The author and advocate wants young people to stand up for what’s right, and know they’re not alone.
It’s been quite an eventful few months for Chelsea Clinton.
From consistently taking the Trump administration to task on Twitter to announcing a new children’s book about influential women throughout history, Clinton has been increasingly vocal about the need to take action in these politically charged times.
Now, the author, advocate and mother of two is going back on tour for her first children’s book, It’s Your World: Get Informed, Get Inspired & Get Going! as it comes out in paperback.
"For young people, or even not-so-young people, who are now really energized in a new way, I hope It’s Your World can be a resource for the ways in which other young people have taken their sense of activation and really turned it into meaningful action," Clinton said in an interview with Mashable.
Going on the road again w #ItsYourWorld! Can’t wait to meet young people making a positive difference in our world: https://t.co/7HQZ7rVebZ
— Chelsea Clinton (@ChelseaClinton) February 14, 2017
The book has become a national bestseller since 2015, highlighting crucial global issues and the young changemakers working to tackle them.
That includes Haile Thomas of Arizona, who at seven years old started making healthy meals after her father was diagnosed with diabetes, and ended up launching a movement to help major U.S. hotel chains provide healthier food for kids and families. There’s also Celia Ho Yen Kei of Hong Kong, who was horrified to learn China was a major ivory market, eventually meeting with government officials and even basketball star Yao Ming to spread much-needed awareness.
"I hope It’s Your World helps young activists think, ‘Wow, Haile did this or Celia did that — I can do that, too,’" Clinton said. "’Maybe I’m 8 or 12 or 16, but I have a really valid view of what’s happening in the world.’ Because yes, you do."
We spoke to Clinton about how young people can make their voices heard in 2017 and turn small efforts into big solutions. Here are her tips for young activists in Trump’s America.
1. You’re never too young to put things on the political agenda
Even when you’re not old enough to vote or hold office, Clinton believes you can still make sure important issues make it onto the political agenda. She encourages young people to speak out, and seek out other voices that can help elevate awareness — for politicians and the world at large.
"I think we’re seeing that now in a compelling way in the United States," she said. "Kids are going to town hall meetings for their Congress members, for their senators, and asking questions. And they’re really being listened to and heard, not only by their elected representatives, but in the broader debate."
Clinton thinks children have extremely powerful voices, and they can use them for real change.
"They really can make very real differences — at the policy level, but also just in how we think about challenges and how we tackle them," she said. "Whether that’s in our homes, or in our schools, or more broadly."
2. Use social media to create real-world change
We are long overdue for equality for girls & women. Grateful to all working to give girls a voice: https://t.co/m80UnjmJRX #DayoftheGirl
— Chelsea Clinton (@ChelseaClinton) October 11, 2016
A prolific social media user herself and especially outspoken on Twitter ever since the inauguration, Clinton hopes young people are raising their voices online and offline. She wants them to talk to their parents, grandparents, teachers and friends alike about what they’re frustrated by or inspired by.
As Generations Y and Z flock to social media, Clinton suggests they use the platforms to help organize — or at least recognize efforts to organize already in progress, and join in.
"Whether that’s the ‘no ban, no wall, no raids’ protests, or going to the town hall meetings of Congress members who have what I would argue is an indefensible position on health care, education and so much else that’s being contested at this moment in time," she said.
Ultimately, Clinton believes social media should be a catalyst for taking action in the real world.
"I think social media is really powerful for not only helping to draw attention to what we think is wrong and right, but also helping us draw together offline — to show up in force in person, to stand against what’s wrong, and stand up for what’s right," she said.
3. Even for global issues, the work begins at home
Image: BRENNAN LINSLEY / AP / REX / SHUTTERSTOCK
Chelsea Clinton talks with Boy Scouts volunteer Ben Esposti, age 10, while helping prepare free medical kits for children around the world.
It’s Your World, as the title suggests, doesn’t just focus on American-specific issues. From climate change and global health to women’s rights and education, Clinton’s book sheds light on problems on an international scale.
But that can be overwhelming, especially for youth. How can someone so young engage with these issues effectively?
Step one, Clinton said, is getting informed. Young people should use the resources available to them to read up on pressing problems and look into nonprofits doing impactful work. And to make things more digestible, they can zero in on small but meaningful actions. For example, when it comes to the more than 263 million children and adolescents who are out of school worldwide, young people can think about how they can help individual schools or efforts.
But for kids in the U.S., a big part of taking action is getting involved locally.
"[Young people should] recognize how the decisions in Washington affect whether or not kids are going to be in school around the world," Clinton said. "Right now, the current proposed budget has significant cuts for USAID in it, and significant cuts to some of the gender-based programs that USAID was leading to help close the gender gap for girls and women, including empowerment opportunities like school or training."
If young people care about helping kids around the world get into school, Clinton explained, they need to find out if their own government believes it’s something in the United States’ interests.
"It’s clear that President Obama believed helping more kids around the world get into school was in our interests. And it’s clear at the moment that the Trump administration doesn’t share that priority," she said.
She reiterated the need for kids to go to town halls, engaging with their representatives and asking them tough questions.
"Do they support cutting USAID? Do they think it is in America’s best interest to have more girls be in school around the world, and have more women have empowerment training? And if they do, then ask them if they’re going to support Trump’s budget. Because how could they, if they say they don’t believe what’s in it? I think that would be a really powerful moment for some kids," she said.
4. Remember that you aren’t alone
As much as the current social and political climate may galvanize younger generations to take action, it’s important to note the fear many kids might feel. LGBTQ youth, undocumented youth, Muslim kids and young people of other marginalized communities are currently living in a country where the administration’s policies, the president’s harmful rhetoric, and ensuing hatred have targeted them and their families.
Clinton said it’s heartbreaking that in 2017, children — as well as adults — are afraid to live in the U.S. because of their identities.
"It certainly isn’t fear derived from gender identity or sexual orientation or immigration status. There is nothing inherently fearful, and certainly nothing wrong, about being a girl," she said.
"There are tens of millions of us who think it is appalling that anyone is afraid, and think we have to work to change that."
But she’s hopeful and takes heart in the fact that there’s a clear sense of solidarity that has cropped up over the past several months. She also said it’s inspiring that there are vital institutions, like the Southern Poverty Law Center, the ACLU and Planned Parenthood standing on the front lines.
"There are tens of millions of us who think it is appalling that anyone is afraid, and think we have to work to change that," Clinton said. "We have to continue to support and love and lift up one another. And part of that comes with protecting one another."
With that kind of widespread dedication to the resistance, Clinton urges young people to remember that people are standing behind them.
"I hope people know where they can go for that protection or for that vital information. And I hope people … who have platforms, through Mashable or It’s Your World or other work we do, continue to share information so people do know where they can go in a literal sense, if needed, to be protected to know what their rights and resources are, and hopefully, on just a basic human level, know that they’re not alone," she said.
"More of us than not in our country believe that. And we just have to continue to fight, so that the reality matches what we believe and know is true and right."