FEATURE INTERVIEW - May, 2017
It’s Your World: A Conversation with Chelsea Clinton
By Matt Geffen, Student Editor
Chelsea Clinton has lived her whole life in the public eye. Not only has she embraced this platform, but she has focused her energy and influence on expanding the opportunities available to youth and elevating their voices and stories. In her book It's Your World: Get Informed, Get Inspired & Get Going!, which was originally released in 2015 and is newly released on paperback, Chelsea emphasizes the limitless possibilities for youth to create positive change by sharing the stories of young activists and entrepreneurs across the globe as they tackle issues such as access to education, gender equality, poverty and climate change. “It’s Your World” is as optimistic and confident as Chelsea herself — and with a recent cover on Variety’s “Power of Women” issue and a children’s book inspired by Senator Elizabeth Warren in the works, she is showing no signs of slowing down.
Chelsea, who is also Vice Chair of The Clinton Foundation and an adjunct professor at Columbia University, has never held public office and currently has no plans to, but remains a recognized and vocal public figure. Whether through her daily tweets to her 1.6 million Twitter followers or interviews with The New York Times, she is a constant and reliable advocate for youth and women. Chelsea took time during her latest book tour to speak with FastForward over the phone and in-person about her book, family, Twitter and music.
FASTFORWARD: In “It’s Your World,” you recall that, during your childhood, “Making a positive difference, or at least trying to, was what mattered most.” From your work with the Clinton Foundation to the books you’ve published, what do you think is the biggest difference you’ve made in the world so far?
Chelsea Clinton: Matt, that’s a question that we should all be asking ourselves everyday. I hope that with “It’s Your World,” I inspire kids in the same way that I was inspired as a kid to think about what a difference I could make in my school, in my local community and throughout my life. Now, being a mom, [I] think the most important impact I can have, is helping my kids lead the lives they want to lead, to give them the love and support that I always felt lucky to have from my parents growing up, and also to help create a world where it’s more possible for more kids to have those same opportunities, those same chances, those same choices. I can’t really answer the question as you phrased it, because I don’t think of my life that way. I think of my life as always leading to do more, leading to make more of a positive difference, more of a positive impact, in my own family and in my hometown, now, of New York City, or in the world at large. With “It’s Your World,” I certainly hope that it inspires kids to be change-makers today and change-makers tomorrow.
FF: Young people these days hear a lot about how it is important to get involved politically by, for example, supporting or challenging issues at the local and state levels of politics. What is the most efficient way for young people to make their voice heard?
CC: I think that there’s so much that young people can do before turning 18 and hopefully going to the ballot box in every election— local, state and national. I think, one, continuing to raise your voices in person— at town hall meetings, on social media, by calling and writing your representatives’ offices. I think it’s hugely important for young people who feel like their representatives are already [voicing] what they believe — whether we’re talking about, kind of, climate change, or education, or inequality, or criminal justice reform — to say thank you. To say, “Thank you for standing up, please keep standing up,” to add positive encouragement, and not only [to] be oppositional when you think someone isn't doing what you hoped they would do. I think it’s important to be grateful.
FF: That’s a really good point. You stress in your book that even as young people, it’s crucial to stay informed. You've also said you read the newspaper headlines every day to your two children. For the generation that’s growing up on the internet, how do you think reading a 24/7 cycle of sometimes primarily negative news impacts one’s confidence in their ability to carry out change?
CC: I hope that none of us are living in 24/7 news absorption, I don’t think that’s a healthy place to live. I also don’t think it’s a healthy place to be disconnected, so I think the challenge is for each of us to find a balance, and to think every day about what we want and need to know, and, also the time that we need to reflect on what we’re learning about the world, to think about advancing the change that we think is so important. I also think it’s hugely critical that people purposefully disconnect, if they’re getting too super saturated, to take time to reflect, to plan, to organize.
FF: I’m really curious — who is your favorite person you follow on Twitter?
CC: It’s not a person, but all of the animal organizations I follow, whether it’s The World Wildlife Fund, or the National Geographic Animal Photographs, I find [them] so joyful, as well as infuriating when they’re about elephant poaching or what’s happening to our ecosystems because of global warming and climate change. The happy pictures of elephants from the Sheldrick Trust or the happy pictures of monkeys playing from The World Wildlife Fund make me very happy.
FF: You tweeted about The Roots yesterday and I saw you took your daughter to a protest organized by Russell Simmons a few months ago. How do you think hip-hop is playing a role in the political climate right now?
CC: I think our artists have a real role, as they always do, to help— to not only use their voices to elevate what they think is wrong and to advocate for what they think is right, but also to help engage more people in the conversation.
FF: People who wouldn’t be engaged otherwise.
CC: So, working on the relevance and the residence, and doing that through music for the case of The Roots, but kind of in whatever media artists are working in, I think is hugely important. So I think they have a real opportunity, and then I would also argue, humbly, a responsibility.
FF: If your son or daughter told you in 35 years, that they wanted to run for President— what would you say to them?
CC: Right now, I’m mainly trying to help my son figure out how to pull himself up. I think being a citizen isn’t just something that happens when there is an election year or whether you yourself are thinking of running for office. I think being a citizen happens all the time. I think there are many steps between now and whatever they may choose to do when they are 35, and I just look forward to helping them figure out who they are and who they want to be. Absolutely, being a good citizen has to be part of that, but how they choose to be a good citizen is totally up to them.
This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.
For more information on Chelsea Clinton and It’s Your World visit www.itsyourworld.com.
You can follow Chelsea on Twitter @ChelseaClinton or check out her Facebook page at www.facebook.com/chelseaclinton.