Hillary Rodham Clinton and Jeb Bush, potential foes in the 2016 presidential contest, said Monday that higher education has the power to transform lives and be a force for democracy around the globe.
Clinton and Bush spoke separately at the Globalization of Higher Education conference, but chatted briefly offstage. The event, co-organized by Bush, offered a bipartisan twist for the nation's two dominant political families, both of whom could return to the presidential campaign trail next year. Bush, a former Florida governor, is the brother and son of Republican presidents. Clinton's husband, Bill Clinton, served two terms in the White House before she returned to political life as a senator from New York and President Barack Obama's first secretary of state.
Onstage in solo performances, Clinton and Bush each focused on education policy and the need to make higher education affordable and accessible across the globe.
"When people around the world have access to this kind of American model of education it illustrates ... that we believe in spreading opportunity to more people, in more places, so that they too have the chance to live up to their own God-given potential," Clinton said at the Dallas event. She's worried, she added, "that we're closing the doors to higher education in our own country so this great model that we've had that has meant so much to so many is becoming further and further away from too many.".
She thanked Bush at the start of her speech, citing his focus on education and his "passion and dedication" to the issue in the private sector.
Bush spoke briefly at the start of the conference.
"Higher education in America has a growing affordability problem while billions in the developing world struggle with accessibility. Exporting U.S. post-secondary education and global consumers at scale can help really resolve both issues simultaneously," Bush said. "Expanding access through technology can bring down the cost of delivery at home and abroad."
Bush, the former Florida governor, has been a vocal supporter of the politically divisive Common Core standards, which specify what math and reading skills students should achieve in each grade. Some conservatives have criticized the standards as a federal intrusion into local classrooms; Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signed legislation on Monday making his state the first in the nation to withdraw from the plan.
The two families have produced three presidents since the 1988 election, a streak broken by President Barack Obama's election in 2008.
It was at least the third time in the past year that Bush and Clinton had crossed paths.
Both were on hand for the April 2013 Dallas presidential library dedication of former President George W.Bush, Jeb Bush's older brother. Mrs. Clinton sat on stage with her husband and four other living U.S. presidents attending the ceremony, including the Bush patriarch, former President George H.W. Bush.
In Philadelphia last September, Jeb Bush — in his role as chairman of the National Constitution Center — awarded Hillary Clinton the Liberty Medal, an event which allowed both to offer plenty of presidential-themed banter.
Bush said then that while he and the former first lady "come from different political parties, and we disagree about a lot of things," they agreed on the wisdom of the American people, "especially those in Iowa and New Hampshire and South Carolina," traditionally the first contests in the presidential primaries.
Tongue-in-cheek, Bush asked Clinton not to wear her medal in Des Moines, Iowa, the home base for many aspiring presidents competing in the state's caucuses.
Mrs. Clinton reminded the audience that both her husband and George H.W. Bush had received the medal in 2006; she and Jeb Bush were "keeping up a family tradition." Clinton told the Philadelphia audience that her husband had recently returned from one of his "annual play dates" in Kennebunkport, Maine, at the Bushfamily compound.
In her speech on Monday, Clinton recalled her work on behalf of education reform as first lady of Arkansas in the 1980s and her advocacy for the education of women and girls around the globe as secretary of state.
She later appeared in Tulsa, Okla., to announce a new early childhood education initiative through her family's foundation to encourage parents to speak to their young children to help them learn new words. Clinton read to and helped a group of toddlers sing along to the storybook "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" inside a Tulsa classroom. The campaign is being conducted in partnership with the foundation headed by billionaire George Kaiser, a major Obama campaign contributor.