Speaking at McCormick Place Tuesday, Hillary Clinton, for the umpteenth time, dodged the question of whether she will run for president in 2016.
“If I ever decide to do it, I will let you all be the first to know,” she said, drawing laughs during a question-and-answer session after her speech to about 4,000 people attending a convention of the Food Marketing Institute and United Fresh Produce Association.
“I think anybody who chooses to run this next time should be held to a very high standard … knock out all the attacks and the negativity, give us your positive vision about where you think America is able to go and how are you personally going to make that happen.”
The 66-year-old former first lady, U.S. senator and secretary of state, who was born in Chicago and grew up in Park Ridge, spoke for about 45 minutes. She has been paid up to $200,000 per speech in the past; information on what she earned for Tuesday’s speech was not immediately available.
Clinton, often citing her own quotes from her new book, “Hard Choices,” said any candidate must answer two questions: “What’s your vision for the future of our country and can you lead us there.”
Clinton said joining the administration of President Barack Obama after losing a bitter presidential primary campaign to him in 2008 was an example of “how democracy is supposed to work.”
Being secretary of state offered her a unique perspective on how other countries look to the United States for leadership and how the threatened debt default in left international onlookers scratching their heads.
“I looked carefully at what other countries were saying about us at that time, and there was a sense of bewilderment, like ‘How could the United States even be thinking about this?’”
She said the situation was a lesson in how America must not take its role in the world for granted.
“Our leadership is not a birthright, we have to earn it generation by generation. And that requires us to work together, to get over the idea that compromise is a dirty word.”
Clinton often sounded like she was on the campaign stump.
“We need to get back to making decisions that are based on the best available evidence, thinking about the future over the horizon, what is best for our children and grandchildren and to set an example for the rest of the country, because our infighting, our gridlock, doesn’t reflect well on us.”
Clinton used the word “regret” three times while talking about the deaths of four Americans at the U.S. embassy in Benghazi, Libya.
“I regret they were vulnerable,” she said. “I regret deeply what happened but I also believe we have to be present even in dangerous places and we have to do more to protect those that we send there.”
Clinton called Chicago the place “where my mother taught me to work hard and never give up and where I learned so much about faith and family, what it means to try to construct a meaningful life with purpose and principle.”
Clinton, who mentioned the welfare of future generations of Americans several times, also spoke briefly of how excited she is to become a grandmother; daughter Chelsea is expecting.
“I am thrilled that this fall I will meet whoever this new person is.”
The speech was well received by many in the audience.
“I hate to be biased, obviously,” said Sarada Bernstein, 36, of New York. “You know, she’s a woman and I think we need a different perspective in the White House and I would love to see her as president.”
Bernstein said not everyone in the crowd shared her opinion.
“There seemed to be some unrest in the audience when she answered some things about Benghazi and things, but I thought she did a really good job and I was inspired enough to buy her book.”