Skip to comments.Chelsea Clinton Leans In
Posted on 04/07/2013 12:46:04 PM PDT by John W
Hi, she says, striding into the room with a smooth gait and a low, sure voice. Im Chelsea! The handshake is confident, the eyes firmly fixed. With the ease of her father and the directness of her mother, Chelsea Clinton is stepping out into the world.
At 33, she wears her political royalty in triplicate: There are her famous parents, of course, but also her mother-in-law, former Pennsylvania congresswoman Marjorie Margolies. After several years in the private sector (with McKinsey & Company, then with a hedge fund), Clinton has emerged onto the civic stage in her own right, graceful and glowing and, today at least, in brilliant magenta and lime green.
My grandmother always wanted me to wear more color, she says. She was right. Her whole life, Chelsea has looked up to Dorothy Rodham, who died in November 2011, and she tries to wear something of her grandmothers daily. At the moment its a clear bangle bracelet.
Rodham was actually the person who most encouraged Chelsea to turn her years of self-imposed privacy into a more public life. Chelsea is now helping to run CGI U, an annual meeting for college students held through the Clinton Global Initiative, which her father launched in 2005 to develop innovative solutions to challenges around the world. The CGI U sessions, like the one taking place this weekend at Washington University in St. Louis, require attendees to make a Commitment to Actiona concrete plan to tackle a local or global problem. And the conference itself emphasizes practicalities and logistics, with speakers (from comedian Stephen Colbert to Twitter cofounder Jack Dorsey) and workshops that explain how to get projects done.
On this day, at CGIs midtown Manhattan offices, Clinton presides over a sharp, focused meeting to pick which projects to spotlight onstage at the St. Louis event. One will plant trees with the money saved by using electronic rather than paper receipts at campus bars and shops; another proposes a low-cost mat that helps diagnose postpartum hemorrhages in women.
Clintons concentration does not waver. She demonstrates a masterly command of the issues and swiftly zeroes in on crucial questions. Statistics roll comfortably off her tongue; praise comes as quickly as critical suggestions. Wonky words like metrics and cohort fit naturally into her carefully constructed sentences. When the meeting ends, she sits down for a conversation about how she got here, starting with the challenge of growing up in the public eye. In New York, she says, people stop her every day.
PARADE: Does the attention ever get to you?
CHELSEA CLINTON: I have never known anything else. When I was born, my father was governor of Arkansas. And Ive always been aware of how extraordinarily extraordinary my life is in some ways and, thankfully, how extraordinarily normal it is in other ways.
Theres got to be a little bit more anonymity in New York than in other places.
My husband and I love living in New York City. We walk on the street, ride the subway. Yesterday, I was standing in line at Starbucks, and I ordered a Black Eye, which is a coffee with two shots of espresso, because I was very tired. And this guy said, Chelsea, you seem like such an interesting person, and thats such a boring drink. And I said, Im so sorry, sir. You know, I drink coffee for the caffeine and because I like the taste, not because I think I need to be, you know, expressing myself. But moments like that are also a privilege, when people share their thoughts or their questions or their ideas. And it gives me a window, in some ways, into the zeitgeist.
What do you want people to know about CGI U [cgiu.org]?
CGI U is a testament to why we all should be optimistic about the future. We have more than 1,000 students coming from every state, from all across the world, who have made more than 600 commitments. It just gives me so many reasons to believe that our future will be brighter, healthier, more equitable than life has ever been.
Is this desire to do public service something that you believe is a feature of your generation?
I think theres a movement towards action. I think people realize we dont have any time to waste. "I think theres a movement towards action. I think people realize we dont have any time to waste."
What have you observed about 20-somethings that has surprised or inspired you?
Their belief and expectation that they can change the world, and the responsibility they feel to at least try. They embody what we say in our family: It is always better to be caught trying. They are also determined to have fun, and I think that makes the work more sustainable for them and more infectious for others.
Community service seems to be part of their DNA. Why do you think this might be?
