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Clinton speech dodges presidential buzz

CHICAGO – Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton gave back-to-back speeches Thursday to open the Clinton Global Initiative conference in Chicago but offered no new clues about whether she will run for president in 2016.

In introducing his wife, former President Bill Clinton announced that she would be working full time on his foundation, which he said has been renamed from the Clinton Foundation to the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation.

Hillary Clinton said her work would focus on three key areas that “have been close to my heart for my entire adult life: early childhood development, opportunities for women and girls and economic development that creates jobs and gives more people in more places the chance to live up to their own God-given potential.”

During a nearly half-hour speech to several hundred business and government leaders, she said the push to create more opportunities for women is the “great unfinished business of this century.”

“When women participate in peacemaking and peacekeeping, we are safer and more secure, and when women participate in politics, the effects ripple throughout society,” she said to a round of cheers.

Before she spoke, Emanuel gave a short address on one of his familiar topics – the need for cities to find innovative ways to rebuild crumbling roads, bridges and rail lines when fewer state and federal resources are available.

“There is not a single mayor who is not facing this challenge,” Emanuel said.

“We have challenges to invest in our cities, and we have very little public resources like we used to have, so we have to figure out how to come up with public-private partnerships to actually solve this problem.”

After Emanuel spoke, Clinton offered the mayor a political pat on the back.

“As someone who was born in this city and have spent so many wonderful years growing up here, and coming back and visiting, it’s exciting to see what it looks like, what it’s doing,” she said. “And I appreciated what Mayor Emanuel is telling us about all the other tasks that are being undertaken to ensure Chicago is a global destination and, in fact, a competitive city across the world.”

The speeches served as the curtain raiser on the third annual Clinton Global Initiative America conference, a two-day event in which the former president’s wide-ranging organization holds discussions on key issues in the country’s future.

The Clintons’ daughter, Chelsea, is scheduled to moderate a session at the conference, which also features White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, Wal-Mart President and CEO Bill Simon and actress Eva Longoria, who chairs a foundation focused on helping Latina women become entrepreneurs.

The conference closes Friday afternoon with the former president and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie taking the stage for a discussion titled “Cooperation and Collaboration: A Conversation on Leadership.” Christie is viewed as a potential GOP presidential contender in 2016.

Hillary Clinton’s speech, one of her first major public appearances since leaving the State Department in February, comes amid widespread speculation that she, too, will embark upon a 2016 presidential run. Those political flames were fanned earlier this week when she made her debut on Twitter. She joined the social media site Monday, and by Thursday already had more than 450,000 followers.

Before taking the stage, Clinton sent out just her second tweet, proclaiming, “What an incredible Twitter welcome! In my hometown Chicago for #CGIAmerica.”


©2013 Chicago Tribune

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