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Hillary Clinton Outlines Her Populist Presidential Vision

ARUN RATH, HOST:

It's the season of politicians making big announcements, and today, we got one more. Hillary Clinton has been running for president for a couple of months now, but she held her first big public rally today on Roosevelt Island in New York. NPR's Tamara Keith is still on the island and joins us now. Tam, how would you describe the speech?

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: Well, it was in a beautiful setting with a view of the New York skyline. The campaign says there were 5,500 supporters. Something like 500 reporters were also on hand for this speech. And it had a real rock-concert vibe. And before she showed up, this band called Echosmith played their song "Cool Kids," which seemed appropriate because one of the things Clinton has to do is prove to millennials that she represents the future and not the past. The speech itself was heavy on policy and personal detail. She sketched out the issues she hopes to spend the campaign talking about, and that was largely under the theme of helping Americans get ahead.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON: You have to wonder, when does my hard work pay off? When does my family get ahead? When? I say now.

(APPLAUSE)

KEITH: She also touched on a laundry list of policy proposals that would fit under that theme - universal prekindergarten, paid family leave, affordable college, help for small businesses, and there were a number of other items like that.

RATH: It sounds like she had a pretty populist message, talking about people working hard, and this is coming out right after President Obama was defined by his own Democratic party over trade legislation that was opposed by labor unions. Was there anything in Hillary Clinton's speech indicating if she's more in line with the president on these kind of issues?

KEITH: She did not say a word about trade. I think that she would be happy if this trade issue just went away. This comes in contrast to Martin O'Malley and Bernie Sanders who are also running in this primary and who have been quite clear in their opposition to the trade deals. Aside from trade, which she didn't address at all, she, on several occasions, affiliated herself with President Obama. She is definitely not running away from the current president.

RATH: You said the speech was also quite personal. What did she talk about?

KEITH: She talked mostly about her mom, Dorothy Rodham, who had an absolutely terrible childhood. She was essentially abandoned by her parents. And Clinton said that her mom taught her perseverance, taught her to be a fighter, and then Clinton tied that to her own commitment to helping women and children.

And this is definitely part of the campaign's effort to soften up the perceptions of Clinton. I can't tell you how many people associated with the campaign or friends of hers or people who've volunteered for the campaign said I just hope people can know the Hillary Clinton that I know. And clearly, this is what she was trying to do. She was trying to introduce herself.

RATH: So when it comes to this challenge, Clinton has to paint herself as a candidate of the future to be one of the cool kids. Republican candidates like Marco Rubio that are talking about a new generation of leadership - how does Hillary Clinton address that?

KEITH: Well, she responds with some jokes, actually. In terms of the Republicans, she says, yeah, they may be talking about a new generation, but they're singing the same songs that Republicans have been singing all along. Then she addressed her age in kind of a funny way.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CLINTON: Well, I may not be the youngest candidate in this race, but I will be the youngest woman president in the history of the United States.

(APPLAUSE)

KEITH: And then she went from there to say, you know, a lot of people, when they become president, their hair turns white in the White House. Well, you don't have to worry about my hair turning white in the White House; I've been dying it for years.

RATH: (Laughter) NPR's Tamara Keith on Roosevelt Island in New York. Tam, thanks so much.

KEITH: You're welcome so much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.