Hillary Clinton has been running for president for weeks, the former secretary of State and first lady formally launched her bid to become the nation’s first female president Saturday, with a campaign rally attended by thousands of supporters on New York’s Roosevelt Island.
She chose Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park as the site to kick off her second White House run, Clinton is trying to tie herself to the legacy of a third U.S. president and his wife Eleanor Roosevelt, one of her role models.
Clinton spoke for around 45 minutes on Saturday and she made only a passing reference to the battle over trade, which has divided President Obama and congressional Democrats. And she continued to avoid taking sides in the intraparty spat.
“Advances in technology and the rise of global trade have created whole new areas of economic activity and opened new markets for our exports,” she explained, “but they have also displaced jobs and undercut wages for millions of Americans.”
She was not about to get off point Saturday setting her sights on a more populist message.
“President Roosevelt called on every American to do his or her part, and they answered,” said Clinton, standing on a massive stage molded in the form of her blue and red campaign logo.
“It’s America’s basic bargain – if you do your part, you ought to be able to get ahead,” she continued. “When everybody does their part, America ought to be able to get ahead too.”
“That’s why I am running for president of the United States of America.”
The daughter of a housemaid and granddaughter of a Scranton, Pa., millworker, Clinton hit on populist themes throughout her speech, saying she wants to fight for all Americans.
“America can’t succeed unless you succeed,” she told throngs of supporters waving tiny American flags. “Democracy can’t be just for corporations and billionaires. It’s your time to secure gains and move ahead.
The Democratic frontrunner also didn’t mention any of her primary challengers, including Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) or former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, who still trail far behind in the polls.
But Clinton slammed Republican opponents with an extended riff on the Beatles classic “Yesterday.”
“There may be some new voices in the Republican choir,” she said of the GOP’s 2016 field. “But they’re all singing the same old song. It’s a song called ‘Yesterday.’ They believe in yesterday.”
“These Republicans trip over themselves promising lower taxes and less regulations for wealthy corporations without any regard for what that will do to income inequality,” she said.
She accused Republicans of trying to kill Obamacare, which she warned would deprive 16 million Americans of health insurance. And she said Republicans “turn their backs” on gay people and want to “deport” undocumented immigrants who pay taxes.
“They reject what fundamentally makes an inclusive economy and an inclusive society, what I once called a village,” Clinton said, referencing her book “It Takes a Village.”
On national security, Clinton pledged to do what it takes to keep the country safe, and gestured toward the rebuilt World Trade Center behind her. She was the junior senator from New York on the day of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
“I was in the situation room on the day we got Bin Laden,” the former secretary of State noted. “I have stood up to Putin and reaffirmed our relationship with allies like Israel.
“We all know that in order to be strong abroad, we have to be strong at home.”
After the speech she was joined on stage by President Clinton, their daughter Chelsea Clinton, and Chelsea’s husband Marc Mezvinsky. As the Pharrell Williams song “Happy” played, the presidential hopeful gave a thumbs-up, clapped her hands and waved to supporters.
Later Saturday, Clinton will head to Iowa, where she’ll speak with volunteers and supporters helping to build her grassroots campaign. She’ll then travel to three other early primary states in the coming days — New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada — in a bid “to work for and earn every vote,” campaign aides said.
*Quotes in this story came from watching CNN and Associated Press.