A Week on the Campaign Trail with Chelsea Clinton

Just over a month before we head into the polls and collect our "I Voted!" stickers, former—and maybe future, too—First Daughter of the United States Chelsea Clinton gives Marie Claire an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at life the week her mom made history at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.

Chelsea Clinton

(Image credit: Samuel Fisch for Hillary for America)

I will never forget the week my mom, Hillary Rodham Clinton, made history as the first female presidential nominee of a major U.S. political party. It was an incredible, hectic, emotional week—and a completely inspiring one. My kids are still young, and I can't wait to share the story of that week with them one day—to show them the picture of my mom and President Barack Obama hugging after his powerful speech, to read to them what I got to say about their grandma in front of the biggest audience I'd ever addressed, and to explain to them how not all that long ago, in my grandma's lifetime, women couldn't even vote.

Whoever we elect will play a profound role in shaping the future that my children and their generation will grow up in. Politics has become even more personal.

This is the first presidential election I'm voting in as a mom. I didn't know I could care any more about politics. Then I was blessed to welcome my daughter, Charlotte, into the world two years ago, and her little brother, Aidan, just five and a half weeks before the Democratic National Convention. Whoever we elect will play a profound role in shaping the future that my children and their generation will grow up in. Politics has become even more personal. With all this on my mind and in my heart—and a car full of children's books (Chugga-Chugga Choo-ChooGood Night, Gorilla; a few Mo Willems pigeon books), two Elmos, diapers—my husband, Marc Mezvinsky, Charlotte, Aidan, and I drove down from New York to Philadelphia.

Monday, July 25

After we arrived, we settled into the hotel, and later, as I fed Aidan and got ready, I watched the convention on the DNC live stream on my laptop. It meant so much to me that twins Jason and Jarron Collins, retired NBA players and my good friends from college, came to speak for my mom. Jason, Jarron, and Jarron's wife, Elsa, who is one of my closest friends (we were in each other's weddings), have been a part of our extended family for almost 20 years. (I'll never forget the graduation pictures we took with me standing in between my 7-foot-tall friends.) In 2013, Jason became the first openly LGBT active male athlete in a major professional sport in our country's his- tory. It was so powerful to hear Jarron and Jason's call for acceptance and positive role models as I put Charlotte and Aidan to bed and knew Jarron's own kids were watching at home.

Chelsea Clinton

My husband, Marc Mezvinsky, filling my mom in on a funny story about our daughter, Charlotte, at the Franklin Institute (the science museum Marc had gone to as a kid)

(Image credit: Barbara Kinney for Hillary for America)

Backstage, walking into the Wells Fargo Center with my husband and my dad, President Bill Clinton, I passed a TV screen showing what was happening onstage. I caught a glimpse of disability- rights activist Anastasia Somoza, 32, whom my family first met when she was 9 years old and my dad was president. It meant so much to watch her speak about my mom's advocacy on behalf of Americans with disabilities. She captivated the audience—you could have heard a pin drop.

I was overwhelmed by the energy and excitement in the hall as Marc and I took our seats. The highlights of the night for me were First Lady Michelle Obama and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. I know my kids might grow tired of hearing me echo what the first lady shared is a motto in their family: "When they go low, we go high." I also know they won't forget it. Senator Sanders spoke movingly about so many issues he elevated in the campaign, including making college affordable for every person, every family. I couldn't imagine a better start to the week. Afterward, we raced back to our hotel so I could pump (this would become a common theme all week—in fact, there was even a breast-feeding/pumping area in the arena!—and twice I knew I wouldn't make it back to the hotel in time, so I had to last-minute pump in a backstage bathroom, grateful to my husband for literally manning the door).

Tuesday, July 26

Conventions are long, late events. We drank lots of water and a couple cups of hot black coffee to get through each day (only a couple—didn't want Aidan to be overly caffeinated!). Even watching speeches is anything but sedate at a convention. During the speeches each evening, I spent a lot of time on my feet clapping. Each night, we didn't get back to the hotel until almost (or past) midnight, and I went to bed right away, knowing I'd be up early...and a couple times during the night with Aidan.