I think social media has made it easier for people to match their passions with opportunities to serve. And more broadly, I think technology has made it easier for people to give small dollars to make a big difference collectivelywhich is what we saw after the earthquake in Haiti, when 50 percent of American households donated to relief efforts. Increasingly, high schools have made service part of the curriculum; I think that helps create a habit of giving back. Its lots of threads twining together, and were all better for it.
What are your duties at CGI U?
I guess I see myself as responsible for the success of CGI U. Our name is on the door, so I think all of us feel a responsibility
All of us Clintons?
Yes, to ensure that we are living up to the implicit bargain we make with the CGI U attendees, that we are bringing together people who really are change makers so they can learn from one another and from whatever we have to offer; and, candidly, so we can learn from them.
Youve said that your grandmother helped steer you into public service. What exactly did she say to you?
She would always say life is not about what happens; its about what you do with what happens to you. And she had a life that was truly like something out of Charles Dickens. She was abandoned twice before the age of 8. She had to leave home at 13 to work and then put herself through high school. Yet, even when she was a teenager, she still volunteered at the church on Sunday. That had a profound influence on my mother and very much directly on me.
Was there a moment when your grandmother pushed you a little harder?
She started to push me further after Marc [Mezvinsky, her husband] and I were engaged. She said, Well, its about time.
Thats what a grandmothers supposed to say!
Before that she had given us a sculpture of two people embracing, called Wedding Rings. I said, Grandma, this is not subtle. She said, Im not trying to be subtle. She had also started to say that she thought I wasnt doing enough with the opportunity Id been given to be Chelsea Clinton.
Did something click then?
Id chosen to kind of live in the recesses, to work very hard and try to be a good person. I hadnt planned on or expected to have a public dimension in my life. But I was starting to feel like I had a responsibility to at least try to make more of a differencethat indeed it was better to be caught trying.
Speaking of your family, your father was governor when he was 32. Youre 33. Do you feel like a laggard?
[laughter] No. My father always knew what he wanted to do. And I dont. If I had one singular galvanizing ambition in life, I would try to reverse engineer toward it, but I dont. I want to make the most difference I can every single day. I want to be the best daughter and wife and friend and person I can be. And I want to help empower the people around me to be the best they can be.
Will you be involved in the decision to determine whether your mother runs for president?
Right now, I want her to rest. Im grateful that she had a perfect health report [in February]. And ultimately, I want her to make whatever she thinks is the right decision. I always want to help her in any way I can, because I unapologetically and unabashedly am deeply biased toward my mother.
Would you ever run for office?
I dont know. Before my moms campaign in 2008, I would have said no, not because of any kind of thoughtful, deliberate questioning, but simply because people have been asking me that for as long as I can remember. Im grateful to live in a city, in a state, in a country where I strongly believe in the confidence and ethos of my direct elected representatives. If there were a time where that wasnt true and I thought that I could make a disproportionately positive impact, Id have to ask and answer that question.
Can you describe the circumstances that might make you lean toward running?
No, but Ive never thought too far into the future.
Your mother has been an extraordinary champion of womens issues. Do you call yourself a feminist, too?
Of course. And everyone I know is a feminist.
Some young people see the word as having bad connotations. You dont shy away from it.
No. I think certainly for uswhether us is defined as my family or us is defined as CGIwe believe we have to keep talking about a problem and working on developing solutions to stubborn, not-yet-cracked challenges. And so many things that fall into that category relate to women and girls. Its not only morally the right thing to do but its also the smart thing for us to do, to get to the better world we talked about earlier.
People would love to know more about what you do for fun. Are there Clinton family rituals?
Im incredibly close to both my parents individually and collectively. And thankfully, my husband loves them. Lots of dinners, lots of movies, lots of walks with the dogs. Between the four of us, we now have four dogs.
What do you have?
We have a terrier named Soren.
Soren as in Kierkegaard?
