Meet the first GRANDperson of the year: Hillary Clinton
BY CHERYL HARBOUR
Hillary Clinton and GRAND’s own Cheryl Harbour, editor of our “My GRANDbaby” section and author of “Good to Be Grand: Making the Most of Your Grandchild’s First Year,” grew up together in Park Ridge, Illinois, served on Student Council and attended high school classes together, and have shared many of life’s milestones since then. When both became grandmothers in 2014, Secretary Clinton wrote the foreword to” Good to Be Grand”, published in April 2016. After Secretary Clinton was named GRAND’s first GRANDPerson of the Year, they sat down to talk about Secretary Clinton’s past work, her priorities for the future, and her role as a grandparent.
CH: It’s been almost two years since Charlotte arrived and you became a grandmother. That happened to both of us in the same year – 2014. You wrote in the foreword to Good to Be Grand that you were enjoying “the grandmother glow.” And now with Aidan, it’s “glow times two.” How has being a grandmother matched up to your expectations?
HC: It’s an indescribable gift. All of my friends who are grandparents told me how amazing—and even transformative—it would be, but I didn’t fully understand what they meant until I experienced it for myself.
And it turns out being a grandmother of two is twice as good! It touches my heart every time I see Charlotte and Aidan. I’m constantly marveling at all of the little things they do and the ways they’re changing all the time. Charlotte is saying “Grandma” now, and I just can’t get enough.
Nothing makes me prouder than watching Chelsea be a mom. Every once in a while I’ll catch a glimpse of something that reminds me of things I said or did as a mother, and that continuity of love and family—and knowing I played some small role in the incredible parent Chelsea has become—is really special.
CH: What is one personal quality you’ve developed or adjusted because of being a grandmother?
HC: Being a grandmother has helped me to stay focused and centered in the present. I’m in awe of what Charlotte and Aidan are doing at any given moment, because they’re growing and learning new things all the time. And it lets me be a little more playful.
CH: Yes, when I interviewed grandparents for the book, many said that same thing about rediscovering how to play.
HC: I’ve been on the campaign trail about 16 months now, and it’s a wonderful but very intense experience. I love that even in the most stressful moments, I can pick up the phone and FaceTime with Charlotte. She and Chelsea would call me to say “good luck” before debates and primaries, and I really cherish those carefree moments.
CH: How do you believe that quality or other qualities of being a mother and grandmother make you more effective in other areas of your life?
HC: Being a mother—and especially a grandmother—has made me think deeply about the type of future we’re building, and what we can do to be better stewards of the world for our kids and grandkids. It drives me to get up every day and keep fighting to make sure the next generation is healthy and well educated—and that we’re making every opportunity available to them. And it’s really made me think about how we can foster more compassion and kindness toward one another and pass those values on to our kids.
CH: As the first woman to win her party’s nomination for President of the United States, how do you think being the first female President, who’s also a grandmother, will help you set priorities and make a difference for our country?
HC: I have a fierce commitment to helping children reach for their dreams—not just my own grandchildren but all children. I felt especially strongly about it after I became a mom, and I feel even more strongly about it as a grandmother. When you get to see these precious little human beings come into the world, you think about what you can do to improve their lives. I believe that talent is universal, but I believe that talent is universal, but opportunity is not. And as president, I’ll do everything I can to make sure we’re giving every child the chance at a bright future. That includes fighting for universal pre-K and affordable health care. And I want to make sure every child can attend college without taking on crippling student loan debt because you shouldn’t have to be the grandchild of a former president to be successful in America.
“I have a fierce commitment to helping children reach for their dreams—not just my own grandchildren but all children.”
CH: GRAND Magazine chose you as GRANDPerson of the Year in recognition of your body of work on behalf of children and families, including working for the Children’s Defense Fund, co-founding the Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families, creating the Children’s Health Insurance Program to cover 8 million children, fighting for women’s rights as human rights, and demanding healthcare for 9/11 responders. What are you personally most proud of accomplishing?
