Chelsea Clinton, vice chair of the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation, graced the stage at The Clinton School of Public Service as the 1,000th speaker in the Kumpuris Distinguished Lecture Series this Friday, September 18th. Just three days prior, her book, “It’s Your World: Get Informed, Get Inspired & Get Going!” was published. It takes on the biggest challenge today, such as poverty, hunger, and homelessness, and showcases stories of how kids and teens want to see faster progress and have taken matters into their own hands, to make a difference around them.
I know what you’re probably thinking: Kids? Make a difference? Don’t they need to get their education first to understand the real problems? Clinton speaks to this saying, “Kids already care about things. We as adults need to find that out and help them engage to make a productive difference.”
Clinton began her discussion around her own childhood, saying she was curious as a child and wanted to be informed. Her parents thought it was important for her to have her own opinions, but just as important that she back those opinions up with a valid argument. It all clicked when she read “50 Simple Things Kids Can Do To Save The Earth,” written by John Javna, with contributions from his daughter, Sophie Javna. The book outlines simple things kids can do to help the earth, but what Clinton took from it was that kids can do something. What’s important is not necessarily how kids participate in change-making early on, but that they’re contributing at all.
To Make A Difference, Just Get Started
“Kids, in general, are more perceptive to what’s happening in the world around them than, often times, adults,” Clinton says. She, for example, started a recycling system at her elementary school, because she observed that one didn’t exist and she was driven to make a difference. As an adult, she says she’s found that anyone can make a difference, regardless of age. “It is important that actions be connected to each challenge and be on an equal plane, because every action matters,” she adds.
After sharing the stories that inspired her book, she shared the stories of three inspiring kids doing radical things. One was of a young boy, who used leftover Legos in a drive to raise money for kids who don’t have a home. Another was of a girl whose father was diabetic and created a healthy kid cookbook in order to help her dad be more healthy. The last one was of a girl who saw how elephants were becoming extinct due to the rising popularity of ivory, and partnered with famous basketball player Yao Ming to spread the word to consumers that ivory was not safe to obtain and it was driving the elephants near extinction.
These stories showed not only the research she did in writing her book, but they also highlight the point she was making: Put your observations into practice. These kids all saw a problem facing society, and were driven to make a difference, any action they took after that mattered.
Problems Clinton Is Impassioned To Solve
Throughout her speech and audience questions, we heard about problems that Clinton is working to solve, namely issues dealing with children’s education and security.
Clinton was asked within the question and answer section about her trip to Southern Asia while she lived in the White House. She talked about how she was always told how blessed she was to live in the United States, but didn’t see the reality of the situation until that trip. “Seeing that [situation], so painfully and on unscalable numbers — and how many girls were already wives and mothers, younger than I — helped me realize how I wanted to try and solve these problems I was deeply connected to.”
When asked about the homelessness in America, she pointed out that millions of kids across America will go to sleep without a home at some point in their lives. . In fact, “One out of every 45 children – some 1.6 million – in the United States is homeless,” according to teen homelessness agency Covenant House. Homelessness affects kids’ performance in school. These children usually move school to school, wherever they can find a place to stay. And, they become classified as “highly mobile students,” which, as research shows, is setting them up for failure. What Clinton says about this is that we don’t know what others are going through, only what they choose to share with us, and this simple fact requires empathy from us all.
Two Quotes For Inspiration
Two quotes really stood out to me, both of which came up in Clinton’s answers when asked about her schooling experience. One was, “You could be beautiful and really intelligent and nobody can judge you, only for the latter(over her 5th grade teacher).” Particularly as a teenage girl, I loved how she expressed, in one sentence, how no one should judge you on your looks, whether they think you’re beautiful or not, because in all reality, your intelligence is the only thing that matters.
The other quote was, “If you’re not willing to stand up and defend what you have done, it’s probably not the right thing.” She told this story in relation to a time she cheated on a spelling test and decided to confess almost immediately, out of shame. I liked this one, because it’s relevant in many areas of life. When we ask ourselves why we do something, or why someone else does something, are we proud of our answer? It goes back to when her parents wanted her to have an argument to back up her opinion — she now asks this of everyone.
Now, Get Going!
In total, Chelsea Clinton talked about a lot in the one hour I got to listen to her. Her vivid stories and heart-wrenching statistics show us all how we can make a difference in the world, starting today. The final thought she left us with — and I would like to leave you with — was, “With a little information and help from adults, they [kids] can do a lot. We have to start the conversation with what they want to do. They want to make a difference, but we have to help empower them to make it.”
In my experience this statement is extraordinarily true. As part of the Noble Impact 201 class, I am encouraged to take the chances I, and my classmates, see where we can make a difference. We are empowered through a group of wonderful facilitators, who help connect us with the community in ways that would be unthinkable otherwise. I’m grateful to be learning now the ability my peers and I have to be radical, and it’s so wonderful to see it written in a book for others to find out, too.