Chelsea Clinton is in Little Rock for a round of appearances today, including this morning at Mann Middle School, where she was a student when her parents relocated to Washington in 1993. She also was scheduled for a visit to the children’s library named in her mother’s honor and is expected to draw a big crowd to the Statehouse Convention Center tonight as the 1,000th speaker in the Clinton School of Public Service’s lecture series.
Leslie Peacock will be along in a while for some details on the appearances.
UPDATE: If only the state Board of Education had attended today’s event at Mann. For a half hour before Clinton took the stage, the school showed off its music chops, with a jazz band featuring a terrific 12-year-old saxophonist whose solos earned thunderous applause — this kid is going somewhere — and young pianists who played with aplomb. The students filling the auditorium were courteous, their teachers in control. The concert was a too-short 35 minutes.
When LRSD superintendent Baker Kurrus and other district staff filed in, I thought how absurd, unjust and ill-considered the state Board of Education’s takeover of the LRSD is. There are 44 schools in the LRSD, a district that serves the poorest kids in the city. Seven struggle. Among the rest is a high school that produces the most Merit Scholars in the state, middle and high schools with terrific arts programs, some great elementaries. The Waltons and all the charter school proponents who have no plan for how to teach the most challenging of students should have been in the audience today.
Now, about Chelsea. Today’s appearance at Mann was her third in a 20-city tour to promote her book for youth, “It’s Your World: Get Informed, Get Inspired & Get Going,” and she connected with her audience by talking from the edge of the stage, dressed in jeans, flats and a flowered blouse. She related some of the stories in the book — about a 7-year-old who took on the family’s food preparation because her father had diabetes; a 14-year-old who, concerned about the slaughter of elephants for the ivory trade, enlisted the help of a super star athlete in Hong Kong to lobby the country to stop the illegal import of ivory; and a little boy in Southern California who decided to pool his leftover Legos with his friends leftover Legos for needy children.
Showing on big screens on either side of the stage was an image of a letter Clinton wrote to President Reagan in 1985 — she would have been 5 — asking him not to visit a Nazi cemetery. She’d just seen the “Sound of Music” and wrote the president, “The Nazis don’t look like very nice people.” Reagan visited Bitburg anyway, “but I tried,” she told her audience of sixth, seventh and eighth graders.
After the talk, Clinton held brief interviews with members of the press. She said she hopes children inspired by her book to do something for their world will post their projects on the “It’s Your World” webpage.
I noted to Clinton that the main chapters in the book start off with a story of her and her mother traveling somewhere. She must have been anticipating some sort of negative spin on that, because she hastily said that was not true. Perhaps others have suggested that the book tour is actually a campaign tour.
Asked if she would hit the campaign trail when her book tour wraps up in November, Clinton demurred, saying she was balancing her time with her book tour, work at the Foundation and being a mom to Charlotte, nearly 1.