SAN JOSE -- Looking by turns confident in her message and comfortable in her own rhinoceros-thick skin, Hillary Clinton sounded ready for her next big campaign during an appearance before a packed house at the San Jose State University Events Center on Thursday night. She could have been referring to her own presidential ambitions in 2016 when she declared early on, "All that most women need is a fighting chance to prove themselves."

Appearing as part of Unique Lives & Experiences, a lecture series that caters to women, Clinton confined most of her remarks to their "struggle," a word she invoked half a dozen times. She also talked about her mother's plight as an abandoned child, and several times quoted Eleanor Roosevelt, one of the great avatars of the women's movement, including Roosevelt's remark that women in public life need to have hides as thick as a rhinoceros. "Too many women face ceilings that block them," she concluded.

Clinton ran through a litany of the disparities in pay and power that favor men over women, noting at one point that women make up only 11 percent of the boards of tech companies. "We're making progress," she said, "but it's not fast enough. This is the unfinished business of the 21st century."

She reckoned that for members of her sex, the glass was still just "half full," although the same could not be said for the glass ceiling to the presidency, which remains completely intact. She is the obvious, and judging by the mood and frequent ovations of the San Jose crowd, wildly popular choice to end that inequality -- or at least start the process of moving in that direction.

Clinton never directly addressed her prospects as a potential presidential candidate in 2016, even after Santa Clara County Assessor Larry Stone, who moderated a 30-minute Q&A session following her speech, told her to feel free "if there's a major announcement you'd like to make."

Clinton did, however, hint at a possible run, following a story about a women's college basketball player who encouraged her to run for the U.S. Senate seat in New York in the late 1990s. Paraphrasing a sign in the school's gym, the player leaned into the former first lady's ear and whispered, "Dare to compete, Mrs. Clinton. Dare to compete." And she did, winning a Senate seat twice. Despite her loss to Barack Obama following a bruising presidential primary fight in 2008, Clinton sounded ready to compete again.

"Don't let women's concerns and fears undermine what could be the greatest moment in history for women," she said. "This is the moment. We all can seize it."

Contact Bruce Newman at 408-920-5004. Follow him at twitter.com/BruceNewmanTwit.