Chelsea Clinton

We have becomes those parents! Couldn't resist showing President Barack Obama the latest photos of Charlotte and Aidan on Marc's iPhone.

(Image credit: Samuel Fisch for Hillary for America)

I watched my mom's lifelong best friend, Betsy Ebeling, cast votes for my mom on behalf of Illinois, where they grew up together and Betsy still lives. Another moment that will stay with me forever happened when the Mothers of the Movement took the stage: Black mothers who have lost children in police-involved incidents or as a result of gun violence made an emotional plea for action on criminal-justice reform and gun-violence prevention. My heart breaks for their pain, pain I could not imagine. Their activism is endlessly humbling and inspiring.

Later, actresses Lena Dunham and America Ferrera spoke passionately about their personal reasons for supporting my mom. I first met America in 2008 while campaigning for my mom, and I met Lena more recently. I am so grateful for their friendship and tireless activism. And for making me laugh—on the screen and off.

Chelsea Clinton

My dad, President Bill Clinton, and I had front-row seats to history.

(Image credit: Samuel Fisch for Hillary for America)

My father told the country about my mom like only he could. His opening line made me smile: "In the spring of 1971, I met a girl." My dad is known for being a great "explainer-in-chief," and it was beautiful to hear my mom's story of fighting for families and children, starting in her 20s. I definitely got a little teary-eyed as he spoke. Marc and I loved sitting with Senators Cory Booker and Elizabeth Warren (and more than a dozen friends hailing from Little Rock, Arkansas; Washington, D.C.; and everywhere in between)—their energy was a perfect match to all of the excitement in the room!

My dad is known for being a great 'explainer-in-chief,' and it was beautiful to hear my mom's story of fighting for families and children, starting in her 20s.

As the night was coming to an end, my mom surprised everyone by breaking through a "virtual" glass ceiling! After a montage on the big screen of all 44 male presidents, she spoke to the audience via satellite from New York. The surprised attendees, who thought the night was pretty much over, immediately jumped to their feet, screaming and waving signs that read "History." She had to pause for a few moments to let people calm down and quiet the chants of "Hill-a-ry!" I was chanting, too!

Wednesday, July 27

My mom arrived in town from Chappaqua, New York. Who did she want to see first? Charlotte and Aidan. Charlotte told her all about the children's park and kid-size fountain that she had played in near the hotel.

Chelsea Clinton

Making small edits with speechwriter Megan Rooney a few hours before I go onstage; wanted to make sure it was perfect!

(Image credit: Samuel Fisch for Hillary for America)

That afternoon, I got to speak to my second-favorite HRC, the Human Rights Campaign, at its lunch held with the Victory Fund, an organization that supports LGBT candidates and elected officials, to talk about why so much is at stake in this election for LGBT Americans— and all of us. I talked about how the recent anti-LGBT bills—in addition to general anti-LGBT attitudes—do not reflect the America I want my kids to grow up in. (For the record: As president, my mom will work with Congress to pass the Equality Act to provide protections against discrimination based on an individual's sexual orientation or gender identity, and will make harmful "conversion therapy" illegal for minors.)

My best childhood friend, Elizabeth Weindruch (our mothers met in Lamaze class in Little Rock), also arrived in Philadelphia Wednesday. It meant so much to share this experience together, just as we had shared the 1992 convention in New York City when my father was first nominated. I couldn't imagine either experience without her.

That evening, congresswoman Gabby Giffords and her husband, Captain Mark Kelly, spoke passionately about gun-violence prevention. Having survived an assassination attempt and working tirelessly to recover from a severe brain injury, Gabby is an inspiration and a fearless advocate. I will always remember her words: "Speaking is difficult for me. But come January, I want to say these two words: 'Madame President.'"

