By Ken Stone
Grownup questions came at Chelsea Clinton from high-pitched voices.
When you were growing up, what was something you persisted through? What inspired you to stand up for women and animal rights? What advice would you give someone if they wanted to give up?
The former “First Kid” was the draw Thursday night at the University of San Diego, but munchkins stole the book-tour show.
After reading from her latest children’s book — “She Persisted Around the World: 13 Women Who Changed History” — the 38-year-old only child of Bill and Hillary took queries from kids only.
What was it like growing up in the White House? Did you ever want to be an author? What’s your best memory with your mom?
The mother of two (with a third due this summer) dispensed adult advice, however, to a “sold-out” Shiley Theatre audience with at least 100 of 600 seats vacant.
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“I was bullied a lot as a kid,” Clinton said in reply to the “persisted through” question. “I am grateful it was so extreme because I was 11 and 12 years old, and I knew that there was something fundamentally wrong with adults bullying children.”
She recalled thinking how strange it was to be a target of Rush Limbaugh and “Saturday Night Live.”
Though she knew “it wasn’t about me,” Clinton said she ended up comforting people around her who “were more upset than I was.”
A little girl asked the “giving up” question.
Hours after taking part in a Balboa Park forum on child welfare and juvenile-justice reform, Clinton offered: “Take a break. We have to take care of ourselves.”
She recalled how she escaped to play with her cat Socks or found solace in “Nancy Drew” books, where the title character “could always figure out what was happening.”
But with the careful tone of a suicide-prevention counselor, she went on: “Life is so much more worth living than not…. Realize that life is better for us living in it, not only for us but for the people around us.”
A pass-along microphone went to a little girl in the nearly all-female audience.
“What’s your favorite book?” she asked.
“How old are you?” Clinton gently responded.
“Four and a quarter,” said the adorable interrogator.
Clinton noted that her daughter, Charlotte, with husband Marc Mezvinsky was about the same age.
“My favorite book to read with my children is … ‘Paper Bag Princess,‘” Clinton said of the girl-conquers-dragon-and-quits-ungrateful-prince favorite that “we act out. … I can repeat literally every single word — which I will not do.”
The author of seven books (two still pending publication) read many chapters of her second “She Persisted” book — the first being about Americans.
They included the stories of Joanna “J.K.” Rowling (the Harry Potter author who overcame a dozen rejections) and Malala Yousafzai (the Pakistani Nobel Peace Prize laureate she’s met several times). But also lesser-known figures such as Viola Desmond, who sparked a Canadian civil right movement, and Sissi Lima do Amor, called “the queen of Brazilian football” who Clinton said inspired a generation of girls “to be unafraid to take the field.”
Clinton displayed her own imagination when recalling an early moment with her mom in Little Rock, Arkansas.
“Obsessed” with dinosaurs as a kid, Clinton said her mother would “very, very patiently” let her tell absurd stories about how they could find a triceratops in their back yard if they just kept digging.
Asked what inspired the “She Persisted” series, Clinton patiently recalled how Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell explained why Sen. Elizabeth Warren was kept from reading a Coretta Scott King letter calling out federal judge nominee Jeff Sessions for racism. (But Clinton didn’t use McConnell’s name.)
His utterance “nevertheless, she persisted” became a real rallying cry, Clinton said, that led her to think: “How do I explain this moment to my children?”
Throughout the darkened theater, children bounced in their seats and held their hands high.
Among them were Luke and Violet Walsh, ages 7 and 5, respectively.
The first-grade son of National Immigration Forum consultant Kristi Walsh wanted to ask: How many people voted for your dad (as president)? Her kindergartner daughter, also a student at Spreckels Elementary in University City, sought to query: What did you do with your life?
Neither got the chance, though.
“I think they did great,” their mom said. “They were [disappointed] about raising their hand for so long — but they persisted.”
Tonight I met Chelsea Clinton. When I told her I was another Chelsi, she looked up, stuck out her hand for a shake, and with all the warmth in the world she said, “I hope you like your name as much as I do.” #shepersisted #girlpower pic.twitter.com/gnuARd4018
— Chelsi Sparti (@ChelsiSparti) February 8, 2019
— Alli (@Allisaurus_Rex) February 8, 2019
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