Hillary Clinton has referred to children being given “short shrift” in the Brexit process as she was presented with an honorary doctorate at Swansea University.
The former US secretary of state and presidential hopeful was recognised for her commitment to promoting the rights of families and children around the world, a cause shared by the university’s Observatory on the Human Rights of Children and Young People.
Mrs Clinton called for “empathy” on both sides of the Atlantic and highlighted the plight of children in the UK.
In a speech at the university on Saturday afternoon, she said: “Teachers and schools are reporting an outbreak of bullying and racially motivated insults. Here in the UK, divisive rhetoric and policy shifts are having their own effects.
“Right now, the residency rights of half a million children, including many who were born in the UK, are hanging in the balance.
“So there are reports of children being worried, feeling uncertain, even unsafe. Trying to make sense of their places in the world.
“The children’s commissioners for England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have already raised concerns that children’s interests are getting short shrift in the Brexit process.”
Some protesters gathered outside the campus ahead of Mrs Clinton’s visit.
The university’s college of law was renamed The Hillary Rodham Clinton School of Law and she was presented with a book about her Welsh roots.
The former first lady appeared to take a swipe at the Trump administration, accusing political leaders of “stoking divisions” and saying that “anger and resentment” were underpinning the national conversation.
“The bonds of community that once united us are fraying. Too much of the current discourse on both sides of the Atlantic is dominated by a zero-sum view of life, which argues that if someone else is gaining, I must be losing,” she said.
“The measure of any society is how we treat the most vulnerable among us, especially our children. And when we lose empathy, when it does become everyone for themselves, children are the first to suffer.
“Just look at my own country where currents of anger and resentment are underpinning our national conversation.
“Americans are divided and less trusting of democratic institutions. But instead of bringing people together we have leaders who stoke our divisions, try to distract us with controversy, after controversy, and undermine free speech and the press.
“It is nearly impossible for children’s voices to rise above the cacophony. And it is not coincidence that when politicians in Washington were arguing over protests at sporting events and cavalierly alluding to nuclear war, one of the first things to fall through the cracks was children’s healthcare.”
Mrs Clinton’s great-grandparents were from south Wales and emigrated to the US in search of a better life. Her ethnic breakdown has been calculated by genealogists as 31.2% Welsh in origin.
In her lecture, Mrs Clinton said: “As a child growing up Wales was a part of my wider understanding because it had special place in my heart due to my family’s connections to it.”
Mrs Clinton said she planned on returning to Swansea in the future: “I feel a special connection to the work of this school because your central focus on children’s human rights is my life’s mission.”