NEW YORK — Hillary Rodham Clinton appeared intent on presenting herself as a presidential candidate who would stand firm on America’s global interests Saturday.
Clinton told thousands at her first major campaign rally that as President Barack Obama’s secretary of state she had stood up to Russian President Vladimir Putin and was in the White House Situation Room the night Osama bin Laden was killed.
“I’ve… reinforced allies like Israel,” she added.
She said the US is uniquely positioned to confront a variety of challenges around the world and stated she would do whatever it takes to “keep Americans safe.”
Foreign policy has become a touchstone issue in the Republican presidential campaign, with the rise of the Islamic State and the US role in the Middle East at the center of the debate. No clear front-runner has emerged in a crowded Republican field, which will grow further on Monday with former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s anticipated announcement of his candidacy.
Clinton’s main focus Saturday was on economic policy. She called for a new era of shared prosperity in America and told attendants that workers can trust her to fight for them.
“It’s America’s basic bargain,” Clinton said. “If you do your part, you ought to be able to get ahead, and when everybody does their part, America gets ahead too.
“That bargain inspired generations of American families, including my own,” the former secretary of state and first lady said.
Clinton announced her campaign in April with a low-key rollout and has been conducting intimate listening sessions with voters in Iowa, New Hampshire and other states with early nominating contests.
On Saturday, she delivered the first major speech of her second campaign for the White House, portraying herself as a fierce advocate for those left behind after the recession.
She cited Obama and former presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and Bill Clinton, her husband, and said they embraced the idea that “real and lasting prosperity must be built by all and shared by all.”
Her campaign said her “tenacious fighter” message will form the foundation of the 2016 White House race. She also signaled her intention to campaign on the prospect that she would be the first woman elected to the White House.
Clinton told the thousands at the outdoor rally on Roosevelt Island on New York’s East River at the start of her speech she was glad to be with them “in a place with absolutely no ceilings.” She ended her remarks by saying she wanted to join with her supporters to build a country where a father can tell his daughter she can grow up to be anything, “even president of the United States.”
Long one of the most divisive figures in American politics, Clinton used the speech to present herself on her own terms and turn her politicized history into a strength. She lost her 2008 bid for the Democratic presidential nomination to Obama, then a US senator.
Eager and excited Democrats began assembling hours before they heard from the front-runner for the party’s nomination. Also in the race are Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley and former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee.
On Friday, the Clinton campaign released a video detailing her four decades in public service, starting with her work as a young lawyer at the Children’s Defense Fund.
After the Saturday speech, Clinton planned to visit early-voting states, with events focused on her relationship with her mother and her father’s background as a veteran and small businessman.
In her Saturday address, Clinton said, “I have been called many things by many people. ‘Quitter’ is not one of them.” That’s something that comes from her mother, Dorothy Rodham, she said, adding that she would confide in her mother after hard days in the Senate and at the State Department.
Clinton has spoken out strongly on immigration and other issues important to parts of the Democratic base. But she has been reticent on other policy questions that have divided the party, among them a trade deal with Pacific Rim nations. Obama backs it. Organized labor, liberals and others say it would cost US jobs. Her rivals, Sanders and O’Malley, have both come out against the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
On Friday, dozens of union-backed House Democrats voted down a critical part of Obama’s trade agenda, negotiating authority that would let him propose trade agreements that Congress could accept or reject, but not amend.
Clinton was joined by her husband and daughter, Chelsea, at the rally. It was the first time the family had been seen together in public since Clinton began her campaign in April, and the crowd chanted “Bill! Bill! Bill!” when she introduced him.
“Oh, that will make him so happy,” Clinton said.