Hillary Clinton took a break from paid speeches and award ceremonies on Tuesday to meet instead with a group of mostly Hispanic parents and children in East Harlem to highlight her family foundation’s early childhood development initiatives.
The potential 2016 Democratic presidential contender was joined by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who has been pushing a universal pre-kindergarten proposal for the city, and the mayor’s wife, Chirlane McCray. The former secretary of state discussed the growing national push for universal pre-K, yoking her past work to the modern debate on the subject.
De Blasio also credited her as an early pioneer on childhood development.
“As somebody who has worked on this for a very long time – I hate to think how long – it is exciting to see everybody from the mayor to [New York] Gov. [Andrew] Cuomo to President Obama and literally people across the country taking on this important issue because we know that an investment in the early years is really the best investment we can make in our children’s future,” Clinton said.
The event, co-sponsored by Univision and held at the East Harlem Council for Human Services, was part of Clinton’s “Too Small to Fail” initiative, and focused on the disparity Hispanic children face in having family members read to them.
It was one of the few public events she’s done for the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation. Though rigidly choreographed, it was a chance for Clinton to gingerly step back into the less-controlled world of retail politics.
Clinton and de Blasio took no questions, and the media was shooed out of the room after each of them made brief remarks so the conversation with parents could take place absent the prying eyes of the press. Journalists were mostly kept behind a bookcase as a barrier; foundation officials said that was to protect skittish parents who were leery of reporters.
“The reason we’re here is every child – every single child in our country – deserves to have a fair chance to live up to his or her God-given potential,” Clinton said. “For me, that really is what it’s about, because I, like many of you, particularly those of you who have worked with young children, you see their potential, but we know that a child like mine or a child like Bill and Chirlane’s wonderful children, they come to kindergarten with so many more words already. There’s this huge word gap.”
In a loose moment, Clinton described singing to her own daughter, Chelsea, when she was a baby.
“Bill and I probably took it to an extreme reading to our poor little baby girl,” she said. “I even sang to her until she developed an ear. We had a little house in Little Rock, and before I’d put her to bed I’d put her in a rocking chair and read to her and then I’d sing to her. I’d sing Moon River. And then literally when she was about 16 months she took her little finger, she put it on her lip and she said ‘No sing, mommy, no sing’” (Source).