At the invitation of the Victor Pinchuk Fund, Chelsea Clinton made her first visit to Ukraine to hold a public discussion with nearly 300 students and young leaders of non-governmental organizations on Jan. 24 at Premier Palace hotel.
Moderated by Sviatoslav Vakarchuk, the front man of the band Okean Elzy, the discussion drifted from the culture of philanthropy to the more personal subjects of Clinton’s famous parents, Bill and Hillary, and her personal life.
“Chelsea has the challenge of being the daughter of the most powerful couple on earth and being a modern and successful woman. And she is handling the task well,” says Victor Pinchuk, who had wanted to bring Chelsea Clinton to the Pinchuk speaking series for some time. Championing her father’s cause - the Clinton Global Initiative and the Clinton Foundation -- Chelsea had a wealth of experiences to share on philanthropy.
However, when it came to giving direct advice to Ukrainian youth, Chelsea was evasive, explaining that she doesn’t “want to presume that what is right for her is right for anybody else.” In response to the presentation of students’ project, she knowledgeably related similar initiatives in the U.S.
Explaining why philanthropy was meaningful to her, she said that “it is part of being a good citizen, a good person, and a good daughter. It is a way to be engaged in the world.” Philanthropy, she explained, also bridges the gap between what the government can provide and what the private sector can produce.
“To ensure that our philanthropic efforts are durable, we need to find things we most connect with because all of us care about many things. But a few things really inspire us,” Chelsea said with passion percolating through carefully chosen words. “We need people like my father and Victor to give challenges the illumination they deserve,” she said.
Clinton’s educational achievements, which include degrees at such prestigious universities as degrees at Stanford, Oxford and Columbia, left some of the youth wondering if such distinguished academic credentials are necessary to make a difference in the world. She replied that, while important, passion is more important, citing famous college dropouts Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. “Each of us should get whatever full measure of education we need to live our dreams,” she said. “The right answer varies for everyone.”
But to accomplish her dream of becoming a professor and influential voice in public health, Clinton says she still has a “has a lot to learn.”
Chelsea heaped praise on her famous parents, the former president and current secretary of state, as people who inspire her.
“My parents are always thinking about the future. They are not trying to preserve the past, and they are not trying to preserve the status quo. If they think they can do something, they feel responsible to do it,” their daughter said. “They are always curious and are confident in what they know and really comfortable with all that they don’t know.”
The discussion also included Clinton reminiscing about her maternal grandmother’s tough life, and acclaim for Nelson Mandela and a group from Silicon Valley as people she admires most.
The audience was eager to break through Clinton’s diplomatic front and get to more personal matters. Asked if any New Year’s resolution included higher personal efficiency, Chelsea revealed: “I don’t waste a lot of time, to be honest.” However, she intends to fix the habit inherited from her father, which is to sleep more.
She advised students to take advantage of the Internet and read foreign press to learn “how the world is being perceived and articulated in different parts of the world, even if it’s not possible to go beyond confines of one’s city.”
Kyiv Post staff writer Mariya Manzhos can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org