HC: Well it’s an honor to be chosen, so thank you for that. Of all of the roles I’ve played and all of the work I’ve done over the years, I’m most proud of what I’ve been able to do to improve the lives of kids. I’ve met so many young people who have touched my life with their strength and courage—like Ryan Moore, who spoke at the Democratic Convention about what health care reform meant to him and his family. When I met Ryan 20 years ago, he was 7 years old and wearing a full body brace. It was incredible to see him stand on the stage and share his story. I’m so grateful to have met so many young people like Ryan who motivate me to keep fighting every day.
CH: You once said that instead of making you want to slow down, the prospect of having a grandchild inspired you to speed up. I’m guessing that means you feel a sense of urgency to create a better world for our grandchildren. Can you tell us more about that—what you, specifically, feel an urge to address on a larger scale?
HC: Being a grandmother makes you think a lot about the future. I’m constantly thinking about what the world will look like when Charlotte and Aidan are grown, and what I can do to make sure they have every opportunity to live happy and healthy lives. Most of all, I want them to grow up in a fair and prosperous country, one where every child has the opportunity to reach his or her potential.
That means building an economy everyone can be part of and where anyone who wants to work can find a good job that pays enough to support a family. It means ensuring every child has access to a quality education—from pre-K all the way to college—and that families have affordable child care and health care. And it means keeping our communities safe.
Fighting for kids and families has been the cause of my career, and being a grandmother has really reinforced my commitment to this work—and my belief in planting seeds for gardens that you won’t necessarily see.
CH: When you are President and the most powerful woman in the world, what will you work to change for women and girls in our country and around the world?
HC: We’ve come a long way when it comes to expanding rights and opportunities for women and girls, but we have a lot left to do. Women still face too many barriers to entering and succeeding in the workforce. Too many women are still earning less than men, and too many mothers are working minimum wage jobs and raising their children in poverty.
Right now we’re making it tough to balance work and family. That’s true for all parents, but it’s especially true for women. Women are still the primary caretakers in families, and they’re increasingly the breadwinners too. And many can’t get time off to take care of a new baby or a sick relative.
We’ve got to change this.
As president, I’ll fight to raise the minimum wage. And I’ll push Congress to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, a bill that would make it harder for employers to justify paying men and women different wages for the same work. It would also allow millions of workers to discuss their compensation openly so they will know if they’re being paid unfairly and can do something about it.
And I’ll work to put family-friendly policies in place—like paid leave, affordable childcare and universal pre-K. I’ve proposed tax credits to help families defray the cost of caring for an ill or aging family member. And I’ll keep fighting to protect women’s access to reproductive health care, and to advance the rights of women and girls at home and around the world.
“I’ll work to put family-friendly policies in place—like paid leave, affordable childcare, and universal pre-K. I’ve proposed tax credits to help families defray the cost of caring for an ill or aging family member. And I’ll keep fighting to protect women’s access to reproductive health care, and to advance the rights of women and girls at home and around the world.”
CH: With more than 70 million grandparents in the United States alone, we have serious political and social clout. How do you think today’s grandparents can best influence our youngest generation, and those to come? What would you like to see us do?
HC: I’m very passionate about making sure we educate families about singing, talking, and reading to their babies to help them build brain cells and vocabulary. This is really important. We now know that 80 percent of your brain is physically formed by the age of three. Much of your vocabulary is already acquired by the age of five. This is something grandparents can help families focus on to make sure we’re setting kids up to be successful when they get to Kindergarten and to put them on the right track for the rest of their education.
And I think there’s a lot we can do to teach our grandkids about being good citizens. Reading the newspaper together, going to the polls, taking part in a community service project—these are all great ways to spend time together and instill the values of civic participation.
CH: What and who influenced you to become the kind of mother and grandmother you are? What kind of role model would you like to be?
