Hillary Clinton officially kicked off her 2016 campaign in New York City with a call to build “real and lasting prosperity” that “should be built by all and shared by all.”
The former secretary of state paid homage to the legacies of Democratic presidents past and present, with a particular emphasis on Franklin Roosevelt’s “enduring vision” (the “four freedoms”), which she believes have fallen by wayside in favor of “trickle down” economics. “We have new challenges in our economy and our democracy, we’re still working our way back from a crisis because time-tested values were replaced by false promises,” Clinton said.
“We’re standing again but we all know we’re still not running the way America should,” Clinton said while pointing out how while Americans are sacrificing like never before, the wealthiest Americans are getting a greater share of the profits and benefits. To those who are wondering “when will I get ahead?,” Clinton said, “I say now.”
“You brought our country back, now it’s time, your time, to secure the gains ahead,” she stated. “America can’t succeed unless you succeed – that’s why I’m running for the president of the United States.”
Saturday’s rally marks the formal kick-off to Clinton’s presidential campaign, culminating an eight-week soft-launch where Clinton held intimate sessions with voters in battleground states across the country.
Thousands of supporters gathered at New York City’s Roosevelt Island on Saturday morning for the former secretary of state’s first big campaign event, including Bill and Chelsea Clinton who were by her side, but did not speak.
Striking a populist tone, Clinton’s rally rounded out issues central to the progressive message as she vowed to ban discrimination against LGBT Americans, fight for equal pay for women, enact universal preschool and childcare, tackle income inequality and reign-in political spending.
She also opened up a personal side to her White House ambitions, a striking shift for Clinton, who in the past has been deeply protective of her private life. She spoke of her father, Hugh Rodham, who fought to get a drapery business off the ground to support her family, and her mother, Dorothy Rodham, who overcame a tough childhood and later inspired Clinton to champion rights for women and children. “My mother taught me everyone should have a chance and a champion,” Clinton said.
Republicans, she said, are all singing “the same old song” – “Yesterday.” She mocked the 2016 field for ignoring climate change science, “turning their backs” on the LGBT community, refusing to build an inclusive economy and threatening to take health care away from millions of citizens. She emphasized green energy, veterans’ rights, tax breaks for small businesses and other traditional Democratic staples all centered on building an economy for “tomorrow.”
Clinton said in the coming weeks she will outline clear policy initiatives to spur long-term economic growth and “make America the clean energy superpower of the 21st Century.”
There was also several nods to young people and women, constituencies Clinton is counting on the carry her victory. On foreign policy she said she would do whatever it takes to keep America safe but insisted that as a nation we need to be “smart, as well as strong.”
She reiterated that she would seek a Constitutional Amendment to undo the Supreme Court’s Citizens United campaign finance decision and would advocate mandatory voting registration, although she admitted, “we have to give them something worth voting for.”
Clinton argued that the measure of America’s success should be “how many children climb out of poverty,” and whether higher education is accessible and affordable, not how wealthy its richest citizens are.
“I’m not running for some Americans, but for all Americans,” Clinton added.
She showed more flashes of humor than usual, referencing the aging of previous presidents while in office, as well as her own. “I may not be the youngest candidate in this race, but I will be the youngest woman president in the history of the United States,” Hillary Clinton said. “And, the first grandmother as well,” she added.
She also joked: “You won’t see my hair turn white in the White House, because I’ve been coloring it for years!”
Amanda Sakuma contributed additional reporting to this article.