As the daughter of two of the world's most notable figures, Chelsea Clinton — who will speak in Omaha on Friday — draws interest from many wondering about her own future.
At 33, she not only has a powerful political pedigree but also potent academic degrees. She is a Stanford University grad with master's degrees from Columbia University in New York and the University of Oxford in England.
She is working, mostly from New York City, on a doctorate from Oxford in international relations.
Chelsea — she urged me to call her that when we spoke by phone Monday — has traveled to Nigeria on health issues and works with the Clinton Global Initiative.
Her higher public profile of late includes having served as honorary chair of the National Day of Service during the presidential inauguration weekend in January.
And when asked, she leaves the door open to a possible run someday for public office.
“It's not something I feel a calling to do now,” she told me. “I don't think about my life in decades, but about what I can do right now to make the most difference. And what can I be doing to make the most difference tomorrow?”
As someone's campaign theme song once put it: “Don't stop thinking about tomorrow.”
That Fleetwood Mac song, of course, was the musical backdrop when Bill Clinton ran for president before taking office 20 years ago.
Now the former first daughter, whose Secret Service code name was “Energy,” lives an energetic adult life of her own. She says she works seven days a week.
Chelsea Clinton will be the featured speaker at the 11:30 a.m. Friday “Lunch for the Girls” in Omaha for the social service agency Girls Inc.
Tickets for the fundraiser at the CenturyLink Center are $100, of which $65 is tax-deductible. Reservations can be made online at www.girlsincomaha.org or by calling 402-457-4676.
Previous speakers at the luncheon have included each of her parents and both Obamas — then-U.S. Sen. Barack Obama and, last year, first lady Michelle Obama. Among others, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.
Another former secretary of state is on many minds as a likely presidential candidate in 2016 — Hillary Rodham Clinton.
So will we eventually have a woman as president?
“I certainly hope so,” Chelsea said, not naming any names. “We are half of the country's population. I hope young girls think about politics as a career path for them if they want to have an impact on our collective future.”
Her Omaha speaking date, she said, has been on her calendar for months.
“When I was invited, I said I'd be happy to speak,” she said. “But I'd be even happier to have a conversation with the girls and listen to them.”
She will encourage them that they are never too young to make a difference. And she wants to know “what their dreams are, and what they want to know about politics and public service.”
Roberta Wilhelm, Girls Inc.'s executive director, said the agency is delighted to welcome Clinton.
“She is known for encouraging young people to participate in their communities — to volunteer, to serve, to think about and do for others every single day,” Wilhelm said. “She wants young people to speak out and be heard.”
For Time magazine's recent “100 Most Influential People in the World,” Chelsea wrote a brief essay about cover subject Malala Yousafzai, 15. A gunman wounded the Pakistani girl on a school bus, the Taliban later said, to teach a “lesson” to anyone standing up for education, especially for girls and women.
“The Taliban almost made Malala a martyr,” Chelsea wrote. “They succeeded in making her a symbol. ... her story so far is only just beginning.”
|Columnists Michael Kelly, Erin Grace and Matthew Hansen write about people, places and events around Omaha. Read more of their work here.|
In Nigeria last October, Chelsea joined others, in coordination with the Clinton Health Access Initiative, in hopes of helping to prevent the deaths of a million mothers and children each year — including 100,000 from diarrhea.
“In the 21st century,” she said Monday, “that is just unacceptable.”
This is not her first trip to Nebraska. In 2008, she visited Grand Island, Lincoln and Omaha while campaigning for her mother, who was seeking the Democratic nomination for president.
Chelsea's famous first name is said to have been inspired by her parents' visit to the Chelsea neighborhood of London at Christmas 1978. Hillary has written that upon hearing the song “Chelsea Morning,” Bill said that if they ever had a daughter, her name should be Chelsea.
Chelsea, a special correspondent for NBC News, married Marc Mezvinsky, co-founder of a New York-based hedge fund, in 2010.
She hopes that more young people aspire to public service.
“My academic work is to try to make myself smarter and well-equipped to ask the questions that need to be asked about the world,” she said. “I do believe it's profoundly important to serve in public office.
“Often, people don't go into politics because it doesn't occur to them or they just see the histrionics around it. Politics is the art of the possible.”
Friday's event, expected to attract about 950 people, will be held in the same building as last weekend's Berkshire Hathaway shareholders meeting. Susie Buffett, a Girls Inc. board member and daughter of Berkshire chairman Warren Buffett, annually helps line up internationally known speakers.
“There's nothing I enjoy more than talking with young people,” Chelsea said. “I find that I always learn something and I leave more inspired.”
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