Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush urged the nation to change its immigration and education systems to ensure a robust American economy in remarks Wednesday before the World Affairs Council in Dallas. A suburb away, former first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton delivered her first paid speech since leaving the helm of the State Department earlier this year.
The dueling appearances came on the eve of the opening of George W. Bush's presidential library, stoking speculation about each of their political futures. Both are considered strong White House contenders should each seek the presidency in 2016.
Both of their families were gathering for the library dedication on the campus of Southern Methodist University, an event that will put five living U.S. presidents, including President Barack Obama, on the same stage.
Presidential politics were close to the surface in Dallas Wednesday.
During a question-and-answer session, one man told Bush he had met him in Florida. "Hopefully I'll meet you in Washington as the next president of the United States," the man said.
Asked by another questioner whether he might run for president in 2016, Bush pointed to his son, George P. Bush, a candidate for statewide office in Texas. "To be honest, I'm focused on the land commissioner race in 2014," Bush said with a smile.
Bush, who recently released a book promoting immigration changes, said the nation needed an agenda that would give Americans "the right to rise," whether in entrepreneurial ventures, through restructuring immigration or educational policies that help children attain success. He urged Obama to approve the Keystone XL pipeline that would stretch from Canada to Texas and pointed to fellow Texan Lyndon B. Johnson as a president who cajoled and persuaded Congress to enact his agenda.
"We need people to get outside their comfort zones. We need leaders to have humility to find consensus and compromise. If we do that we'll break the logjams in all sorts of areas of policies that right now don't seem to be working, and this country will take off," Bush said.
Bush lauded his brother's approach to life after the White House, saying he deserved credit for "not sitting on the sidelines and publicly carping and chirping and opining about his successor. I think that is a great tradition in our country that once you serve, you do your best and then you move on."
The feeling was mutual. The former president said in an interview with ABC News that Jeb Bush would be "a marvelous candidate if he chooses to do so. He doesn't need my counsel 'cause he knows what it is, which is 'run.'"
Meanwhile, Clinton spoke at a private event in Irving, Texas, to the National Multi-Housing Council's board of directors, a trade group that represents the apartment building industry. Terms of Clinton's compensation for the question-and-answer session were not disclosed, but it was expected to net six-figures.
Tom Bozzuto, chairman and CEO of the Bozzuto Group, a real estate services organization based in Greenbelt, Md., conducted an interview of Clinton during the hour-long session, and said he covered topics such as international affairs, the economy and the role of rental housing in the U.S.
When he asked about 2016, Bozzuto said Clinton told the audience that she was "too freshly released from her role as secretary of state to have time to even think about this." Bozzuto said Clinton said she had been asked about the subject by someone in the hallway minutes before the speech. "She said she was looking forward to having time to relax," he said.
In recent speeches, Clinton has discussed ways of helping women and children flourish in developing nations but offered few hints about her political future. She is writing a book about her experiences as secretary of state, which will be released in June 2014.
About 40 Clinton supporters waved signs encouraging her to run outside the resort where the speech was being held. Chance Browning, 29, wore a red T-shirt that read "Hot for Hillary" as he gathered with friends.
"It's never too early to start rallying support. I think she's perfectly poised to run in 2016," Browning said.
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