Clinton fights bullying
Children’s book aims to make world ‘safer place’ for future generations
Start Now! You Can Make a Difference Chelsea Clinton Penguin Random House
NEW YORK Chelsea Clinton says she’s naturally an optimist and despite enduring name-calling from the time she was a child, she chooses to answer insults — even on Twitter — with kindness and respect.
“Cyberbullying is a huge challenge across our country,” says Clinton, 38. “I think we need those of us with platforms to not ignore the trolls, not to become consumed by them, but to shine a light and say here’s how you can respond where you’re calmly defending yourself, but you’re also showing it’s not OK and you’re not degrading your own humanity in doing that.”
It’s one of several messages in her new book, Start Now! You Can Make a Difference. In it, Clinton encourages children to make a positive change in the world by educating themselves and taking action. The book focuses on preserving the environment, helping save animals, staying healthy and putting an end to bullying.
Start Now! is Clinton’s fourth children’s book. Her role as an author is one of several Clinton juggles, including motherhood, being vice-chairman of the Clinton Foundation and teaching at Columbia University. Her latest book was inspired by the notion that age doesn’t matter when it comes to activism.
“I’ve always believed that you’re never too young or too old to make a difference. And then when I became a mom, I think I felt that even more keenly because all of a sudden I had, you know, first Charlotte and then Aidan, these little people in the world. I wanted the world to be a healthier, more equitable, more just safer place for them than previous generations,” she said.
Making the world a safer place, in her eyes, also means abolishing bullying.
It’s a topic Clinton knows only too well, enduring brutal criticism of her looks when she was growing up in the White House (Saturday Night Live did a skit poking fun at her at the time). There were also those who targeted her because she is the daughter of former U.S. president Bill Clinton and former U.S. secretary of state Hillary Clinton.
“So when I was confronted directly — even as a child — and people would say awful things to me, I would say, ‘I’m sorry you feel that way. I don’t feel that way. I don’t think I’m ugly or born in sin or the family dog or that my parents should have aborted me or, you know, that, like, we all should be dead,”’ she said. “I mean, these are all things that people said to me when I was a kid, and they were always said by much older people.”
Decades later, the taunts still come — these days via social media. At first Clinton ignored them, but recently she started to speak up.
“I started to worry that by ignoring it, it wasn’t depriving the trolls of oxygen, it was maybe taken as kind of implicit — not endorsement — but that I was somehow OK with that language and that behaviour,” she said. “And I think particularly being a parent now I never want my kids or any kid to think that that’s OK.”