(WASHINGTON) -- Calling for a more inclusive, ideas-driven policy in Washington, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton feted the progressive think tank, the Center for American Progress, at its 10th anniversary reception Thursday.
"We are careening from crisis to crisis instead of having a plan, bringing people to that plan, focusing on common sense solutions and being relentless in driving toward them," Clinton said at the reception in Washington. "So CAP is needed today as much if not more than it ever has been."
"As we look ahead to the next ten years, there are very big challenges facing us, facing our country and facing the world," she added.
Clinton reiterated a condemnation of the recent government shutdown, which she said left families dealing with the fallout of a "scorched earth over common ground" philosophy.
"We've seen unfortunately what happens in our public debates when they occur in what I call an 'evidence-free zone,'" Clinton noted. "When people make claims and arguments that have no basis in evidence."
"Families have felt the consequences," she added.
The organization was founded in 2003 by John Podesta, White House chief of staff to former President Bill Clinton, and it is currently being run by a longtime Clinton aide, Neera Tanden, who is the organization's president.
Clinton praised both Podesta and Tanden for molding the organization in a tumultuous time for the Democratic Party -- the years following Clinton's presidency and during the Iraq War.
Tanden noted that the center's position opposing the war was a central tenant of its early existence -- and it eventually became a central tenant of then-Senator Barack Obama's 2008 election platform.
Clinton, on the other hand, spent much of the campaign in 2008 defending her vote for the Iraq War while she served in the Senate.
The think tank has now become a pillar of Democratic policy-making in Washington.
CAP takes credit for the intellectual underpinnings of several other critical policies for Democrats in the post-George W. Bush era -- including health care reform and their continued advocacy for cap-and-trade legislation.
Clinton, who as first lady pushed for health care reform, praised the organization for bringing the issue back to the forefront of the policy debates.
"In particular, CAP's efforts to put the cause of quality affordable health care for every American back on the American agenda, was essential," Clinton noted.
"I'm grateful that CAP exists, I'm grateful that people support it generously, I'm grateful that it attracts such talent and incredible energy to make a difference on behalf of our country," Clinton said.
Clinton's comments at the swanky reception cap a day of events celebrating the progressive think tank's decade of existence. In addition to Clinton, the conference featured a slew of speeches from rising stars in the party -- and potential political rivals for Clinton if she runs for president in 2016.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., who is emerging as a favorite among progressives, focused her remarks on the economic needs of women and families. She is often included among a short list of Democratic women who may have presidential ambitions, although likely only if Clinton declines to run.
And Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, who is also thought to be interested in a presidential run, focused his remarks on his efforts to steer Maryland in a more progressive direction on economic and social issues, as well as on immigration.
But if anything, the showcase of the progressive movement's biggest names highlighted even more that Clinton remains the person to beat. Few others engender the same passions among Democratic base activists. And even fewer have the range of experiences to bring to the table.
The favorite, at least among Democrats, is clear.
She has largely steered clear of purely political comments even while she keeps a busy schedule of public speaking engagements in her post-Obama administration life.
Thursday's event went more smoothly than an appearance at the University at Buffalo Wednesday night, where she was heckled. "Benghazi, you let them die!" a man shouted, referring to the controversy surrounding to the murders of four Americans at a diplomatic compound and CIA annex in Libya in 2012. The Obama Administration, and Mrs. Clinton, then the secretary of state, repeatedly blamed the deadly attack on reaction to a YouTube video. An investigation subsequently uncovered the adminstration knew Al Qaeda-linked terrorists were to blame; critics still claim the full story has been covered up.
As for the heckler, Mrs. Clinton ignored him at first, then said, "We have to be willing to come together as citizens to focus on the kind of future we want, which doesn't include yelling. It includes sitting down and talking with one another." Her reaction drew enough applause from the crowd to drown out the vocal critic.
Last Saturday, she participated in her first expressly political event for a longtime friend and aide Terry McAuliffe, who is the Democratic nominee for governor of Virginia.
In the meantime, she has also been stretching her fundraising muscle with top-dollar events for McAuliffe and for New York mayoral hopeful Bill de Blasio, who ran her 2000 U.S. Senate campaign.
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio