Hillary Clinton in Chicago, delivers keynote speech at ALA conference

Wednesday, June 28, 2017
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Hillary Clinton spoke at the American Library Association's annual conference on June 27, 2017 at the McCormick Place in Chicago.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Hillary Clinton delivered the keynote speech Tuesday morning in Chicago at the American Library Association's annual conference.

The Park Ridge native and best-selling author spoke about the importance of librarians, their jobs and the survival of libraries.

"I believe libraries and democracy go hand in hand," she said to loud cheers.

Clinton opened her remarks with humorous references to her presidential campaign, saying that books got her through good times and bad times. She made history by becoming the first woman nominated for president by a major political party. Prior to that, she was Secretary of State, a U.S. senator from New York and the first lady.

Clinton kept her remarks on topic and positive, trying not to rehash the 2016 election except to say that books and a couple other things helped her recover from the loss.

"Long walks in the woods and the occasional glass of chardonnay," she joked.

Audience members were relieved she kept it somewhat lighthearted.

"She understood what audience she was talking to and I was pleased that it wasn't overly politicized," said Jim Neal, president of the American Library Association.

"I was feeling good about what she had to say and how she said it," said Linda Masselink, librarian.

While staying positive, Clinton did take quite a few subtle jabs at President Donald Trump without mentioning his name or the word 'president.' Referring to cuts in federal funding, she said libraries are under attack by the government. She also called librarians critical thinkers and called on them to take a leading role in the fight against fake news and 'alternative facts.'

"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," she said.

"We really have to challenge it, and help people understand how to navigate the world of electronic information," said Michelle Carnes, librarian, following the speech.

The ALA did not pay for Clinton's speaking fees; she was sponsored by Simon & Schuster, the publishing house that published her first book "It Takes a Village." In September, Clinton is coming out with a children's version of that book.

Clinton also said in her speech that children need early exposure to books and reading, but that only one in three of low-income children are read to on a daily basis.

"By four years of age, children in lower income families have heard 30 million fewer words than their more affluent counterparts," Clinton told the crowd. "Think of that. Thirty million fewer words. And because they hear fewer words, they often learn fewer words."

She noted that libraries also provide internet access to low-income kids who might not have a computer at home.

Clinton also plugged her daughter Chelsea's new children's book, titled "She Persisted," which highlights 13 American women who made their marks on history.

She ended her speech by encouraging the audience to continue to fight to free speech.