Hillary Clinton Defends Immigrants, Cites Constitution

Alexandra Mondalek

On Thursday, hundreds gathered in New York’s Grand Central Terminal to honor the late Dominican designer Oscar de la Renta, whom the U.S. Postal Service commemorated on a series of stamps. Hillary Clinton, Anna Wintour, Michael Bloomberg, and Anderson Cooper all took the stage to share heartfelt remembrances of de la Renta while simultaneously broadcasting messages of inclusion.

Hillary Clinton attends the Oscar de la Renta Forever Stamp dedication ceremony at Grand Central Terminal on Feb. 16 in New York City. (Photo by Noam Galai/WireImage)
Hillary Clinton attends the Oscar de la Renta Forever Stamp dedication ceremony at Grand Central Terminal on Feb. 16 in New York City. (Photo by Noam Galai/WireImage)

On Thursday, hundreds gathered in New York’s Grand Central Terminal to honor the late Dominican designer Oscar de la Renta, whom the U.S. Postal Service commemorated on a series of stamps. Hillary Clinton, Anna Wintour, Michael Bloomberg, and Anderson Cooper all took the stage to share heartfelt remembrances of de la Renta while simultaneously broadcasting messages of inclusion.

Clinton, wearing a magenta jacket paired with a gold statement necklace and black trousers, shared her love of the designer’s clothes as well as personal stories of vacationing with her family in Punta Cana with de la Renta and his wife, Annette.

Alexander L. Bolen, Michael Bloomberg, Anna Wintour, Hillary Clinton, Janice D. Walker, and Anderson Cooper attend the Oscar de la Renta Forever Stamp dedication ceremony at Grand Central Terminal. (Photo by Noam Galai/WireImage)
Alexander L. Bolen, Michael Bloomberg, Anna Wintour, Hillary Clinton, Janice D. Walker, and Anderson Cooper attend the Oscar de la Renta Forever Stamp dedication ceremony at Grand Central Terminal. (Photo by Noam Galai/WireImage)

“I remember as though it were yesterday, standing in my first receiving line in the White House for the Kennedy Center Honors,” Clinton recalled. “I had bought this dress off the rack and Oscar and Annette were among the guests. And so Oscar goes through the receiving line and as I shake his hand and I’m welcoming him to the White House, he said, ‘That’s my dress.’ I said, ‘Yes, it is.’ He said, ‘Well, I’m calling you tomorrow.’ And he did.”

The former secretary of state also made sure to make a slight dig at President Trump.

“Oscar de la Renta was an immigrant … and aren’t we proud and grateful that he was,” she said, noting that the corner of the stamps read “USA Forever.” She added, “What a fitting person to be chosen by our Postal Service — mentioned, by the way, in the Constitution, something we should all read and reread in today’s times. And its choice of this immigrant who did so much for our country, his country, truly is what it means when we say, ‘USA Forever.’ Who we are, what we stand for, and let there be many, many more immigrants with the love of America that Oscar de la Renta exemplified every single day.”

The speech was timely, given Thursday’s “Day Without Immigrants” strike, which left immigrant-owned and -operated business across the country closed in protest of Trump’s contested immigration ban.

The late designer Oscar de la Renta and Hillary Clinton at the 2002 American Fashion Awards.(Photo: AP Images)
The late designer Oscar de la Renta and Hillary Clinton at the 2002 American Fashion Awards.(Photo: AP Images)

While it’s obvious why Vogue editor Anna Wintour would honor the late designer (the two were close friends), it may not be as apparent as to why people like Hillary Clinton or Michael Bloomberg were present during the ceremony. Clinton was also a close friend of de la Renta, who designed several outfits she wore as First Lady and thereafter; Bloomberg, a champion of inclusiveness in New York City’s high-immigrant population, knew de la Renta as well.

During the ceremony, Bloomberg echoed much of what Clinton had to say about welcoming new people into the country, honoring those who contribute to the fabric of American society much like de la Renta, who died in 2014, had.

While the ceremony was not long — only about 30 minutes — its speakers hoped that de la Renta’s legacy as an immigrant and as an American endures.

Read the speech in full below:

When you were a friend of Oscar’s, you were a friend in good times and dark times. A friend who was lifted up and carried and we all did our best to be that for him.

I remember as though it were yesterday, standing in my first receiving line in the White House, for the Kennedy Center Honors. A grand event that brings out all kinds of fashion and celebrities and people from all walks of life to honor those who will be getting this award. I had bought this dress off the rack and Oscar and Annette were among the guests. And so Oscar goes through the receiving line and as I shake his hand and I’m welcoming him to the White House, he said, ‘That’s my dress.’ I said, ‘Yes, it is.’ I told him. He said, ‘Well, I’m calling you tomorrow.’ And he did.

Those were the fun moments but the most touching and lasting times with Oscar were out of the public eye completely. When I was first lady there was a very serious hurricane that hit Central America and the Caribbean and I led a delegation from the administration and the Congress to see what we could do to bring attention and bring help. And I ended up in the Dominican Republic. And I met Oscar. And after touring some of the places that had been hit. He took me to the orphanage that he had started. No press, no entourage, just Oscar and me and the wonderful people who took care of those abandoned children. And when we walked through the toddlers and the cribs and Oscar talked about those children as if every single one of them was his.

In the years that Bill and Chelsea and Marc and our family had to enjoy his and Annette’s hospitality at Punta Cana, we had many long discussions, lots of wild card games with this game called ‘Oh H***’ that brought out simply the worst in both my husband and Oscar. They would be screaming at each other until finally the rest of us went to bed. But it was also a time to just relax and be with people that were generous and loving and warm and kind and funny and perceptive and gave so much to everyone who crossed their paths.

Oscar de la Renta was an immigrant, as Mike Bloomberg has said, and aren’t we proud and grateful that he was. In the corner of these striking stamps, it says “USA Forever.” Let us remember what is durable and lasting about Oscar’s legacy. Of course it is the fashion, it is the great worldly success, but it’s also going with him to Washington Heights, going to a nightclub and watching him dance the Salsa with young people who were just starting out their lives in this great city, in this blessed country. He knew what they were hoping for, he gave of his heart and his soul to make sure that his example would live on. What a fitting person to be chosen by our Postal Service — mentioned, by the way, in the Constitution, something we should all read and reread in today’s times — and its choice of this immigrant who did so much for our country, his country, truly is what it means when we say, ‘USA Forever,’ who we are, what we stand for, and let there be many, many more immigrants with the love of America that Oscar de la Renta exemplified every single day.

Alexandra Mondalek is a writer for Yahoo Style and Beauty. Follow her on Twitter @amondalek.

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