A Conversation With Chelsea Clinton

Maxwell with Chelsea Clinton in 2017 in Madison, Connecticut. Photo courtesy of the author

Maxwell with Chelsea Clinton in 2017 in Madison, Connecticut

“When talking to kids, I’m continually struck by how aware they are of what’s happening in the world, how curious they are, and how engaged they are,” says children’s book author and former First Daughter Chelsea Clinton.

Earlier this month, Clinton launched her latest book, Start Now! You Can Make a Difference (Philomel Books, October 2, 2018). It’s geared for kids between the ages of 7 and 10.

“I really do believe in the title of my book,” Clinton told me in a recent phone interview. “It’s important that we start now, and we can start with whatever is most important to us.”

Clinton has also written a book for teens, It’s Your World: Get Informed, Get Inspired & Get Going! (Puffin Books, April 2017), as well as two New York Times bestselling picture books: She Persisted and She Persisted Around the World


Chelsea Clinton, who is the daughter of former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, is the author of several books for children. Photo courtesy of Philomel Books

Chelsea Clinton, who is the daughter of former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, is the author of several books for children.

Here are highlights from our conversation, which has been lightly edited for clarity:

What inspired you to write Start Now?
When I was on my book tour for It’s Your World, I had teachers, parents, and older siblings ask if I was thinking about writing a younger version. I decided to write Start Now! to tackle some of the questions that I cared about as a kid, and that I was hearing from other kids today that they cared about. I wanted to share stories about kids making really positive changes in their homes, in their schools, and across the country.

What are some of your earliest memories of taking action?
I remember going to vote with my parents as a little girl, going to park clean-ups with my mom, and going to our church soup kitchen with my mom. I also remember various book drives with my family.

When I was in elementary school, a group of friends and I helped start the first recycling program at our school. I was really thankful that I had parents and teachers who encouraged and expected me to get engaged in my community.

What was it like growing up in the White House?
It was both extraordinary and ordinary. Extraordinary in the fact that I was always mindful and respectful of the fact that I was living in the White House, that I was living amid history. I was also thankful to my parents who worked hard to make it ordinary. My friends came over for play dates and sleepovers. So it very much was also my home.

How do you teach your own children empathy and kindness?
They’re quite small—Charlotte is 4, and Aiden is 2—but I think that we should be teaching empathy and kindness to kids from their earliest days. It matters how I treat others, what I’m role-modeling, how I talk about others, and how I expect them to treat each other as siblings. Certainly, I’m really proud that they are generally very kind and respectful kids, and I hope that I can be part of them continuing to be so as they get older.

Why is it important for kids to follow the news, and how can they make sense of it?
Arguably, what’s happening today matters to kids more than adults because they’ll be living with the consequences for many, many years in the future. So I hope that kids do follow the news and don’t get discouraged and really think about what they could be doing. I also would urge kids to ask questions of parents, teachers, and other trusted adults in their lives.

Since kids can’t vote, how can they make a difference?
There are as many answers to that question as there are kids. There’s so much that kids can do to help positively change something—protecting endangered animals, fighting climate change, making our schools healthier, or standing up to bullies. I clearly think that voting is hugely important, so I hope that kids will urge the people in their lives who are at least 18 to vote in every election.

Top photo courtesy of the author; bottom photo courtesy of Philomel Books