Hillary Clinton Explains How She'll 'Crack Every Last Glass Ceiling' in 2016

Before an admiring Silicon Valley crowd, Clinton tests out a few potential campaign themes.

on February 24, 2015 in Santa Clara, California.

Photographer: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

SANTA CLARA, Calif.—Hillary Clinton didn't shatter the glass ceiling of the American presidency back in 2008 but on Tuesday offered her most detailed outline yet on how she'll try to do it this time around.

"Crack every last glass ceiling," she told a roaring crowd of more than 5,000 at a women-in-tech conference here, as she ran through the likely themes for probable presidential campaign: economic opportunity for all, restoring trust in government and building a “nice, warm purple space” for bipartisanship in Washington.

Clinton’s appearance was the kick off several weeks of sustained public engagement ahead of the likely April launch of an exploratory phase of campaigning. It came after more than a month in hibernation—her most recent public appearances were on Jan. 21—and Clinton appeared energized and ready for the next stage in her windup to a run.

In her absence from the public eye, speculation about the influence of Sen. Elizabeth Warren's populist economic message and its pull on Clinton has only risen, and she indicated Tuesday that it will be a key piece of her message. 

"Our economic success is not a birthright. It is not inherited. It has to be earned by every generation," Clinton said.

Clinton: Time for Wage Equality Once and For All

Most of the events on Clinton's public agenda for March are women-focused; she’s scheduled to speak next Tuesday at an EMILY’s List gala and will unveil a report on her post-State Department women’s rights project with a March 10 speech at the United Nations. She’s also set to accept an award next month from the Society for Women’s Health Research. 

Clinton made clear Tuesday that she won’t be shying away from her gender if and when she runs, as she discussed Rose Law Firm’s early-'80s ad hoc maternity leave policy and her hopes to leave behind a better world for her granddaughter, Charlotte. And she embraced the glass ceilings theme, telling her audience of tech leaders and aspiring tech leaders, "you bump your heads on glass ceilings."

Clinton gave a nod to Patricia Arquette's Academy Awards speech in which the actress called for equal pay, saying the Arquette is "right—it's time to have wage equality once and for all."

The economy and gender aren't separate issues for Clinton; they're one and the same. “In so many ways our economy seems to be operating like it’s still 1955. And that’s not just a problem for women, it’s a problem for everyone,” she said.

Family issues will be part of her broader economic message, acknowledging that "many Americans feel the ground shifting under their feet" as technology makes some jobs redundant and wages stagnate. "We have to make this new economy work for everyone,” she said, after citing exorbitant CEO pay as one of her many concerns. (And one that could worry some potential campaign donors, including the small group of technology executives including Facebook's Sheryl Sandberg brought together by IAC chairman Barry Diller to meet with her here.)

Clinton also weighed in on a string of current events on which she's said little, including net neutrality (she would support new rules), Edward Snowden ("I can never condone what he did") and the Obama administration's strategy to fight ISIS ("a lot of the right moves are being made but this is a really complicated and long-term problem"). 

Throughout the more than an hour she spent on stage here, the elephant of her potential candidacy was never far away. 

"You don't have to run for office" to bring about change for women, Clinton said with a big smile, drawing laughter from the crowd. "Although if you do, more power to you."

During an onstage interview following Clinton's speech—delivered with the help of a teleprompter—technology journalist Kara Swisher, of Recode, wasn't shy about pushing Clinton. "I interviewed President Obama last week and I'm very eager to interview another president," Swisher said at the start of their conversation. 

Pressed on the status of her potential campaign, Clinton was coy. "If you don't tell anybody, I am obviously talking to a lot of people, thinking [it] through," she said.

Swisher suggested that a women's conference might be the right place to declare, but Clinton said she's still working on the windup. "All in good time. You know, there's a lot to think about," she said, mentioning that she's gone through a long list of preparations and has just a few more items to check off. 

"Why do you think we need a woman president?" Swisher asked, trying to go at the question another way. Clinton's response: "Speaking hypothetically?" Swisher didn't miss a beat, invoking the name of a potential rival. "We can say President Warren if you want," she said.

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