SCRANTON — Following her stunning defeat in the 2016 presidential election, Hillary Rodham Clinton would often take walks in the woods, shunning the spotlight and contemplating what had happened and what she would do next.
Speaking to about 700 people gathered Friday night at the Hilton Hotel in Scranton for the 19th annual dinner of the Society of Irish Women, Clinton waxed nostalgic about her childhood days at Lake Winola and then electrified the crowd with a stunning announcement.
“I’m ready to come out of the woods,” Clinton said as the crowd rose to its feet, shouting and clapping.
It’s been reported in recent days that Clinton, 69, is considering a run for mayor of New York City. She never addressed that possibility. Instead, she talked about the current condition of the country and what she feels needs to be done.
“I ask you all tonight — what can we do to find that common ground — a higher ground — where we can make a difference?” Clinton asked. “I’m not sure it can come out of Washington yet, but I do think it can come out of Scranton.”
That was as close as Clinton would come to saying anything about the man who defeated her in November, President Donald Trump. Instead, she asked the audience of mostly women to gather around tables and use all they have learned from their parents and grandparents.
“And then we will find what can be done even better than it was done even yesterday,” she said.
It was obvious that Clinton still serves as an inspirational figure to many, especially women like those attending the dinner.
Sue Primerano and her daughter, Erin Van Houtte, both of South Abington Township, said Clinton’s words were just that — inspirational.
“It was wonderful to hear her stories of her childhood,” Primerano said. “It was great to hear her talk about how we can all work together for the common good.”
Van Houtte said she has followed Clinton for years and said the former Secretary of State is a role model for her.
“She has shown us that no matter how many times you get knocked down, you always get up and keep fighting,” she said. “She has always gotten things done and she has shown us what we need to do to make the world a better place.”
Clinton said she has a difficult time watching the news, but she has reconsidered her strategy of taking those walks in the woods.
“Maybe those walks in the woods didn’t work,” she said.
‘Listen to each other’
As Clinton continued her gradual return to the public spotlight, she said returning to Scranton truly was like coming home. She talked about her grandparents and her parents and about swimming in Lake Winola and fishing the Susquehanna River. She recalled trips to Tunkhannock and Shadowbrook Farms.
Clinton even revealed that her grandparents house didn’t have indoor plumbing until her mother insisted a toilet be installed. She remembered eating at the Castle Restaurant and shopping for school clothes at Scranton Dry Goods.
“So many memories; such great, magical times,” she said.
And then she went back to the division in the country.
“Don’t let the political divides harden into personal divides,” she said. “We have to try to listen to each other and reason together to find the best solutions.”
Evie McNulty handled the toastmaster duties, introducing Gov. Tom Wolf and his wife, Frances; U.S. Rep. Matt Cartwright, D-Moosic; Ellen Casey, former first lady of Pennsylvania; and several other dignitaries.
Virginia Doherty McGregor introduced Clinton. Before calling Clinton to the podium, McGregor took a jab at “the other” St. Patrick’s Day dinner being held in Dickson City.
“If our parents and grandparents knew the governor of Pennsylvania and the Democratic candidate for president of the United States were speaking at a St. Patrick’s Day dinner in Scranton, they surely would of thought they were at that other dinner at ‘the man center,’” McGregor said.
She then paraphrased a saying from one of her teachers to introduce Clinton.
“She would say ‘don’t ever use a period in a sentence when a comma will do.’ Secretary Clinton, like that sentence, your work is not over.”
Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle.