It Takes a Village: And Other Lessons Children Teach Us

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Overview

In celebration of the tenth anniversary of It Takes a Village, this splendid edition includes photographs and a new Introduction by Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton.

A decade ago, then First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton chronicled her quest — both deeply personal and, in the truest sense, public — to help make our society into the kind of village that enables children to become smart, able, resilient adults. It Takes a Village is "a textbook for ...

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It Takes a Village: And Other Lessons Children Teach Us

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Overview

In celebration of the tenth anniversary of It Takes a Village, this splendid edition includes photographs and a new Introduction by Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton.

A decade ago, then First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton chronicled her quest — both deeply personal and, in the truest sense, public — to help make our society into the kind of village that enables children to become smart, able, resilient adults. It Takes a Village is "a textbook for caring.... Filled with truths that are worth a read, and a reread" (The Dallas Morning News).

For more than thirty-five years, Senator Clinton has made children her passion and her cause. Her long experience — not only through her roles as mother, daughter, sister, and wife but also as advocate, legal expert, and public servant — has strengthened her conviction that how children develop and what they need to succeed are inextricably entwined with the society in which they live and how well it sustains and supports its families and individuals. In other words, it takes a village to raise a child.

In her new Introduction, Senator Clinton reflects on how our village has changed over the last decade — from the impact of the Internet to new research in early child development and education. She discusses issues of increasing concern — security, the environment, the national debt — and looks at where we have made progress and where there is still work to be done.

It Takes a Village has become a classic. As relevant as ever, this anniversary edition makes it abundantly clear that the choices we make today about how we raise our children and how we support families will determine how our nation will face the challenges of this century.

Drawing on her experiences as daughter, mother, public servant, and long-time child advocate — and on her observations of children and families across the country and around the world — the First Lady reflects on the needs of children and the possibilities they suggest for rekindling a better quality of family and community life in today's fast-paced, fragmented world.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A wake-up call...a comprehensive look at what our children need and want and deserve — and aren't getting....We should all be reading it, learning from it, and acting on it."
The Times-Picayune (New Orleans)

"Wonderful and inspiring...important and timely."
San Francisco Review of Books

"CompellingŠ.A book about the basics, for nothing could be more basic than the way a nation cares for its children."
The New York Times Book Review

"Parents and nonparents should read It Takes a Village to remind them of the simple but essential point: Children must have caring, nurturing, and informed adults around them....A textbook for caring."
The Dallas Morning News

"An entertaining book of unseen power...the impact of Hillary Clinton's genuine belief in a children-loving society remains in mind long after book's end."
San Francisco Chronicle

"An extraordinary gift."
Los Angeles Times

"It Takes a Village deserves to be read...it would be a loss if the nation missed this opportunity to address the issues Hillary Rodham Clinton raises."
The Christian Science Monitor

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781416540649
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster
  • Publication date: 12/5/2006
  • Edition description: Reissue
  • Edition number: 10
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 129,546
  • Product dimensions: 6.60 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Hillary Rodham Clinton served as the US Secretary of State from 2009 to 2013 after nearly four decades in public service as an advocate, attorney, First Lady, and Senator. She is the author of several bestselling books, including her memoir, Living History, and her groundbreaking work on children, It Takes a Village.

