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Hillary Clinton Calls Women's Rights 'Unfinished Business'

AAMIR QURESHI/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Hillary Clinton delivered an impassioned address Friday, one of her first since leaving the State Department, insisting that the work in America for women’s rights and equality is “unfinished business.”

The speech at Newsweek/The Daily Beast’s Women in the World Summit marked Clinton’s third speech since entering public life, and although she spoke at length about the rights of women and girls in developing nations, she also stressed this country has “come so far, but there is still work to be done” and she “looks forward” to being “a partner” in the fight “in all the days and years ahead.”

“Let’s keep fighting for opportunity and dignity,” Clinton said at the event at New York City’s Lincoln Center. “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 rights once and for all.”

She called the work a “core imperative” if the United States is to remain an economic leader in the world and the speech was a call to action for the women in the audience to not be lulled into believing the fight for equality is over in this country, saying, “our global leadership for peace and prosperity for freedom and equality is not a birthright. It must be earned for every generation.”

“The next time you hear someone say that the fate of women and girls is not a core national security issue, it’s not one of those hard issues that really smart people deal with, remind them that the extremists understand the mistakes of this,” Clinton said. “They know that when women are liberated so are entire societies. We must understand this, too, and not only understand it, but act on it.”

Clinton echoed many of the same topics she spoke about earlier in the week at the Vital Voices Global Leadership Awards in Washington, D.C., discussing her work on this topic since the time she was in college through her time as first lady, U.S. senator, and secretary of state.

“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 “reaffirmed and 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.”

Better health care, equal pay, supporting the women of Afghanistan once American troops have gone, encouraging girls to pursue careers in math and science, and supporting women across the globe were among the issues she championed in her almost 30 minute speech.

One topic that Clinton did not discuss? Her political future.

Despite the already fevered speculation she could make another run for president in 2016, the only mention came in the form of a tongue-in-cheek reference 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 went wild, cheering loudly.

There were others who did attend with an overtly political agenda, though. A small group of Clinton supporters stood outside Lincoln Center waving signs that read “I’m Ready for Hillary” encouraging her to run in 2016.

“Ready for Hillary” is the superPAC already formed by her supporters. They hired a finance director last week, sent an email from Democratic strategist James Carville this week, and have been organizing supporters to gather outside of both her speech in Washington earlier this week and Friday’s address.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio