'I've Spent My Whole Life Fighting For America — I'm Not Stopping Now'

Photo: Frank Franklin II/AP Photo.
Hillary Rodham Clinton kicked off the next phase of her presidential campaign at a rally on Saturday, addressing a crowd of supporters waving tiny American flags flanked by national media and TV crews from as far away as Japan.

Speaking on New York City’s Roosevelt Island, Clinton made her central focus the economy, especially fixing income inequality. She lamented a world where “the top 25 hedge fund managers make more than all of America’s kindergarten teachers combined” and called for a return to “America’s basic bargain.”

“If you do your part you ought to be able to get ahead,” Clinton said. “And when everybody does their part, America gets ahead too. That bargain inspired generations of families, including my own.”

Clinton’s family — especially the struggles overcome by her mother, Dorothy Rodham — was another of the speech’s touchstones. She related how her mother was abandoned by her parents at age 14 and worked as a maid to put herself through high school. “Years later, when I was old enough to understand, I asked what kept her going. You know what her answer was? Something very simple: Kindness from someone who believed she mattered.”

Fervent Hillary supporters crowded the stage. One of them, Lauren Gray, arrived at 7 a.m. — on of the morning of her 26th birthday — to be one of the first through the gates. “I just thought it would be awesome to see her official launch, to see her make history. We've been here for a few hours and we've got a few hours to go — but it'll be worth it,” she said.

Trisha Bruynell, also 26, chimed in to say she was particularly inspired by Clinton's time as Secretary of State. "We're making so much progress here in the US, but there are so many people in other countries that are so far behind us. She's one of the first people to really campaign for them."

She also laughingly one-upped her friend, saying she’d arrived at 6 am — and maybe hadn't made it to bed the night before. "After this, I'll be ready for a historic Hillary nap,” she said.

After casting her as a successor to Democratic presidents who’ve come before, from FDR to her husband and Barack Obama, her speech honed in on policy. Clinton laid out a laundry list of goals and ideas, from the sweeping — ending discrimination against LGBT people and closing the wage gap — to the concrete — creating a government fund for infrastructure projects paid for by selling bonds. So thoroughly enumerate her liberal stances, it seemed almost like a rebuke to anyone who'd call her a centrist (as critics on the left have).

She organized her ideas into “four fights I’ll wage and win for you” – making the economy work again for the middle class and poor people; strengthening families with things like required paid sick leave and cheaper college; keeping America safe from threats overseas; and working across the aisle to fix governmental dysfunction.

She did pause — briefly — to take a dig at her Republican opponents. “There may be some new voices in the presidential Republican choir, but they’re all singing the same old song. A song called “Yesterday," she said, to one of the speech’s biggest laughs.

Some of those opponents showed up to voice their opposition. A group of college-aged kids stood outside the rally chanting “G - O - P / Stop Hillary,” with signs that used her campaign’s signature H to write Hypocrisy. A bit down the road, a woman in heels and Hillary mask danced draped in a garland of fake money.

But mostly it was a friendly, and upbeat affair, geared towards a core group of die-hard supporters (perhaps smaller than organizers had hoped for; a large secondary viewing area was empty), on perfectly sunny day beneath a bright blue sky that matched Clinton’s pantsuit almost perfectly. As she closed, she framed the race to the White House as a fight — where she might be beset by sexism, ageism and an opposition bent on taking her down, but that she was in it for the long haul.

“I think you know by now that I’ve been called many things by many people. 'Quitter' is not one of them,” Clinton said. “It’s no secret that we’re going up against some pretty powerful forces that will do and spend whatever it takes to advance a very different vision for America. But I’ve spent my life fighting for children, families, and our country. And I’m not stopping now."

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