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Read an Excerpt

It Takes a Village
We cannot live for ourselves alone. Our lives are connected by a thousand invisible threads, and along these sympathetic fibers, our actions run as causes and return to us as results.
HERMAN MELVILLE
Children are not rugged individualists. They depend on the adults they know and on thousands more who make decisions every day that affect their well-being. All of us, whether we acknowledge it or not, are responsible for deciding whether our children are raised in a nation that doesn't just espouse family values but values families and children.
I have spent much of the past twenty-five years working to improve the lives of children. My work has taught me that they need more of our time, energy, and resources. But no experience brought home the lesson as vividly as becoming a mother myself.
When Chelsea Victoria Clinton lay in my arms for the first time, I was overwhelmed by the love and responsibility I felt for her. Despite all the books I had read, all the children I had studied and advocated for, nothing had prepared me for the sheer miracle of her being. For the first time, I understood the words of the writer Elizabeth Stone: "Making the decision to have a child — it's wondrous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body."
Bill and I had wanted to start a family immediately after we married, in 1975, but we were not having much luck. In 1979, we scheduled an appointment to visit a fertility clinic right after a long-awaited vacation. Lo and behold, I got pregnant during that vacation. (I have often remarked to my husband that we might have had more children if we had taken more vacations!)
Bill was then governor of Arkansas, and my pregnancy was so widely discussed I thought the entire state might show up for the delivery. A lot of folks did, although, as far as I know, no one took pictures, or I'm sure you would have seen them by now. Friends gave us helpful hints about how they had handled pregnancy and parenting. One of my favorites, from a burly ex-football player, was: "Think of a baby like a football, and hold it tight." We read the advice books and asked endless questions of doctors, midwives, and nurses.
I persuaded Bill to attend Lamaze classes, where he and the other first-time fathers-to-be sat silently, arms crossed defensively over their chests, trying to look as if they were somewhere else. Our instructor asked how many of them had ever baby-sat or held an infant or, heaven forbid, bathed or changed one. A few mumbled, but hardly any hands went up. Then the teacher asked how many were scared to death of being responsible for a baby. Nervous laughter erupted, and many arms flagged in the air. After that you couldn't keep them quiet!
Despite all our preparation, when I went into labor, three weeks early, I wasn't ready. Governor Bill Clinton, Lamaze list in hand, rushed about trying to help me pack. One of the items on the list was a small plastic bag to be filled with ice for me to suck during labor. As I hobbled to the car, I saw someone loading a huge sack of ice into the trunk, and I remembered what a woman reportedly said as she was helped over the railing of the Titanic: "I rang for ice, but this is ridiculous!"

