," the former Secretary of State told graduates.

Clinton went on to suggest that Trump himself is playing a central role in that assault.

"Some are even denying things that we see with our own eyes, like the size of crowds and then defending themselves by talking about quote unquote 'alternative facts," she said, referring to Trump's comments about attendance at his Inaugural Address.

Clinton also touched on Trump's controversial firing of FBI director James Comey, drawing a parallel to Richard Nixon's election shortly before her own graduation back in 1969.

"We were furious about the past presidential election of a man whose presidency would eventually end in impeachment for obstruction of justice," Clinton recalled, although Nixon in fact resigned from office.

Near the end of her speech, Clinton turned positive and urged graduates to engage with those with whom they don’t agree politically.

“A lot of our fellow Americans have lost faith in the existing economic, social, political and cultural conditions of our country,” Clinton said. “Many feel left behind, left out, looked down on. Their anger and alienation has proved a fertile ground of false promises and false information.”

Earlier: At Wellesley, An Effort To Burst The Liberal Bubble

Read a transcript of Clinton's speech here.

Clinton’s speech was warmly received by students on this liberal arts campus, including graduating senior Zainab Younus, 21, who said she appreciated hearing Clinton’s humor.

“When you look at the rhetoric that was said around her appearance during campaign season, I think it was nice to see her be able to be herself,” Younus said.

Younus would not say who she supported in November and whether she, like many students here, was devasted by Clinton's loss, but she was impressed with the embattled candidate's message of resilience.

“That’s the biggest takeaway that I took," Younus said. "Not to be disheartened if something is not entirely different in 20 or 30 years.”

Clinton’s speech on Friday came 48 years after she delivered the College’s first student commencement speech, in which she upstaged the commencement speaker, Senator Edward Brooke, Republican of Massachusetts.

That speech propelled her into the spotlight, landing her in the pages of Life Magazine.

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