Hillary Clinton returned to her Illinois roots to accept her latest award, offering reflections on her childhood while making no mention of a future that could include a 2016 presidential bid.
Speaking yesterday in Chicago, the home of President Barack Obama, Clinton called Abraham Lincoln “the greatest president who ever served our country” as she accepted the Order of Lincoln. She made no mention of Obama -- who derailed her in the fight for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination and then named her secretary of state -- or the presidency of her husband, Bill Clinton.
The former first lady, who also served as a U.S. senator from New York, spoke for about four minutes as she accepted what’s often called Illinois’s highest honor, the latest award she’s received since stepping down as secretary of state in February 2013. Winners are selected by the independent, non-partisan Lincoln Academy.
Clinton, 66, whose husband’s presidency ran from 1993-2001, has said she’ll make a decision on a White House run by the end of this year. Polls of Democrats show she has a huge lead over the party’s other 2016 prospects.
Hillary Diane Rodham was born in 1947 in Chicago and grew up in Park Ridge, a northwest suburb close to O’Hare International Airport. In her remarks, she noted that the hospital where she was born “some years ago” no longer exists.
“The hospital is no longer there,” she said. “I am.”
Her father, who died in 1993, ran a drapery fabric business and, Clinton has said, stressed the importance of self-reliance. Her mother, who lived with the Clintons for several years before her death in 2011, was widely known for her compassion.
Even after her family moved to the suburbs, Clinton said she routinely visited Chicago to take advantage of its cultural offerings and institutions. As a high school student, she said she returned “for other purposes,” including going to Lake Michigan’s beachfront.
Clinton received the award at Chicago’s Field Museum, an institution she said she visited as a child, and it was presented by Illinois Governor Pat Quinn, a Democrat who faces a tough re-election challenge in November from Republican businessman Bruce Rauner.
“Through her decades of service, whether as first lady, U.S. senator or secretary of state, Hillary Rodham Clinton has personified the best of Illinois and the United States,” Quinn said in a statement. “As the first lady and later U.S. senator, she worked across party lines to expand economic opportunity and access to quality, affordable health care.”
Some of the other seven persons who received the award yesterday were Duke University basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski, former UAL Corp. Chairman Glenn Tilton, private equity investor John Canning and attorney Newton Minow, a former Federal Communications Commission chairman.
While delaying a decision on a presidential bid, Clinton already has the backing of an experienced fundraising team, veteran voter-turnout specialists from Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign and endorsements from some well-known Democrats.
Ready for Hillary, a super-political action committee based in a Virginia suburb outside Washington, has raised $5.7 million from about 55,000 donors since it was set up last year. The money has helped create what amounts to the most robust campaign infrastructure so far among any of the Democrats who might run in 2016.
Earlier yesterday, U.S. Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia endorsed Clinton and joined the Ready for Hillary effort.
Ready for Hillary says it has identified more than 2 million Clinton supporters and persuaded 750,000 people to sign a pledge to help her win if she runs. The group has said it has received contributions from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and every U.S. territory.