It's hard to believe we weren't even halfway through the evening when Vice President Joe Biden took the stage. I deeply respect Vice President Biden for his decades of work to fight domestic violence, end the backlog of untested rape kits, and push for a cure for cancer. Then the person I hope is our next vice president—Senator Tim Kaine—spoke. I had only recently met Senator Kaine and his family. It was clear to me why my mom had picked him as her running mate, and I was thrilled for him to introduce himself to the country as our party's vice presidential nominee.

Chelsea Clinton

I can't say how thankful I was to have Marc with me all week—through all the speech practice, talks about dinosaurs with Charlotte, and feedings with our son, Aidan, and to share every historic moment!

(Image credit: Samuel Fisch for Hillary for America)

Finally, we heard from President Obama. I think he has been an extraordinary president, who does not get nearly enough credit for all the progress he has made in office, including expanding health care to 20 million more Americans and bringing the economy back from recession. While I knew my mom would be joining President Obama that night onstage after his speech, the audience didn't. So when she walked out, I took out my iPhone in time to take a picture to show that moment to my kids when they're older—two people whom I admire so profoundly, clearly so happy to see each other, and the moment when their grandma walked on the stage where she would make history.

Thursday, July 28

It was the big day: My mom would officially accept the nomination, and I would introduce her. I'd done more than 100 public events in support of her campaign this cycle and more than 400 in 2008, but I was still as nervous as I was excited—because this was different.

I had about 10 minutes to distill 36 years of moments with my mom, as well as all the reasons why I want her to be our president. For about a month, I worked on draft after draft of my speech with help from Megan Rooney, one of my mom's talented speechwriters. I'd read it to my husband countless times. I'd even worked on it as I breast-fed Aidan! I spent Thursday running through it from the hotel, at a podium, in front of a few people, including my husband and Megan—trying to imagine what it would be like in the arena, with thousands in the audience, and millions on TV, all watching.

A printed-out final draft in hand, I read through my remarks a few more times in an empty Philadelphia Flyers locker room backstage until a producer told me it was almost time to go onstage and introduce my mom. As I walked out, I was so happy to see the New York delegation in front; I couldn't see my dad or Marc in the audience, but I could see many familiar faces, including Tish James, our fantastic New York City public advocate. When Tish and I shared a smile, it gave me an extra sense of calm, purpose, and joy. I talked about favorite moments now—listening to my mom and Charlotte read Chugga-Chugga Choo-Choo—and from my childhood, like imagining what we'd do if we met a dinosaur. I told the world why, after all these years, my mom still fights so hard: because she never forgets who she's fighting for. If people remember one line from my speech, I hope it's this: "She is a woman driven by compassion, by faith, by a fierce sense of justice and a heart full of love."

After a big hug and a private moment with my mom (as private as can be on a stage like that!), I took my seat next to Marc and my dad to watch my amazing mom become the first woman ever to accept a major party's presidential nomination. I thought my heart would burst.

Chelsea Clinton

In my speech, I hoped to give the country a sense of why I am so proud to be my mom's daughter and why I'm grateful for the example she's set for me as a mom

(Image credit: Samuel Fisch for Hillary for America)

While my mom was speaking, I thought about my grandma Dorothy—my mom's mom. She was born before women had the right to vote, but got to vote for her daughter in 2008. I talked to her every day in the last few years of her life, and I've thought of her every day in the years since she passed away in 2011. I know she would have been so proud to see her daughter on that stage.

While my mom was speaking, I thought about my grandma Dorothy—my mom's mom. I know she would have been so proud to see her daughter on that stage.

There were so many great moments in my mom's speech, but this one especially sticks out in my mind: She said how happy she was "because when any barrier falls in America, it clears the way for everyone. After all, when there are no ceilings, the sky's the limit."

That's the lesson I want my children to take from all of this. In America, when we work together, we can do anything. Sometimes, we can even make history.

This article appears in the October issue of Marie Claire, on newsstands September 20.

Chelsea Clinton

Chelsea Clinton is an advocate, author, teacher, and vice chair of the Clinton Foundation.