Washington (CNN) – Hillary Clinton gave a full-throated endorsement of early childhood education on Tuesday, including crediting New York Mayor Bill De Blasio – a Clinton confidant – for his efforts to make universal pre-kindergarten the law in America's biggest city.
The former Secretary of State's remarks came as part of an event that brought Too Small to Fail, a childhood development project Clinton launched last year, into a partnership with Univision, the Spanish speaking television network.
"I am especially pleased that the mayor and the first lady and the speaker could be with us today," Clinton said of de Blasio. "They have put early childhood education at the top of the cities agenda and it is an important goal that everyone of us must be committed to achieving."
De Blasio, the newly minted Democratic mayor of New York, has drawn attention for his progressive policies, especially his plan to hike taxes on the rich in order to pay for early childhood education. "Asking those at the top to help our kids get on the right path and stay there. That's our mission. And on that, we will not wait. We will do it now," de Blasio said in his inaugural address earlier this year.
During her short remarks at the roundtable discussion about urging parents to talk with their young children from birth, Clinton said she – as "someone who has worked on this for a very long time" – applauds the leadership the de Blasio has shown on the issue.
De Blasio, in return, described Clinton as an "inspiration" and a "guide" during his brief remarks and credited Clinton for her early work on the issue of early childhood education. The New York Mayor has long been close with the Clintons – he was a Housing and Urban Development official during the Bill Clinton presidency and was Hillary Clinton's campaign manager during her successful 2000 Senate bid.
Clinton's partnership with Univision is focused on encouraging Hispanic families and caregivers to speaking and engages with their children from a young age as a way to develop their language skills. At Monday's event, Clinton watches Spanish-language PSAs about the issue and chatted with Univision President Randy Falco.
Hispanic children, Clinton said, "are less likely, because of where they live and the circumstances they live in, to have access to preschool, to have access to formal child care."
"Our Spanish language partnership will help Hispanic parents, grandparents and caregivers help to get their own children ready for school," Clinton added. "What we want to do is help bring that information to families so that while they are caring for the children they love… they are talking to them, singing to them, helping them succeed."
In addressing the small group of assembled education advocates and parents in a classroom at the East Harlem Council for Human Services Head Start Program, Clinton also spoke how she used to sing "Moon River," a song made famous by Audrey Hepburn in "Breakfast at Tiffany's," to her daughter Chelsea Clinton.
"I even sang to her until she developed an ear, Clinton said. "Before I put her to bed, I would sit in a rocking chair and I would read to her. And then I would sing to her. I would sign Moon River. And then, literally, when she was about maybe 16 months, she takes her little finger and she puts it on my lip and she says, 'No sing mom, no sing.'"
She added to laughter, "But I got away with it for about a year and a half."
On top of the education effort, there was a layer of politics to Monday's event. Univision provides Clinton – who if she launches a second White House bid would instantly become the overwhelming frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination – with a powerful entry into the electorally important Hispanic community.
The network, which reaches most every Spanish speaker household in America and has, in the past, trumped ratings for the top broadcast channels, has been used as an inroad for other politicians, too. Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee, participated in a forum with Univision just months before the election.
As a possible preview of 2016, the Republican National Committee responded to Clinton's remarks on Tuesday afternoon.
Izzy Santa, the group's Hispanic communications director, said de Blasio supports gutting charter schools and Clinton's approval of the New York mayor "goes against the grain of whatever 2016 propaganda she will deliver with Univision."