(WASHINGTON) — Hillary Clinton stepped out of the shadows Tuesday night at an award ceremony held to recognize leaders from around the world who worked to improve the plight of women and featuring such guests as Nicholas Kristof and Vice President Joe Biden.
At the event, Vital Voices’ Global Leadership Awards, the former secretary of state made her second public appearance since she left her post earlier this year.
Clinton founded the original Vital Voices Democracy Initiative as first lady in 1997 with then-Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and has attended 11 of 12 such award ceremonies — every year except 2012 when she was traveling.
She reflected on her time as first lady, fighting for women’s rights with former Chief of Staff Melanne Verveer by her side against problems that are far from over. She said Tuesday a map of the world shows “too many countries where women still face violence and abuse, too many political systems that treat women like second class or even worse.”
“But that’s not all the map shows. It’s not what Melanne and I see,” Clinton said. “When we look at the map we do see progress, because we know people who are making that progress against the most extraordinary odds every day, everywhere. We see the opportunities that are there to be seized. We see, we hear those vital voices.”
Though some have speculated the high-profile Democrat could go head-to-head with Biden in a future primary election, Clinton said she was “delighted” that the vice president could be at the ceremony this year.
“Vice President Biden and I have worked together on so many important issues,” she said. “One that is particularly close to his heart is the fight against domestic violence, and I know what a personal victory it was for him to see the Violence Against Women Act reauthorized last month.”
Biden presented an award to the event’s only male honorees, three brothers who run an NGO standing up for victims of human trafficking in India.
Before introducing the Kant brothers — Ravi, Nishi and Rishi — Biden declared that the U.S. government has an obligation to stand up for equal rights for women around the globe.
“In the end we know this is more than just policies and legislation,” the vice president said. “We have to change fundamental norms and we have to let women around the world know that they aren’t standing alone, that they don’t have to accept their circumstances, because we won’t accept it either.”
Biden denounced practices like forced child marriage and sexual violence that occur around the world, calling them “barbaric.” In Egypt, he said, we have a responsibility to support efforts to stop mistreatment of women.
“In each of these cases we have an obligation to act not just because we have a moral obligation, which should be self-evident to every human being, but because it’s in all of our interests,” Biden said. “Because again to quote my little sister, ‘Peace, justice and equality can never be achieved when we use only half the brain power in the world.’”
Though neither Biden nor Clinton dropped any hints about future ambitions, a group of about 30 people gathered outside the Kennedy Center to urge Clinton to run for president in 2016.
Clinton’s next speaking engagement is just days away. On Friday she is scheduled to address the Daily Beast’s Women in the World Summit in New York.
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Jim Acosta and Greg Clary, CNN
Theodore Schleifer, CNN
Stephen Collinson, CNN