A sardine-packed audience for the closing night of the Book Festival of the MJCCA learned that Hillary Rodham Clinton is human. Her daughter Chelsea, co-author of “The Book of Gutsy Women: Favorite Stories of Courage and Resilience,” disclosed that her mother and father, former President Bill Clinton, frequently break her food rules for her three children.
When the grandchildren stay with Bill and Hillary, too often, they feed them pizza, Chelsea said.
The easy-going conversation between mother and daughter, aided by Michelle Nunn, president and CEO of CARE USA, almost entirely avoided politics. That, despite the heightened security surrounding the appearance of the nation’s first major female presidential candidate and her daughter, along with the lone protestor who stood across from the MJCCA gates before the event, holding a colorful sign that stated, “Clinton Benghazi left our people to die.” He was referring to the 2012 attack on U.S. government facilities in the Libyan city that killed two Americans.
Instead, the overflowing, sold-out crowd at the MJCCA heard of Chelsea Clinton’s frustration with her mother’s book-writing style. “I use a computer and my mother writes long-hand,” she complained.
But together, they wrote a book of short essays about women who faced obstacles and kept going. Initially, they came up with a list of about 200 women for the book; their editors made them winnow that number to 103. “We were looking for women who created something and made changes that benefitted others,” Hillary Clinton explained.
Nunn pointed out to the crowd that next year will be the 100th anniversary of women receiving the right to vote in this country. And it will be the 25th anniversary of Hillary Clinton’s notable speech at the fourth United Nations Conference on Women in Beijing in which she declared that “women’s rights are human rights.”
“It was a time of hope,” Clinton said. A lot of legal barriers have fallen since then, but not attitudinal barriers. She noted that the Japanese government recently passed a law that requires women in the workforce to wear high heels and forbids them to wear glasses.
Chelsea noted that the 19th amendment to the U.S. Constitution giving women the right to vote didn’t include African American or native American women because they still were not citizens. She further stated that 48 U.S. states still allow marriage of girls under the age of 16. “No [young] girl should ever be a bride in America.”
In addition to recounting the stories of some of the women in the book, Hillary Clinton’s main message was that Americans need to learn how to talk and listen to each other once again. “Compromise cannot be a dirty word in a democracy,” she stated. “We are America and we should start acting like it again!”
As she has since she was 3 years old and the daughter of then-Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton, Chelsea Clinton was asked if she planned to run for office. Although she said she might consider it in the future – “Chelsea 2028” and “Thank You Hillary” buttons were sold – she turned it around to the audience and suggested they ask themselves the same question.
That led to the final question, posed by a 13-year-old in the audience who asked what young people can do in such a divided world. Hillary Clinton suggested the young girl start in her own school, neighborhood and community. “There are opportunities to get involved with people who care about what you care about. There are so many programs you can volunteer with” that will also teach important skills. “There are lots of ways to get people at the same table.”
Between the two Clintons, they’ve written about a dozen books. As readers, they both enjoy mysteries and emphasized the importance of reading children’s books, even for adults. They also suggested reading autobiographies and biographies of the women they wrote about in “Gutsy Women.”