Yes. She was so contemplative as a puppy, and so quiet. Everyone said that Yorkies bark a lot, and she never barked. So we named her after the founder of Christian existentialism, obviously!
What movies do you watch?
When Marc and I are in town, we go to a movie every Sunday and sit in the back row. We watch artsy, thought-provoking movies or documentaries, always on things that we know nothing about, because we like to learn things together. Or we go to blockbuster action movies. We have seen every awesomely bad and awesomely fantastic big action movie thats come out in the last eight years.
You like the noise? You like the action?
I love the pageantry of it.
Youre incredibly fit. Talk about your exercise regime.
I work like six days a week, and I exercise six days a week. Its either a stress prophylactic for the day or stress relief. Ill run on the treadmill and watch the news in the morning, or Ill go to the gym and work on the trainer, or Ill go to spinning class.
Rumor has it youre a vegan. True?
I was never a vegan. I gave up red meat when I was 11 because in my seventh-grade life science class, we read two articles about red meat, and I think probably I needed to be a little zealous about something. I gave up all meat when I was 13. Then when I was 29, I woke up one day and craved red meat. My husband, who is an inveterate carnivore, was thrilled. My father is quite famously a vegan, and I am thrilled by that.
Was his change in diet your influence?
Im so grateful that my father really did take [his heart surgeries] for the wake-up they were intended to be. He is so much more conscious about what he eats. And he walks a lot now to help relieve the stress. Selfishly, I want him around forever.
You are credited with saying he had to get his weight down before your wedding.
I never said that to him. If he wants to say it motivated him, Im happy to take the credit.
I have to ask: Your mother said at a Middle East policy forum in November, One day, I hope to take my grandchildren to visit Israel. I know this is a running joke between you. Do you share that hope for her?
You know, my grandmother was not shy about expressing her expectations that I would become more of a public person. My parents are not shy, clearly publicly and otherwise, in expressing their hopes that they will soon be grandparents. Yes, I mean, absolutely, like God willing, Marc and I will have children. Right now, were both working very hard. But yes, I certainly share my mothers hopes that at some point, she will be able to take our children around the world.
The Kennedys are a continuing cancer in our government. Now it seems that we will never be fully rid of the Bushes and the Clintons either.
So it appears NBC (or ABC, don’t care) has reluctantly let her go so she could further her career working for her dad. What a loss for them.
Her “career” will end the moment her parents die. Actually, I think it’s when Bill dies. I think it will suck to be Chelsea when Bill is no longer around.
She learned one thing from her folks. That is the importance of manufacturing a mythos around your political persona. At least this is harder to disprove than her mother's claims of being named after Sir Edmund Hillary despite being born when he was still an obscure beekeeper.
The question is, where does an educated young woman like that go to learn the ins and outs of that sort of trade, disposing of bodies, keeping the lid down on major allegations of criminal activity, laundering money, insider trading and real estate ventures, and all of those kinds of things? Where would you seek a finishing school for Chelsea??
That Meghan McCain is unstoppably hot.
I guess we won’t be seeing a similar puff piece written about the Bush daughters.
Spewing vomit. Next.
Ya know (and not many do) that I was going to sacrifice and marry her (I’d do anything for money), but my grandmother wouldn’t let me.
Web Hubbel was governor of Arkansas?
She is interchangeable with Chelsea, hot air and blubber in a fancy wrapper.
Magenta and lime green? Like a frog on a lily pad. And LOL, Chelsea Clinton, "graceful and glowing?"
The boot-licking fangirl tone of the interview started the nausea surge. But the subject---the owner of the contemplative Yorkie named after the founder of existentialism, the lover of the "pageantry" in action movies, the incredibly fit woman who gave up red meat to be zealous----sent me into fits of projectile vomiting.
What a painfully self-conscious dork she is.
High School or College Yearbook Photo?
I keep seeing the name McKinsey and Co. in the context of various political people. Does anyone know anything about them?
How’s hubby, Chels?
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