Chelsea Clinton mum on mom during Harvard visit

Chelsea Clinton answered questions from students at Harvard Business School’s Spangler Center on Thursday.
Chelsea Clinton answered questions from students at Harvard Business School’s Spangler Center on Thursday. Barry Chin/Globe Staff

Chelsea Clinton made the rounds at Harvard University on Thursday, talking about the status of women and girls across the world and global health — but keeping mum on her mother’s presumptive presidential run.

The Columbia University adjunct assistant professor — and daughter of a president and presidential hopeful — spoke at the T.H. Chan School of Public Health and the Business School.

In the early afternoon, Clinton mostly used statistics to discuss global health and the status of women. Later in the day, however, her speech was filled with impassioned pleas and personal tales about the women who mean the most to her — her grandmother, mother, and daughter. (The statistics remained, as she admitted to a deep appreciation of data points.)


What Clinton did not address was speculation about her mother, Hillary Rodham Clinton, who has all but announced a bid for president in 2016.

Atul Gawande, a professor in the department of health policy and management and the moderator at the public health event, asked Clinton about the increased level of scrutiny the Clinton Foundation faces as her mother contemplates running for president.

“How do you keep the foundation and yourself effective going into this chaotic future?” he asked.

“You’re presuming a chaotic future,” Clinton responded. “I can’t comment on the future or the chaos part.”

What she did do was talk about her passion for women’s rights and the “No Ceilings: The Full Participation Project” report that her family’s foundation and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation issued last month.

The report calls attention to the inequities women face and measures the progress made since her mother declared in 1995 that “women’s rights are human rights and human rights are women’s rights” at a United Nations conference on women in Beijing.

“She said something that should not have been controversial then and should not be controversial now,” Clinton said to some 300 students inside the Spangler Center auditorium in the afternoon.


A line of students had clogged the hallway as they waited to file into the auditorium, where professor and moderator Youngme Moon announced that Clinton was truncating her speech to allow more time to interact with the audience.

For more than hour, Clinton discussed being a new mother, gender gaps in leadership roles in boardrooms, the need for more women to run for elected office, and how men can help eliminate gender gaps.

She became particularly impassioned when telling the story of her role model — her maternal grandmother, who was born to teenage parents and told at 13 that she was an adult who needed to find a job.

“She was born before women had the right to vote in America and lived long enough to vote for her daughter for president,” Clinton said of her mother’s efforts to seek the Democratic nomination in 2008. “That wouldn’t have happened if she hadn’t reimagined her life.”

Akilah Johnson can be reached at ajohnson@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @akjohnson1922.