Chelsea Clinton on How She's Making a Difference—and How We Can, Too
We know (and love!) Chelsea Clinton as the First Daughter, Hillary’s ride-or-die campaign supporter, and, back in the day, a curly hair icon for girls everywhere. But when we hopped on the phone with her last week, we chatted about a different role: author. She’s just released the paperback edition of her book It’s Your World, which is packed with insights into issues around the globe—and very real ways we can make a difference, even when it feels impossible. Below, Chelsea told us about her activism, rules for Twitter and the best advice her mom ever gave her.
The re-release of your book couldn’t have come at a better time, because one of the biggest questions we’re asked by readers—many of whom were too young to vote in this election—is how to remain optimistic and empowered when the news feels depressing every single day. How are you personally doing it?
Although it’s easy to be overwhelmed with everything that’s happening in the world, I think that every one of us can feel connected enough to make a difference. For young people, it’s about ensuring that—even if they can’t vote—they feel there are still meaningful things they can do in their community. But also, recognize that they do have powerful voices who deserve to be heard and listened to by those who are old enough to vote, whether that’s their parents, or teachers, or churches, or temples, or synagogues. I hope that young people will take this moment in our country’s history to speak up and speak out and engage those who can go to the ballot boxes, while also recognizing what they can do outside of the ballot box really matters, too.
You’ve been using Twitter recently to speak your mind on a lot of things, but especially politics. What advice do you have for using Twitter/social media for good?
If you wouldn’t say something offline, then you shouldn’t say it online. That’s a pretty good barometer. If you wouldn’t say something in front of your parents or your children, depending on where you are on the age spectrum, then it’s probably not something you should be saying. These are hopefully helpful things that all of us should be thinking about. I don’t think the golden rule should stop as soon as you pick up your phone. I believe in “do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” and for me, part of that is calling attention to things that I think are absurd and wrong, in the same way that I hope other people would acknowledge the things that they think are absurd and wrong.
Highlighting things that they think are good and right is hugely important in this moment in time, because each of us has to stand against what we don’t think is right, but also stand for what we do think is right. In 2017, that’s true both in real life as well as on social media.
What’s the best piece of advice that your mom ever gave you that you want to pass on to girls today?
The advice that runs around in my brain a lot came from my grandmother: Life isn’t about what happens to you, but what you do with what happens to you. I think about that a lot. I’ve been incredibly blessed in my life. Blessed to have two parents; blessed to have two parents that love me; blessed to have a roof over my head and food on the table and a good school to go to, and a safe place to play and never having to worry about any of that. I think about this sort of wisdom from both my grandmothers, which has come down from my mom and dad. Each of us can start from where we are, whatever that may mean, to try to make a positive difference that we hope to see in every circle of life, whether that’s family or friends or community or broadly. And that’s relevant—or at least it certainly is for me—and it’s always been relevant. I would hope that I would feel relevant to girls today because it is true throughout our lives.
What was your favorite book to read growing up?
Oh gosh! It’s so hard, I have so many. One of the great joys I have right now is watching my kids listen to stories being read. Charlotte is now, quote, reading to herself, but really just she’s memorized her favorite books so she just recites them. I love sharing books with her that I read growing up, like The Runaway Bunny or ones that she’ll love when she’s a little bit older, like Nancy Drew. I don’t know if I can give one favorite book, but while writing It’s Your World I thought a lot about 50 Simple Things Kids Can Do to Save the Earth, because it’s the first book that I read that I felt like empowered me with practical advice and things I can do that felt like I really could make a difference, whether that was recycling, or cutting out the plastic rings around the 6-pack can of soda so that birds and other marine wildlife didn’t choke on them and die. That book had a really big impact on my life. I thought about that book more than others when writing and talking about It’s Your World.
Much of your book is about finding your voice, and using it. How can young people call out someone—especially if that person is an authority figure—for something that’s not right?
Calling it out and making it clear that something is not right—that’s important. Call attention to things that aren’t right to their friends and their family. If you think something isn’t being talked about enough in your classroom or at your dinner table, I hope that you would raise attention to it, however that may be. In the past couple of months we’ve seen a lot from young people who aren’t even old enough to vote—even kids still in elementary school—who are going to their congresspeople or senator’s town hall meetings and asking questions. That’s really powerful for other young people to see the 7- or 10- or 9-year-olds who are stepping forward and asking about healthcare and education reform, because hopefully then they’ll feel like they can and should do that next.