I met Chelsea Clinton at the launch of her second children’s book, She Persisted Around the World, at which time I told her about Raising Imagination. I told her my desire to create a fresh platform that engages social issues through the lens of imagination, and my belief that by doing so, society’s collective vision for a better world will come into focus. We connected on the importance of emotional and social development for our young, and the need for boys to be exposed to stories of powerful women such as the ones in her book. Chelsea was immediately intrigued with Raising Imagination and told me to let her know how she could help.
At the release of our interview, I am acutely grateful for women that empower women. It is true that we rise by lifting each other. Chelsea, thank you for your help. And thank you for your tireless work towards leveling the playing field for all people, often in the face of adversity.
RI: What role does/did imagination play in your philanthropic efforts?
CC: When I was young my family would generally do something together after church. Sometimes that was going to a movie or cooking new family meals. And sometimes it was doing a community service activity – cleaning up our local park, working in a soup kitchen, collecting books to donate to the local library. Those experiences sparked my imagination because they expanded my world view beyond just our family and were a practical way to live what my grandmother called “expanding the circle of blessings.”
RI: How are you, or how do you plan to involve your children in your philanthropic efforts? Is it ever too early to involve children in our efforts?
CC: I talk to Charlotte and Aidan as much as possible – about my day, what I did, why I did it and what’s happening in the world. Talking about the world and my work is something I learned from my parents. They always made sure I understood what they were working on, why it was so important and how they hoped their work would build a better world for me to grow up in. I know my children are still very young, but I don’t think it’s ever too early to start – it’s important they grow up knowing how blessed and privileged they are and that we have a responsibility to do whatever we can to engage in the work to, quoting my grandmother again, expand the circle of blessings.
RI: What are some practical things that those of us who imagine a more loving, peaceful and equitable world can do?
CC: Each of us has to think about what really inspires us, what we’re passionate about, what makes us angry, and where we can be engaged to make a positive difference. Then start. There are so many ways to make a difference, whether it’s volunteering our time or lending our voice, supporting our friends, being kind.
The other thing we have to remember is to treat each other with respect because tolerance is not enough. If we can imagine a more loving, peaceful, and equitable world, being civil and respectful to our fellow human beings is a necessary first step to making that world a reality. No action is too small – every bit matters.
RI: What do you wish Americans, in today’s political climate, would imagine?
CC: If Americans can imagine a better, healthier, safer, more just world as I can, then I hope they’ll think about what leaders and leadership we need to bring that world into being. And then vote in people they believe can be those leaders at the local, state and federal levels and vote out those who can’t.
RI: What is your favorite emphasis of the Clinton Foundation? Why?
CC: That sense of purpose and responsibility embedded in my grandmother’s adage to expand our circle of blessings is what drives my family’s approach to service, and it’s a saying that rings even more true to me now than it did when she first said it to me more than 30 years ago.
It’s why, through the Clinton Foundation, we have always worked on a wide-range of issues where we believe we can uniquely make a sustainable impact, and what inspires me most is meeting the people we help. For example, Basil, the young boy who was orphaned when he was one month old and at the time had stage four HIV and very serious TB. Because of the Clinton Foundation’s work to lower the cost of lifesaving medication, today he is an active, happy teenager, who can now live up to his full potential. Speaking with the university student Sixto Cancel who had a great idea to help teens in the foster system and applied to CGI University to help turn his idea into action. Hearing from first responders who are on the front lines of the opioid epidemic who now have access to naloxone – the life-saving opioid overdose reversal drug made available through our partnership with Adapt Pharma.
We just released our 2017 Annual Impact Report, and I’m so proud to be part of this work to improve lives across the United States and around the world by bringing together partners to create economic opportunity, improve public health, and inspire civic engagement and service. You can read more about it here: clintonfoundation.org/impact
None of that would have been possible if we hadn’t imagined things today could be profoundly, positively different tomorrow.
Thank you again, Chelsea, for your time and for your thoughtful responses to these questions. May they help us all imagine a better tomorrow for ourselves, our children, our families and our world. Give Charlotte and Aiden hugs!