STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
By now, the world knows that Hillary Clinton is running for president. The world does not know much about what she'd do if elected.
RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
In the early days of her campaign, the Democrat has managed to gain massive publicity while staying partly out of sight. She declared in a short video. And then, she took a surprise drive in a van across the country. She's given no big speeches or interviews.
INSKEEP: Ed Henry of Fox News wrote the other day that the press corps is getting hungry, for information that is. Hillary Clinton's initial campaign stops in Iowa are the first real chance for her to explain why she's running. And NPR's Tamara Keith is covering the Clinton campaign.
TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: The owners of the Jones St. Java House in Le Claire, Iowa found out the night before that Hillary Clinton would be stopping in the next morning. But several of the customers inside had no idea what they were in for. Clinton walked up to the counter to order a beverage facing two boom mics, half a dozen cameras and a crush of reporters.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
HILLARY CLINTON: Well, you know what? I have been up a long time. I want you to make a recommendation about something that I would really like.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Do you like caramel?
KEITH: She ordered a chai tea, then decided to get a caramel latte too - and a water.
(SOUNDBITE OF LATTE MACHINE WHIRRING)
KEITH: The former first lady, former secretary of state, former U.S. senator from New York is out to prove she's not taking anything or any vote for granted. Clinton's also trying to convince voters she can relate to their concerns even though she spent so much of her life in the public eye and under the protection of the Secret Service. After working her way around the room, Clinton sat down with three invited guests, a young mother who works for Planned Parenthood and two college students. A few hours later, in the rural town of Monticello, Clinton sat down again - this time to talk to community college students and faculty.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
CLINTON: I want to thank you, Mick, for having me here and a few of my friends.
KEITH: If by friends she meant reporters, there were far more than a few in the room. Journalists outnumbered participants at least 3 to 1. And that's not counting all the reporters who waited outside because there wasn't space. Clinton kicked off the discussion at the Jones County campus of Kirkwood Community College by trying to answer the question of why. She said the deck is stacked in favor of the wealthy in America, and there's something wrong with that.
CLINTON: I'm running for president because I think that Americans and their families need a champion. And I want to be that champion. I want to stand up and fight for people so that they cannot just get by, but they can get ahead... And they can stay ahead.
KEITH: She talked about growing up in the Chicago suburb of Park Ridge, Ill., her father, who owned a business, her mother, who Clinton credits with giving her the passion for children and families that has defined much of her career.
CLINTON: She had a really difficult childhood, was mistreated, neglected. But she never gave up. She had to basically be on her own. At the time she was 14, and she just kept going.
KEITH: She talked about the Methodist church that taught her the importance of service and finally, her granddaughter, Charlotte.
CLINTON: I want her to have every opportunity. But I want every child in our country to have every opportunity. And that's one of the main reasons that I decided to run.
KEITH: At one point, Clinton asked Diane Temple, an instructor at the school, what changes she's seen in students since she started teaching more than 20 years ago.
DIANE TEMPLE: I think our students are bolder today. I think they're also more apprehensive about their future.
KEITH: One of the questions Clinton will have to answer in this campaign is how her policies will make their futures brighter. She began by outlining four pillars of her campaign, building the economy of the future, fixing a broken political system, strengthening families and protecting the country from threats. As for details...
CLINTON: More to come, everybody.
KEITH: And with that, she was off, back in the black van with tinted windows she calls Scooby and on to meet more Iowans. Tamara Keith, NPR News, Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.