Mike Segar, Pool, Associated Press
From left, Former U.S. President Bill Clinton sits with his wife former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, former New York Governor George Pataki and former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani during the dedication ceremony at the National September 11 Memorial Museum in New York, Thursday, May 15, 2014.

WASHINGTON — Hillary Rodham Clinton says the dream of upward mobility feels further and further out of reach for many Americans struggling in the economy.

The potential 2016 Democratic presidential candidate offered her most extensive remarks Friday on promoting economic growth since leaving the State Department. In a speech to the New America Foundation, she pointed to the need to promote policies to help struggling workers and young Americans find jobs and training to develop new skills.

The former secretary of state said the nation's "basic bargain" has always allowed Americans who "work hard and play by the rules" to gain opportunities to succeed.

"Unfortunately it's no secret that for too many families in America today, that isn't the way it works any more. Instead of getting ahead, they're finding it harder than ever to get their footing," Clinton said. "The dream of upward mobility that made this country the model for the world feels further and further out of reach and many Americans understandably feel frustrated and even angry."

Clinton's speech on the economy came as President Barack Obama has pushed policies to address economic opportunity and inequality and make higher wages a key issue for Democrats heading into the fall midterm elections.

Offering a brief history lesson, Clinton pointed to the economic growth during the 1990s under the administration of her husband, former President Bill Clinton, calling it evidence that "it's possible to have broad-based growth." Clinton said the following eight years — without mentioning the administration of President George W. Bush by name — offered lessons of how budget surpluses could turn into deficits and "what happens when your only policy prescription is to cut taxes for the wealthy."

Clinton credited Obama for "painstaking work and strong leadership" to help get the economy growing and said there are reasons to be optimistic about the country's future. But she said the nation needs "big ideas" and Americans need to find ways to compromise and "make pragmatic decisions."

Democrats are closely watching Clinton's words on whether she might seek the White House again in 2016 and to what extent she will help candidates in the 2014 mid-term elections. Clinton attended her first political event of the year on Thursday, raising money for Marjorie Margolies, who is running for Congress in Pennsylvania and is the mother-in-law of the Clintons' daughter, Chelsea.

The former first lady said Americans will have choices about "which path they want to go down" in the fall elections but said, "I will leave that discussion to others." She cited the work that she is doing at her family's foundation, where she has launched projects on early childhood education and the promotion of women and girls around the globe.

Clinton said she plans to convene a network of companies at next month's Clinton Global Initiative America meeting in Denver to discuss ways of promoting job training and helping young people gain skills to find jobs in science and technology.

Follow Ken Thomas on Twitter: https://twitter.com/ap_ken_thomas