Lessons from Chelsea’s Grandmother
Posted December 5, 2011

I’ve never met Chelsea Clinton. I hope I do one day.  I never met her grandmother, Dorothy Rodham, who passed away last month. I wish I had.

There was a long article in today’s New York Times about Chelsea’s decision to begin leading a more public life and the process she went through in making the decision. Chelsea Clinton Living up to the Family Name. I hope she doesn’t mind that I’m referring to her by her first name.  I feel like I know her, which I’m sure is one of the difficulties when growing up in the public eye.

Chelsea was 12 years old when her father was elected president. It’s difficult to be on the brink of adolescence and harder still to be the new kid in town.   I know.  I remember well what’s it’s like to be 12 and starting a new school.  My family moved from Ann Arbor, MI to a small town in upstate New York when I was that age. It was rough moving to a town where it seemed everyone was related to each other or had grown up together.  I thought I’d never fit in.  I can’t imagine what it was like for Chelsea.

I admired how her parents kept her out of the spotlight as much as possible.  I watched her grow up under the glare of public scrutiny. Politics aside, my mother and I often discussed how much we admired her parents for trying to create as normal a childhood as possible, given the circumstances.  Chelsea has grown up to be an educated, articulate, socially active young woman.  Most of her work, however, has been done quietly, on the sidelines.  I respect that.  She needed to find her place in the world.

She has decided that the time is right for her to take a more public role and will be joining NBC as a special correspondent on their new series, “Making a Difference”.   She was quoted as saying “My parents taught me to approach the world critically, but also to approach it with a sense of responsibility.”

Why am I writing about Chelsea Clinton?  It seems that as she was struggling to figure out how to add a public element to her life, she discussed things with her grandmother, as she always had. As I continued reading, curled up on the sofa with a steaming cup of coffee in one hand, I stopped short when I read the following advice her grandmother had given her:  “… life is not about what happens to you, but what you do with what happens to you.”

Melissa’s death, followed a month later by the loss of my mother, nearly crushed me.  Life  happened to me.  However, something gave me the strength to share Melissa’s story.  To fulfill her dream to “.. make a movie that will change lives” and make a difference in the fight against eating disorders.

My mother and both of my grandmothers were extraordinary women.  I think they would have had a lot in common with Chelsea’s grandmother.