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Chelsea Clinton – Start Now! You Can Make a Difference

Author Chelsea Clinton believes children hold the keys to a successful future. In her new children’s book, Start Now! You Can Make a Difference, Chelsea seeks to inspire children with tactical and practical ways they can change the world for the better. On October 16th, Chelsea came to Our Town and spoke about her book at Village Presbyterian Church. The event was sponsored by Girl Scouts of Northeast Kansas and Northwest Missouri and Rainy Day Books. Vivien Jennings, Rainy Day Books, moderated the event and shared questions submitted from the audience for Chelsea to answer.

When asked about her inspiration for the book, Chelsea noted that as a young girl, she was very interested in climate change and endangered animals but did not know how she could help. The book, 50 Simple Things Kids Can Do to Save the Earth, gave her tangible ideas of what she could do; she acted upon these ideas – doing more at school and in her community. Chelsea wanted to write a book that could similarly impact today’s generation of children. 

Chelsea discussed the importance of good role models, and she humbly credits her parents, noting that they were excellent role models and taught her “to take serious criticism from serious people seriously, and disregard the rest.” Chelsea noted that she “did not grow up in a bubble even though she had famous parents.” Outside of her parents, Chelsea said that Mikhail Baryshnikov and Nelson Mandela were two of her biggest childhood role models. Girl Scouts played an important role in Chelsea’s childhood, and she plans to encourage her daughter, Charlotte, to be a Girl Scout someday as well. “Girl Scouts teaches leadership and builds skills. It helps girls to effectively use their voices and make a difference in their community, nation and globally,” Chelsea said.

When asked about her other favorite childhood books, Chelsea mentioned mystery as her favorite genre – with Harriet the Spy, Encyclopedia Brown and the Nancy Drew series at the top of her list. The five chapters in Chelsea’s new book are filled with subjects that she feels very passionately about – clean water, climate change and recycling, endangered animals, good health and cleanliness, food and hunger, and bullying. “I wrote this book because it is geared to young children. While growing up, I experienced bullying, both in school and publicly. Today, one in five people are bullied, and the statistic is probably low because so many incidents are not reported,” Chelsea said.

Children and parents around the country reached out to Chelsea to share stories about the wonderful things they are doing in their communities, and Chelsea included some of them in her book. She shared the story of seven-year-old Isaiah, who mounted a very successful campaign to raise money and awareness about the lack of clean water in Flint, Michigan. Isaiah was passionate about hand washing, and “his campaign ultimately donated a two-year supply of hand sanitizer to every school and homeless shelter in Flint.”

Chelsea also discussed how a group of fourth grade students in Missouri wanted to make the air cleaner in their community. They realized that many parents left their cars idling while they were waiting to pick up their children after school. “The students started Action4Air. Parents listened, idling dropped – so there was less pollution! The students then shared their anti-idling program with neighboring schools,” said Chelsea.

The audience was delighted to have an opportunity to listen to Chelsea discuss her hopes and dreams for today’s children. Chelsea stressed to young listeners the importance of asking for help and that kindness can reinforce kindness. Asked what qualities she finds most important in a person, Chelsea responded, “It is important to be brave, kind, curious, a good listener, honest, a good communicator, and to be able to articulate a vision.” Today, Chelsea is married to her husband, Marc. The couple has two young children, Charlotte and Aidan. The family lives in New York City and loves to travel around the country and visit as many National Parks as possible.

 

The Independent was delighted to have the exclusive opportunity to ask Chelsea a few questions on behalf of our readers.

The Independent:  What inspired you to turn your focus to children and how they can change the world?
Chelsea: I believe you’re never too young – or too old – to change the world. 

The Independent: How did you choose your topics in the book and the children to highlight?
Chelsea:  They’re all remarkable. Haile Thomas, who I featured in my earlier book It’s Your World, and who started cooking for her family to help her father stay healthy after he was diagnosed with type two diabetes, and is now an activist and CEO of her own company HAPPY, which promotes healthy living for kids. She also helped Hyatt hotels make their kids’ menus healthier. Kheris Rogers, who was teased for her dark complexion in school, and worked with her sister, Taylor Pollard, to make shirts that say “Flexin’ In My Complexion” to show kids that they should be proud of their skin tones. And Christian, who brought the idea of the buddy bench from Germany to the United States, so that kids who were lonely at recess had a place to go to find friends. There are now buddy benches in all 50 states. It’s really inspiring to me to see kids like Haile, Kheris and Christian finding a cause they’re passionate about and turning something personal into something more universal.  

The Independent: How does your message align with the message of Girl Scouts?
Chelsea: I strongly share the belief that girls are strong, girls are leaders and girls can take actions that will make a big difference in our world!

The Independent: What message do you hope children will take away from your book?
Chelsea: I hope they feel empowered by this book and inspired by some of the topics discussed and stories included. I hope they’ll share their thoughts with their parents, their grandparents, their teachers, and I hope that they’ll listen to kids about what they want to do and help them achieve it – whether it’s standing up to bullying in their schools, starting a recycling program in their home, or working to save an endangered species across the world.

The Independent: How do your own children play a role in your work?
Chelsea: I want my children and all children to grow up in a healthier, safer, more equitable, more sustainable, more just world. That motivates me. And while they are quite young, we still talk to them and engage them in issues and in ways that help the world be the world we want it to be. So we talk about climate change and using energy responsibly and we show them how we try to do that at home like turning off the water when we’re not using it, using climate smart light bulbs and recycling in every way we can. We also talk a lot about kindness and why it’s always important to stand up to a bully if we think we can or ask an adult for help if we need it. It’s really important to me that my kids grow up knowing that asking for help is not a sign of weakness. Rather it’s a sign of bravery and strength. So even though these conversations will evolve as they get older, I’m grateful we can start them now. 

The Independent: So many children spend their free time on their screens, how do you motivate them to become active in their community?
Chelsea: While that may be true, I find a lot of inspiration and hope in kids today. The young gun violence prevention activists, the young environmental activists, the young be kind activists, and so many more, refuse to accept the status quo and are working to change it. I hope we can share the stories, including those in Start Now, of kids making a difference to inspire other kids to engage on whatever issue they’re most passionate about and help them understand that even small actions – using less water, using more energy efficient light bulbs – can add up to a big difference.

(Front row) Kathy Smith, Julie Xiong, Kristy Ladd Culp, and Vanessa Van Goethem-Piela (back row) Gina Garvin, Stephanie Teaney, Tracy Hull, Anne Einig, Carmen Gleason, Vicki Watkins, Janice Hinkle, and Megan Hunter, all with Girl Scouts of Northeast Kansas and Northwest Missouri; flanked Chelsea Clinton, featured guest.

Also featured in the November 24, 2018 issue of The Independent. 

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