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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

It's been 18 months since Hillary Clinton took a break from her day job in the U.S. Senate to seek the presidency. And today, she returned to work as the junior senator from New York. NPR's David Welna was there and sent this postcard.

(Soundbite of applause, cheering)

DAVID WELNA: A big crowd of mostly interns and Senate staffers broke into applause as the broadly smiling Senator Clinton climbed out of a big black SUV and strode purposefully toward the Capitol in a resplendent turquoise pantsuit.

As she made her way up the Capitol steps, she paused to greet well-wishers as if she were still working the campaign rope lines.

Senator HILLARY CLINTON (Democrat, New York): Are you having a good experience?

Unidentified Woman #1: I'm having a great experience.

Sen. CLINTON: I had a wonderful experience a long time ago.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Sen. CLINTON: It was really worth doing.

WELNA: She might have been talking about the primary race she just lost, but Clinton was evidently referring to her one-time job as a congressional intern. She stopped at another point to greet a middle-aged fan.

Sen. CLINTON: Hi, how are you, dear?

Unidentified Woman #2: My daughter is very motivated by you. Thank you for that.

Sen. CLINTON: Thank you. Thank you. How old is she?

Unidentified Woman #2: She's (unintelligible).

Unidentified Child: (Unintelligible).

Sen. CLINTON: Oh good. Hi. Where are you from?

Unidentified Child: Atlanta.

Sen. CLINTON: Nice to meet you.

Unidentified Child: You, too.

Sen. CLINTON: So I'm glad you're here. Did you have a good visit to The Capitol?

Unidentified Child: Very good.

Sen. CLINTON: Great. Well, stay interested, okay?

Unidentified Child: I will.

Sen. CLINTON: Good.

WELNA: After lunching behind closed doors with her fellow Democratic senators, Clinton was asked by a reporter what her role would now be in the Senate.

Sen. CLINTON: My role is to be the very best senator I can be and to represent the greatest state in our country.

WELNA: Clinton added that she returns from the campaign trail with an even-greater awareness of what's left to be done here in Washington.

Sen. CLINTON: And it won't surprise you to hear me say that I think the Democratic Party offers the best hope for solving the problems we face. And that's why we're going to work very hard to elect Senator Obama our president, and we're going to work very hard to add to our numbers here in the Senate.

WELNA: And would she now like to be Barack Obama's running mate?

Sen. CLINTON: It is not something that I think about. This is totally Senator Obama's decision, and that's the way it should be.

WELNA: David Welna, NPR News, The Capitol.

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