Vice-chair of the Clinton Foundation and author of two new children’s books; She Persisted and She Persisted Around the World, Chelsea Clinton shares the stories of twenty-six inspiring women who changed history across the globe. Chaired by Carol Wood, Board Director at Edinburgh International Book Festival.
Clinton is introduced as a passionate advocate for empowering young people to bring about positive change to the world, determined to close the gap in learning and literacy in poverty. In her opening remarks, Clinton told the audience of the greatest inspirations in her own life. “My Maternal Grandmother and my Mom were enduring examples of persistence, grit and determination. These qualities were crucial to their lives and identities.”
Qualities which are shared with the twenty-six women in the book, all of whom “Rose up, spoke up, and persisted.” Those included in its pages, such as Marie Curie, Sissi, and Virginia Apgar, had to overcome their various adversities in order to succeed. They changed the world for the better and their legacies live on. Many of these women are activists, for civil rights, mental health, disability and education. Nelly Bly, Ruby Bridges and Malaka Yousafzai all feature as an example to children to not give up on their dreams. “I hope you believe in being free to make your own choice. All of these women did and the world is all the better for it”. More than this, Clinton hopes that the book will “close the imagination gap – for girls and boys alike.”
Clinton went on to talk about growing up in the public eye, as the daughter of a president, and the expectations that brought. “I think it’s important to have high expectations of yourself.” Whilst acknowledging her privileged life, with “access to great schools, never worrying about a roof over my head or food on my table”, she brought the idea back to her experience at school, saying “a really great teacher will help you figure out how to make a difference.” She advised the young audience that “persistence is never losing sight of the why and the what – the how I can adapt.”
When the inevitable question finally came, from a young girl in the audience, “Will you become President of the USA?” Clinton’s inner politician clicked into action as she advised any budding leaders of what questions they must ask themselves in such a position. “Can I do a better job? Am I the best person?” However the answer, thankfully, did come. “I am not the best person to undo the damage that’s been done. I will do what I can – which for me is to be a teacher, author and to support political candidates.” In the style of a true politician, she paused to look determinedly out at the young audience, before delivering her final, pitch-perfect response. “But it’s a question we must repeatedly ask ourselves.”
Overall an inspiring event, with much for children and adults alike, however, a live-reading of a section of the book may have been more geared towards the kids in the audience, who may have struggled with the more in-depth elements of the discussion.