Chelsea Clinton shares onstage moment with father

Vera H-C Chan
The Difference

When former President Bill Clinton came onstage to give his thanks during his foundation's anniversary concert, it wasn't a celebrity or even his wife, Hillary Clinton, who introduced him, but his daughter, Chelsea.

As introductions went, hers was short. "Every day, my father truly wakes up and thinks about how he can make a difference in the world," she said. "how he can help other Gagas live the American Dream, and as he frequently says, he can help kids around the world have a story, because he got to have a heck of a story." What was more telling was that Chelsea stepped into that public role, however brief.

As much as Bill and Hillary Clinton embraced the public life, they fiercely sheltered their only daughter as much as possible from its glare. Now it seems Chelsea's ready to follow their path -- not necessarily into politics but into the public eye. So far, she seems ready for the role, thanks to both her father and mother.

[ Video: Watch the concert in its entirety ]

Father-daughter bond

There was always something grounded about Chelsea -- who was named after the 1969 folk song "Chelsea Morning" -- even though she grew up in a governor's mansion and then the White House. Back in Arkansas, she attended the same public school whose desegregation was spurred by a 1954 Supreme Court decision (although later she would attend a private school in D.C.). During the 1992 presidential campaign, her father came home for her ballet recital, escorted her to the Fathers and Daughters dance, and helped her with algebra by fax.

Chelsea was the first kid to live in the White House for a long time. The last one had been Amy Carter, who moved in at age 9 back in 1976. The Clintons didn't want a repeat of the media frenzy: Her father postponed his presidential run in 1987 because Chelsea was too young. But his daughter was there during key campaigning moments, sitting on her dad's lap, watching the opening night of the 1992 Democratic National Convention on TV, appearing as a poised presence four years later at re-election rallies, determinedly holding her parents' hands in their worst political and personal crises.

Chelsea's 2010 wedding was a chance to see her influence on dad: She asked him to lose 15 pounds -- ostensibly for the walk down the aisle, but the request was likely a reminder about his health. While Bill Clinton didn't adopt his daughter's vegan habits, he did become a vegetarian, partly because he wanted to improve his odds of being a "crotchety old grandfather."

America's first daughters

The public fates of other first daughters have been mixed. Amy Carter, after being arrested for antinuclear protests, has kept a low profile. Keeping a low profile backfired on Caroline Kennedy, who sought Hillary Clinton's vacated seat. The Nixon daughters serve on the Nixon Library board, after having resolved a bitter five-year fight. Susan Ford worked in media as a photographer, became an author, and chairs the Betty Ford Center. Neither of Ronald Reagan's daughters lived in the White House, but Maureen Reagan ran for office (unsuccessfully), while her half-sister, Patti Davis, who didn't live in the White House, famously battled her parents in the media and posed nude for Playboy twice. Jenna Bush Hager works as an NBC correspondent while sister Barbara works on international health issues, although she took time out to do a video for New Yorkers for Marriage Equality.

Chelsea did go on the 2008 campaign trail for her mother's presidential run, but her appearances were mostly at closed-door functions. Just last month, though, she interviewed her mother for the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI), where she revealed that she had helped her mother with her first text message. And on Facebook, she has about 12,000 likes after only a few weeks; she joined on Sept. 19 in order to publicize CGI, which seeks to inspire global leaders solve world issues. Whatever route she takes, Chelsea is ready to lead.