Hillary Clinton Calls Women's Rights 'Unfinished Business'

Hillary Clinton gets rousing reception from New York women.

April 5, 2013, 12:37 PM

April 5, 2013 -- Hillary Clinton delivered an impassioned address today, one of her first since leaving the State Department, insisting that the work in America for women's rights and equality is "unfinished business."

In her speech at Newsweek/The Daily Beast's Women in the World Summit, Clinton spoke at length of the rights of women and girls in developing nations, but she also stressed this country has "come so far, but there is still work to be done."

In what could be read by her supporters as a tantalizing hint, Clinton said she "looks forward" to being "a partner" in the fight "in all the days and years ahead."

The only reference to speculation that Clinton might run for president in 2016 came from the conference's host and organizer, editor-in-chief of Newsweek and The Daily Beast, Tina Brown.

In introducing Clinton, Brown said, "The big question for Hillary now is what's next?"

Clinton, sporting a shorter hair cut and a bright fuchsia jacket, just laughed, but the crowd in New York City's Lincoln Center went wild and jumped to their feet cheering loudly. Celebrities like Meryl Streep were among those cheering for Clinton.

A small group of Clinton supporters stood outside waving signs that read "I'm Ready for Hillary," encouraging her to run in 2016.

Clinton's speech was a call to action for women.

"Let's keep fighting for opportunity and dignity," she said. "Let's keep fighting for freedom and equality. Let's keep fighting for full participation and let's keep telling the world over and over again that, yes, women rights are human rights, and human rights are women's right once and for all."

She called the work for women's rights a "core imperative" if the United States is to remain an economic leader in the world.

"We are the richest, most powerful country in the world and many American women today are living shorter lives than their mothers, especially those with the least education," Clinton said. "The fact is for too many American women, opportunity and the dream of upward mobility, the American dream remains elusive and that's just not the way it's supposed to be."

Clinton said her last four years traveling the globe has "deepened my pride in our country and the ideals we represent," but it also "challenged me to think about who we are and the values we are supposed to be living here at home in order to represent the world."

"In places throughout America large and small the clock is turning back," Clinton said. "We have work to do, renewing America's vitality at home, strengthening our leadership abroad will take the energy and talents of all our people, women and men alike… I have always believed that women are not victims. We are agents of change. We are drivers of peace. All we need is a fighting chance."

The speech is likely to fuel the already fevered speculation she could make another run for president in 2016. But, supporters who were outside the event are convinced she's ready to run.

The "Ready for Hillary" superPAC was formed by her supporters. They hired a finance director last week, sent an e mail from Democratic strategist James Carville this week, and have been organizing backers to gather outside of both her speech in Washington earlier this week and Friday's address.

Monique Monita, one of the supporters waving a sign, is convinced Clinton has already made up her mind to run.

"Oh no, she's running, she's running. She's just playing hard to get," Monita said. "Everyone knows she's running."

If she wasn't running, Monita said, Clinton would tell her supporters even this far out not to "waste their energy."

Another supporter Summer McKee said she came because she wants to encourage Clinton to run, but it's also good for her to support "good candidates out there."

"It's positive to go out and support politicians in America," McKee said. "This is for us as much as it is for her."

ABC's Cynthia McFadden contributed to this report.