LOUISVILLE - Hillary Rodham Clinton's faith in God was shaped by her grandmother's hymns and the bedtime prayers from her gruff Navy father, the former secretary of state told thousands of Methodist women Saturday.
Clinton said she struggled as a young woman between her father's insistence on self-reliance and her mother's concern for compassion. She reconciled those in the Biblical story of Jesus instructing his disciples to feed 5,000 people with just five loaves of bread and two fish.
"The disciples come to Jesus and suggest they send away the people to find food to fend for themselves. But Jesus said, 'No. You feed them,'" Clinton said. "He was teaching a lesson about the responsibility we all share."
It was a personal speech from a woman considered the front-runner for the 2016 Democratic nomination for president. And while the speech mostly steered clear of politics, she made the case on moral grounds for increasing the minimum wage and equalizing pay for men and women - two issues that have polarized Congress in the run-up to the 2014 midterm elections.
Clinton's remarks came at the quadrennial United Methodist Women's Assembly, where 7,000 women gathered for three days of teaching, singing and service. Clinton told the crowd her faith was rooted in her family. She talked about how her father - a self-made, independent man - would "humble himself before God" by her bedside every night. And her grandmother would sing hymns as she braided young Clinton's hair.
As she considers a run for president, Clinton has been brandishing her foreign policy experience lately with a recent speech at the University of Connecticut and by promoting the upcoming release of her new book, "Hard Choices." But Saturday gave Clinton a chance to tell thousands of women from across the country about her own faith and the church she attended growing up in Illinois.
"I love that church. I love how it made me feel about myself," Clinton said. "I love the doors that it opened in my understanding of the world, I loved the way it helped to deepen my faith and ground it."
Clinton said that while she was secretary of state, faith lead her to start initiatives that fought against human trafficking, promoted maternal health care in developing countries and, above all, inspired her to fight for women's rights.
"The truth is there are too many women in our country today trying to build a life and a family that don't just face ceilings on their aspirations and opportunities; it's as if the floor is collapsing beneath them," Clinton said. "These are our sisters, our daughters, granddaughters. Some are hungry, not just for nutritious food but for opportunity, for chance to thrive, for their own piece of the American dream.
"Don't think we can sit back and wait for someone else to step forward and solve these problems," Clinton added.
Her comments about women come as Democrats and Republicans across the country are appealing to women voters. In Kentucky, Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes, a Clinton family friend, is trying to defeat Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader.
But while Clinton's husband, former President Bill Clinton, campaigned for Grimes at a fundraiser in Louisville last month, Hillary Clinton made no mention of Grimes in her speech and did not appear with her during her short stay in Kentucky on Saturday.
Clinton was scheduled to appear with Republican Sen. John McCain at an event in Arizona on Saturday night.