Standing in the middle of a huge red and blue stage built in the shape of her campaign logo and surrounded by thousands of adoring supporters, Hillary Clinton on Saturday declared her vision of an inclusive, smart, and strong America during a major rock-festival style event on a New York City island named for President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
"President Roosevelt called on every American to do his or her part, and every American answered," the former Secretary of State and former U.S. Senator from New York told the cheering crowd gathered on Roosevelt Island. "He said, 'there is no mystery about what it takes to build a strong and prosperous America. Equality of opportunity, jobs for those who can work, security for those who need it, the ending of special privilege for the few, the preservation of civil liberties for all and a wider and constantly rising standard of living.' That still sounds good to me."
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She said that legacy lifted a nation and inspired following presidents, including President Barack Obama, for whom she served as secretary of state, and her husband, former President Bill Clinton who stood off stage behind a barricade with daughter Chelsea.
The "bargain" that Roosevelt struck, she said, inspired generations of families, including her own, and when her husband honored it "we had the longest peacetime expansion in history, a balanced budget, and for the first time in decades, we all grew together.
Under Obama, "we pulled back from the brink of depression, saved the auto industry and provided healthcare to 16 million working people, and replaced the jobs we lost faster than the historical average after a financial crash."
There are new challenges, Clinton said, complaining of a Republican Congress that "twice cut taxes for the wealthiest, borrowed money from other countries to pay for two wars, and family incomes dropped. You know where we ended up."
On Saturday, Clinton outlined four "big fights" that she says are at the core of her campaign: to build the economy of the future; strengthening communities and families; fixing the political system and getting "unaccountable" money out of politics; and keeping the country safe.
She lauded Americans for making a new beginning following the recession years, including working extra shifts, taking second jobs, and postponing home repairs.
"Now people are beginning to think about their future again," she said, but "we all know we are not yet running the way America should. You see corporations making record profits, with CEOs making record pay, but your paychecks have barely budget."
However, she continued, "democracy can't be just for billionaires and corporations. Prosperity and democracy are part of your basic rights too...America cannot succeed unless you succeed. That is why I am running for president of the United States."
She promised that she is running "not for some Americans, but for all Americans," and to fight against trends in which jobs have been displaced and the financial industry has "created huge wealth for a few."
Clinton also slammed the growing crop of Republican challengers, accusing them of "singing the same old song, a song called 'Yesterday,'" and invoked the Beatles, saying Republicans believe the worlds "'all our troubles look as though they are here to stay.' They believe in yesterday."
She also invoked the memory of her own mother, describing how she told her that she was able to keep going because of the "kindness from someone who believed that she mattered" while growing up as a child who was abandoned by her parents.
"Because some people believed in her, she believed in me," Clinton said. "I believe with all my heart in America and in the potential of every American to meet every challenge, be resilient, no matter what the world throws at you, to solve the toughest problems."
She attributed her fighting spirit to her mother as well.
"When I was a girl, she never let me back down from bullies or barriers," she said. "In her later years, Mom lived with us, and she was still teaching me the same lessons ... I wish my mother could have been with us longer. I wish she could have seen Chelsea become a mother herself. I wish she could have met Charlotte. I wish she could have seen the America that we will build together."
She also outlined her resume, started from the time when she babysat children of Mexican farm workers while still a young girl, through her time as a law student and young lawyer and up through her time as Secretary of State.
"I stood up to adversaries like Putin and reinforced allies like Israel," she said. "I was in the situation room the day that we got [Osama] bin Laden. I know that we have to be smart as well as strong."
Clinton, during her almost hour-long speech, made promises including to "rewrite the tax code so that it rewards hard work at home, and not stashing profits overseas," to give incentives for profit sharing, and to cut red tape while providing tax relief for small business owners.
"We will restore America to the cutting edge of innovation, science, and research by increasing both public and private investments," Clinton promised. "We will make America the clean energy superpower of the 21st century."
She also called for progress in making college affordable for all, and to lift the burden of student debt.
Another fight, Clinton said, is to strengthen America's families, and to be sure Americans look at retirement with confidence and not anxiety.
She also promised to keep America safe, saying that "no other country is better equipped to meet threats from Russia, North Korea, and Iran, and deal with new powers like China" or with terror networks like ISIS.
Another fight, Clinton said, will be for campaign finance reform.
"We have to stop the endless flow of secret, unaccountable money that is distorting our elections, corrupting our political process, and drowning out the voices of our people," she said.
Clinton also reiterated her hopes for voting rights expansion.
"I will fight back against Republican efforts to disempower and disenfranchise young people, poor people, people with disabilities, and people of color," she promised. "What part of democracy are they afraid of?"
Clinton acknowledged she is not the youngest candidate running, "but I will be the youngest woman president in the history of the United States, and the first grandmother for years," joking that "you won't see my hair turn white in the White House. I have been coloring it for years."
She said she is welcoming a fight for the office among Democrats, Republicans and Independents.
"I'm not running to be present for those Americans who already agree with me," she said. "I want to be president for all Americans."
But while Four Freedoms Park was packed with supporters of all ages, and particularly from younger voters, one important New York figure did not plan to be there: Mayor Bill de Blasio.
The Democratic mayor, who served as Clinton's campaign manager, has not officially backed anyone yet in the upcoming primaries, reports CNN
, but he has indicated Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders, who is challenging Clinton for the Democratic nomination.
He commented on Thursday that he planned to stay away from the massive rally in his own city because he wants Clinton to address her "larger vision" on income inequality.
Clinton's supporters started lining up at 6:30 a.m. on Saturday for the rally, which kicked off at about 10 a.m. with music and speeches. She started making her way through the venue at about 11:50, stopping to shake hands with enthusiastic crowd members on her way to the stage.
She officially announced her campaign in April, though, with a video announcement and a trip in a van through the country to visit early states such as Iowa.
"I think this will be a new moment," John Podesta, Clinton's campaign chairman, told CNN of Saturday's launch. "We have had the spring training, now it is opening day. I think, for us, this is an opportunity to lay out really the operating manual for where she wants to take the country. And we are looking forward to hearing her, and I think the people who support her around the country will get quite excited about this."
Clinton's supporters were not the only ones at the event. Republicans also arrived by bus from Washington to hand out information about her, with packets that included red sunglasses saying "Stop Clinton" and "Shady."
The event also featured a drumline from Brooklyn, where Clinton's campaign is headquartered, along with a speech from "DREAMer" Andrea Gonzales, who addressed the audience in Spanish.
In addition, Clinton's camp has recently announced a Spotify playlist, and music from it blared from large speakers around the event. Clinton also joined Periscope, a live streaming phone app, on Saturday, and a new campaign hire, famed Olympic skater Michelle Kwan, was to host Clinton's Periscope at the event.
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