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Clinton Sketches Populist Message In First Major Speech Of Campaign

Democratic presidential candidate, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks to supporters Saturday on Roosevelt Island in New York.
Frank Franklin II
Democratic presidential candidate, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks to supporters Saturday on Roosevelt Island in New York.

Updated at 1:45 p.m. ET

Hillary Clinton, in the first campaign speech for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, sounded a message of support for working families, calling for a new era of prosperity and pledging to support a constitutional amendment to overhaul campaign finance rules.

At a rally on New York's Roosevelt Island, she invoked the memory of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal, saying FDR brought "a wider and constantly rising standard of living" to all Americans, a promise, Clinton said, "that still sounds good to me."

The former First Lady, senator and secretary of state attacked the "trickle-down" economics that began with President Ronald Reagan and remains a mainstay of the Republican philosophy, calling it a failed policy.

"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."

With former President Bill Clinton looking on, she promised to push for a rewrite of the tax code so that it rewards hard work, not quick equity trades or money stashed overseas.

She joked that: "There may be some new voices in the presidential Republican choir, but they're all singing the same old song — a song called 'Yesterday.' "

"These Republicans trip over themselves promising lower taxes for the wealthy and fewer rules for the biggest corporations without regard for how that will make income inequality even worse," she said.

Clinton called for gender equality and equality for sexual orientation.

She reminded her audience that she had been "in the Situation Room on the day we got bin Laden" and promised that "when our brave men and women come home from war or finish their service, I'll see to it that they get not just the thanks of a grateful nation, but the care and benefits they've earned."

She also pledged to create a national infrastructure bank financed by bonds --nd idea that has been pushed by her former boss, President Obama.

On the issue of climate change, "one of the defining threats of our time ... (Republicans will say) 'I'm not a scientist.' Well, then, why don't they start listening to those who are?" she asked rhetorically to loud applause.

Clinton was expected to fly next to Iowa.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Scott Neuman is a reporter and editor, working mainly on breaking news for NPR's digital and radio platforms.