While Hillary Clinton isn’t the first female presidential candidate in U.S. history, she’s inarguably the first major contender. That puts her in a unique position that’s made many people wonder if she’d try to downplay her gender and the historic nature of her candidacy.
And if that’s what you expected, you couldn’t be more mistaken.
Clinton made that abundantly clear on Saturday (June 13) when she kicked off her presidential campaign with a rally on New York City’s Roosevelt Island.
Speaking to a crowd of more than 5,000 people, Clinton outlined several issues she hopes to tackle in the upcoming months. Because of the celebratory, introductory nature of the event, she didn’t delve too deep into specific policy plans. Instead, she gave her speech an earnest, autobiographical touch — allowing voters to see a side of her many may not have seen before.
Specifically, Clinton spoke at length about her mother, Dorothy Rodham, whom she said 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,” Clinton said. “You know what her answer was? Something very simple: Kindness from someone who believed she mattered.”
Clinton remembered her mom — who passed away in 2011 at age 92 — as the one who gave her the confidence to believe any goal is possible and convinced her that “everybody needs a chance and a champion.”
The nearly 45-minute speech focused on women from the start. After telling the crowd it’s wonderful to be in a place “with absolutely no ceilings,” she expressed her hope that one day our country will be a place "where a father tells his daughter, you can be anything you want to be, even a president of United States of America.”
She also lauded the progressive history of the Democratic party, framing much of her speech around Franklin D. Roosevelt’s progressive platforms (thus making it clear that she didn’t just pick Roosevelt Island for its spectacular views of the New York skyline). In doing so, she basically set herself up as the party’s frontrunner and addressed the looming fact that, should she win, she’ll become the first female president of the U.S.
After playfully admitting she’s not “the youngest candidate in this race,” she exclaimed, “I will be the youngest woman President in the history of the United States! And the first grandmother as well. And one additional advantage: You’re won’t see my hair turn white in the White House. I’ve been coloring it for years!”
While celebrating her party’s progressiveness and owning her narrative as a potential political game-changer, Clinton also took the opportunity to chastise what she considers Republicans’ dated approach to politics, comparing their vision to the Beatles’ song “Yesterday.”
“Now, 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. “You know the one — all our troubles look as though they're here to stay... and we need a place to hide away... They believe in yesterday.”
She further took a dig at Republicans’ stances on gay rights and women’s reproductive rights, saying, “They shame and blame women, rather than respect our right to make our own reproductive health decisions… And they turn their backs on gay people who love each other.”
Those slight attacks aside, Clinton’s campaign launch was a largely celebratory affair that laid out her vision for an activist government focused on building a strong economy and a solid middle class. While promising to “fight for everyday Americans,” Clinton clearly laid out the reason WHY she’s pursuing the presidency — which is perhaps the thing we needed to hear most.
“Democracy can't be just for billionaires and corporations,” she said. “Prosperity and democracy are part of your basic bargain too. You brought our country back. Now it's time — your time to secure the gains and move ahead. And, you know what? America can't succeed unless you succeed. That is why I am running for President of the United States.”