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Hillary Rodham Clinton laughs with Mayor Rahm Emanuel after he missed her hand during a high-five attempt on Wednesday. | AP Photo

Hillary Clinton in Chicago talks women, gay rights and Putin

Hillary Clinton took the stage in Chicago on Wednesday to a crowd of about 1,500, hitting themes of feminism and gay rights and even busting on Vladimir Putin.

Clinton made her the first speaking stop at Chicago Harris Theater on her tour promoting her new memoir, Hard Choices, where Clinton details her years as Secretary of State — from 2009 to 2013. 

"Now there may be world leaders who might not be happy when they read my book. I'm talking to you Vladimir," she said. 



Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who spent time with Hillary Clinton in the White House under both President Bill Clinton and President Obama, interviewed her, focusing some on her early years living in Park Ridge. 

"I actually wrote about Rahm in the book. I asked him not to read it before we sat," she said to laughter.

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On the subject of gay rights, Clinton said her time abroad has taught her there's an "increasing backlash" against LGBT communities, leading her to lay out a platform for gay rights before world leaders in Geneva.  

"I began to vigorously protest with governments in many parts of the world," she said. Some countries just need to be "brought along." Others: "Are just cynical. Like what Putin's doing in Russia with all these laws against the LGBT community. That is just a cynical political ploy. I've gotten into shouting matches with top Russian officials. But I realized unless there was an argument made, a platform created, we wouldn't have as strong of a case."

"We have a long way to go, I don't want to mislead anybody," Clinton said. "This is going to be an ongoing struggle and the United States must be on the front lines."

Emanuel asked Clinton about her remarks in China about women and equal rights. She said to look to the dictionary for the definition of feminism: it's a belief that women should have political, social and economic rights. "I don't see anything controversial about that."

Clinton talked about dedicating a chapter to economics and what direction she believes the country should head.

"Income equality is a real problem. I don't have anything against success. I'm all for it. but it is not enough because that is not what made this country successful," she said. "You could find rich people all over the world. ..but you couldn't find what we built here in the 20th century," which she said was a "thriving middle class," that the country needs to get back to. 
 
On political partisanship, Clinton referenced the days of battles between her husband and then U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich. Clinton said Gingrich publicly "injected a lot of vitriol...into our politicis" but then he'd march over to the White House and negotiate with her husband.

She said Gingrich would say: "I'm going to go on TV and rail against it, but I won't block it." 

Gay rights issues were among those that drew Courtney Ross, 19, of Naperville, to Wednesday's event at Harris Theater, where tickets cost $50 and included a signed copy of Clinton's book.

"I feel like everyone in my generation is so apathetic, which is super annoying," Ross said. "People don't know what's going on at all and I'm trying to stay involved."