Hillary Clinton addresses education, women, economy at renamed Clinton Foundation

Rachel Rose Hartman
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It wasn't technically a campaign speech.

But Hillary Clinton, who notably was introduced by her husband, took the stage at the Sheraton Hotel in Chicago Thursday to outline her commitment to early childhood education, opportunities for women and girls, and the need for economic development in the United States. Add to this the anecdotes she told about her childhood in nearby Park Ridge, and observers could easily envision what a 2016 campaign for the former secretary of state would look like.

"It is such a pleasure to be here in Chicago participating as a private citizen as a co-host," Clinton told the audience at the third-annual meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative America (CGI America), founded by her husband, former President Bill Clinton. Following her decision to resign as secretary of state, Clinton joined her husband's foundation, which focuses on global health and economies, and the environment.

That organization is being renamed the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation, Clinton noted.

She referenced her political experience several times during her speech, taking time to joke about the record number of trips she took while serving as secretary of state. "So after visiting 112 nations over four years, I’m still jet-lagged,” she said, noting how much she learned about how to help international communities.

Clinton used her appearance Thursday to outline the agenda she plans to pursue in her new role at the foundation. She said she will focus on early childhood education—something being heavily promoted by President Barack Obama through his universal pre-kindergarten initiative—and applying the latest brain research to young people's development. Additionally, she said she will advocate for economic development as a means to help people achieve the dream of having a "good job" and caring for their families. And she plans to continue encouraging equal opportunities and equal pay for women, and involving women in all aspects of society.

"When women participate in the economy, everyone benefits. This also should be a no-brainer," Clinton said. "When women participate in peace-making and peacekeeping, we are all safer and more secure. And when women participate in politics, the effects ripple out across society."

That last line—the only clear allusion to her potential presidential campaign—drew wide applause from the audience.

While Chicago is a city best known politically as the home of the current president, Clinton staked her own claim to the city several times Thursday during remarks about the economy, at one point calling it a "rising phoenix."

She also noted that at the heart of America, as her husband "is fond of saying," is the belief that "if you work hard and play by the rules, you will prosper, you will be able to make a better life for yourself and your family.

"I learned that lesson not far from here growing up in Park Ridge," Clinton continued. "One of my earliest memories as a little girl is helping my father in his small fabric printing business here in Chicago, lifting the silk screen, holding the paint squeegee."

A lot has changed, she said, "but our values still inspire the world and they still can guide our way forward."