If This Isn’t a Potential Hillary Clinton Campaign Speech, What Is?

At the New America Foundation, Clinton checks off all the progressive boxes.

National Journal
Brian Resnick
Add to Briefcase
Brian Resnick
May 16, 2014, 9:36 a.m.

Hil­lary Clin­ton just may run for pres­id­ent, al­though you won’t hear that from her … yet.

But in re­cent weeks, she has been up­ping her vis­ib­il­ity, giv­ing speeches, pro­mot­ing her new book, and push­ing Clin­ton Found­a­tion ini­ti­at­ives. Today, she gave the key­note speech at the New Amer­ica Found­a­tion’s “Big Ideas for a New Amer­ica” con­fer­ence. In­tro­duced by a former em­ploy­ee — Anne-Mar­ie Slaughter, who worked with Clin­ton in the State De­part­ment and is now the pres­id­ent of the New Amer­ica Found­a­tion — Clin­ton was pre­sum­ably in front of a pro­gress­ive, like-minded crowd.

And, like­wise, what she said echoed the con­cerns of pro­gress­ives — ex­pand­ing in­come in­equal­ity, the re­turn to a “Gil­ded Age,” the dis­in­teg­ra­tion of the Amer­ic­an middle class, and so on.

It soun­ded like a cam­paign speech. Or, at least, a tem­plate for one. If she were to run, we can ex­pect to hear more on the ideas she ad­dressed today.

Be­low, we dia­gram the main points of her talk.

I have a mor­al found­a­tion, in­her­ited from my par­ents.

I think about what it must have been like, though, to have very dif­fi­cult cir­cum­stances dur­ing my moth­er’s life, but nev­er los­ing faith or hope in how far her chil­dren or grand­chil­dren would even­tu­ally go.

And just as our par­ents gave us great things, we need to make a bet­ter coun­try for our chil­dren.


That is really how Amer­ica is sup­posed to work. Each gen­er­a­tion striv­ing to cre­ate op­por­tun­ity for the next, plant­ing trees that we will not be sit­ting in the shade of, but ex­pect­ing oth­ers who will fol­low to be able to; not ex­pect­ing to be handed any­thing on a sil­ver plat­ter, but be­liev­ing that all of us would be giv­en a fair shot at suc­cess if we were will­ing to do the work that was re­quired

To fix Amer­ica is to fix the middle class, and close gaps between men, wo­men, ma­jor­it­ies, and minor­it­ies.

When all our people be­lieve they have the op­por­tun­ity and are in fact due to par­ti­cip­ate fully in our eco­nomy and our demo­cracy. The em­pir­ic­al evid­ence tells us that our so­ci­ety is health­i­est and our eco­nomy grows fast when people in the middle are work­ing and thriv­ing and when people at the bot­tom be­lieve that they can make their way in­to that broad-based middle.

We should be alarmed, be­cause up­ward mo­bil­ity in Amer­ica is erod­ing.

More than four out of 10 chil­dren born in­to our low­est-in­come fam­il­ies nev­er man­aged to climb out of re­l­at­ive poverty. For­get about get­ting rich. I am just talk­ing about get­ting in­to, and stay­ing there in, the middle class and that should not be as hard as it is now. And what is more, an al­most equal per­cent­age of kids who are born in­to the most af­flu­ent fam­il­ies stay there for life no mat­ter what their ef­fort. That is the op­pos­ite of the mo­bil­ity we think of as a hall­mark of Amer­ica.

Ser­i­ously, Canada is look­ing bet­ter than us.

It was something of a wake-up call when it was re­cently re­por­ted that Ca­na­dian middle-class in­comes are now high­er than in the United States. They are work­ing few­er hours for more pay than Amer­ic­ans are, en­joy­ing a stronger safety net, liv­ing longer on av­er­age, and fa­cing less in­come in­equal­ity. That is not how it is sup­posed to be.

My re­cent résumé strengthens my un­der­stand­ing of this.

Now as sec­ret­ary of State, I saw all the way ex­treme in­equal­ity has cor­rup­ted oth­er so­ci­et­ies, hobbled growth, and left en­tire gen­er­a­tions ali­en­ated and un­moored.

The solu­tions ex­ist. We’ve seen them in ac­tion be­fore, con­veni­ently dur­ing a former Clin­ton ad­min­is­tra­tion.  

The 1990s taught us that even in the face of dif­fi­cult, long-term eco­nom­ic trends, it is pos­sible, through smart policies and sound in­vest­ments, to en­joy broad-based growth and shared prosper­ity.

Out­reach to wo­men.

Amer­ic­an wo­men, with the least edu­ca­tion, less than high school edu­ca­tion, and the low­est in­comes are ac­tu­ally liv­ing short­er lives today than their moth­ers did. Short­er lives than wo­men in any oth­er ma­jor in­dus­tri­al­ized coun­try. The only oth­er place where we have seen such a re­versal in life ex­pect­ancy was among Rus­si­an men after the col­lapse of the So­viet Uni­on. There is no single ex­plan­a­tion as to why life ex­pect­ancy is de­clin­ing. But it cor­rel­ates with un­em­ploy­ment and eco­nom­ic stress.

Out­reach to the mil­len­ni­als.

We can­not wait, be­cause we have a rising gen­er­a­tion of young people, the so-called mil­len­ni­al gen­er­a­tion. They are op­tim­ist­ic, tol­er­ant, cre­at­ive, gen­er­ous as a co­hort. They have so much po­ten­tial, so much to con­trib­ute. They can be the par­ti­cip­a­tion gen­er­a­tion, the in­nov­a­tion gen­er­a­tion — not a lost gen­er­a­tion.

But there’s hope for fix­ing the Amer­ic­an gov­ern­ment.

Why are some people across the polit­ic­al di­vide be­liev­ing what they be­lieve? Hold­ing their val­ues so strongly against what we be­lieve to be right? We do not get back in­to a con­ver­sa­tion that cuts across all those lines that di­vide us. It will be very dif­fi­cult to tackle the eco­nom­ic and so­cial prob­lems that stand in the way of mov­ing away from in­equal­ity to­ward great­er equal­ity, eco­nom­ic­ally and so­cially. But I be­lieve that the time has come.

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