HC: My mother was an incredible role model in so many ways. She was extraordinarily wise, and she had such a big heart. She and Chelsea were very close—they talked every day. She took such a keen interest in everything Chelsea was doing and was always there to listen and offer advice. I want to have that same relationship with my grandchildren.
CH: With your busy schedule, how do you—and how will you—make the most of your time with your grandchildren? Is there anything you and Charlotte especially like to do together?
HC: I do everything I can to work visits into my campaign schedule. If we’re in the area, I always make time to go see them. I miss them all the time when I’m on the road.
And thank goodness for FaceTime, which I always say was invented for grandparents. It’s wonderful to be able to keep up on the phone and be part of all the milestones I can’t always see in person. There’s nothing better after a long, hard day than to see Charlotte pop up on the screen to say hello with the help of her mom and dad. Sometimes we’ll sing or read a book over the phone. It’s just the best.
CH: And she’s a big fan of your singing. That’s great.
What is one piece of advice you’d offer to new grandparents?
HC: Enjoy it—they grow up so fast! And invest in extra phone storage, because you’ll want to keep all of the photos and videos you take. Trust me.
Excerpt from the Foreword to Good to Be Grand:
“For Bill and me, being grandparents has been transformative. I have found my singing voice again. When Chelsea was eighteen months old, she reached her little finger up, put it on my mouth, and said, “No sing, Mommy. No sing.” But Charlotte doesn’t seem to mind.
I know we are neither the first nor the last people to feel the sense of transformation and inspiration in being grandparents. After all, new life gives you a fresh perspective. It makes you want to be the very best grandparents you can be. “
About the Author – Cheryl Harbour
Cheryl Harbour, author of Good to Be Grand: Making the Most of Your Grandchild’s First Year, is a journalist and corporate communications consultant who has researched and written about topics ranging from nuclear energy to education to health to women’s leadership. She also founded Intelligent Women Dialogue (www.iwdialogue.com), an interactive online forum. She is the mother of three and was inspired to write Good to Be Grand when she was about to become a new grandmother.
After graduating first in her class from the University of Missouri, School of Journalism, Cheryl began her career as an advertising copywriter for Foote, Cone & Belding (FCB). Launching a consulting business when her three sons were young, Cheryl wrote extensively for hospitals, schools and companies in the Chicago area
SUMMATION OF HILLARY CLINTON’S WORK ON BEHALF OF CHILDREN AND FAMILIES
Hillary Clinton’s work for the rights and well-being of children and families spans four decades, beginning when she took a college internship to study the education and health needs of migrant workers. After graduating from Yale Law School, she went to work with the Children’s Defense Fund where she took on a special project to help research and support the case for legislation that would provide education for children with disabilities.
She went on to co-found Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families, and as First Lady of Arkansas, her primary focus included improving access to healthcare and early education.
As First Lady of the U.S., Clinton helped spearhead the creation of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) leading to health coverage for more than eight million children. CHIP today stands as a model for providing cost-effective preventive and early intervention health services for children
During her tenure as a two-term Senator from New York, Clinton worked with Democrats and Republicans to secure better access to health care for members of the Reserves and the National Guard. She repeatedly introduced bills to assist grandparents and other relatives taking over primary caretaker responsibilities for children.
Internationally, she has led the way in standing up for the rights of women. Her speech in Beijing in 1995, Women’s Rights Are Human Rights, resonates as a turning point in the worldwide struggle to change laws and customs that deny rights to women. Her focus on the needs of vulnerable children and families went global when, as Secretary of State, she worked to fight sex trafficking and successfully convinced the UN Security Council to adopt a resolution to stop sexual violence against women and children in conflict zones.
Role Model: though it is far from over, Clinton’s career has already served as an inspiration for all ages of women and girls, and she stands as an example for today’s grandparents of what is possible in this ‘grand stage’ of life.
Hillary Clinton became a grandmother in October 2014 and again in June 2016.