Chelsea's birth transformed our lives, bringing us the greatest gift of joy — and humility — any parent could hope for. Like every child, Chelsea was her own person from the beginning. She arrived with a look of determination on her face that conveyed a focus and intensity we would come to know well. I prayed that I would be a good enough mother for her.
Every uncertainty and doubt I had was mixed with wonder and astonishment. I was beginning to discover for myself a timeless truth: Parenthood has the power to redefine every aspect of life — marriage, work, relationships with family and friends. Those helpless bundles of power and promise that come into our world show us our true selves — who we are, who we are not, who we wish we could be.
From the time I was a child myself, I loved being around children, looking into their faces or listening to the stories they told. Like many firstborn children, I learned to care for children by babysitting my two younger brothers. As a teenager, I baby-sat for other children too, and at thirteen I got my first "real" job, supervising children at a park on summer mornings. Through my church, I helped care for the children of migrant farmworkers while their parents labored in the fruit orchards and vegetable fields near my home.In college, I tutored children, and later, in law school, I got permission to add an extra year to the regular curriculum to study child development. I wondered about children I passed on the streets, and I worried about their journeys to adulthood. As a law professor and a staff attorney at the Children's Defense Fund, as well as in my private practice, I saw first-hand the results of our failure to invest in children at the most critical stages of their lives. Too often, the best interests of children seemed not to be a priority on either individual or national agendas. The consequences are there for any of us to see: children's potential lost to spirit-crushing poverty, children's health lost to unaffordable care, children's hearts lost in divorce and custody fights, children's futures lost in an overburdened foster care system, children's lives lost to abuse and violence, our society lost to itself as we fail our children.
And then I had a child of my own to love, wonder at, and worry about. Like most mothers, I am the designated worrier in our family. When Chelsea arrived, I went from worrying only five days a week to worrying on weekends too. My biggest challenge was to quell my longing to protect my daughter from everybody and everything that might hurt or disappoint her. As any parent knows, that is mission impossible. Life is unpredictable — and a child's impulse toward independence ultimately too powerful.
At four, my daughter refused my request to wear a sweater on what seemed to me an unusually chilly summer day. "I don't feel cold, Mommy," she said. "Maybe you do, but I have a different thermometer." Chelsea speaks up when she thinks I have exceeded the acceptable maternal worry quotient. But, like many parents, I feel there is much to worry about when it comes to raising children in America today.
Everywhere we look, children are under assault: from violence and neglect, from the breakup of families, from the temptations of alcohol, tobacco, sex, and drug abuse, from greed, materialism, and spiritual emptiness. These problems are not new, but in our time they have skyrocketed. Against this bleak backdrop, the struggle to raise strong children and to support families, emotionally as well as practically, has become more fierce. It is a struggle that has captured my heart, my mind, my life.
Parents bear the first and primary responsibility for their sons and daughters — to feed them, to sing them to sleep, to teach them to ride a bike, to encourage their talents, to help them develop spiritual lives, to make countless daily decisions that determine whom they have the potential to become. I was blessed with a hardworking father who put his family first and a mother who was devoted to me and my two younger brothers. But I was also blessed with caring neighbors, attentive doctors, challenging public schools, safe streets, and an economy that supported my father's job. Much of my family's good fortune was beyond my parents' direct control, but not beyond the control of other adults whose actions affected my life.
Children exist in the world as well as in the family. From the moment they are born, they depend on a host of other "grown-ups" — grandparents, neighbors, teachers, ministers, employers, political leaders, and untold others who touch their lives directly and indirectly. Adults police their streets, monitor the quality of their food, air, and water, produce the programs that appear on their televisions, run the businesses that employ their parents, and write the laws that protect them. Each of us plays a part in every child's life: It takes a village to raise a child.
I chose that old African proverb to title this book because it offers a timeless reminder that children will thrive only if their families thrive and if the whole of society cares enough to provide for them. Soon after I began writing, a friend sent me the cartoon on this page, which I think about every time I hear someone say that children are not the responsibility of anyone outside their family.
The sage who first offered that proverb would undoubtedly be bewildered by what constitutes the modern village. In earlier times and places — and until recently in our own culture — the "village" meant an actual geographic place where individuals and families lived and worked together. To many people the word still conjures up a road sign that reads, "Hometown U.S.A., pop. 5,340," followed by emblems of the local churches and civic clubs.
For most of us, though, the village doesn't look like that anymore. In fact, it's difficult to paint a picture of the modern village, so frantic and fragmented has much of our culture become. Extended families rarely live in the same town, let alone the same house. In many communities, crime and fear keep us behind locked doors. Where we used to chat with neighbors on stoops and porches, now we watch videos in our darkened living rooms. Instead of strolling down Main Street, we spend hours in automobiles and at anonymous shopping malls. We don't join civic associations, churches, unions, political parties, or even bowling leagues the way we used to.
The horizons of the contemporary village extend well beyond the town line. From the moment we are born, we are exposed to vast numbers of other people and influences through radio, television, newspapers, books, movies, computers, compact discs, cellular phones, and fax machines. Technology connects us to the impersonal global village it has created.
To many, this brave new world seems dehumanizing and inhospitable. It is not surprising, then, that there is a yearning for the "good old days" as a refuge from the problems of the present. But by turning away, we blind ourselves to the continuing, evolving presence of the village in our lives, and its critical importance for how we live together. The village can no longer be defined as a place on a map, or a list of people or organizations, but its essence remains the same: it is the network of values and relationships that support and affect our lives.
One of the honors of being First Lady is the opportunity I have to go out into the world and to see what individuals and communities are doing to help themselves and their children. I have had the privilege of talking with mothers, fathers, grandparents, civic clubs, Scout troops, PTAs, and church groups. From these many conversations, I know Americans everywhere are searching for — and often finding — new ways to support one another.
Around the country, for example, neighborhoods organize to close down crack houses and protect children as they walk to school. Businesses adopt family-friendly policies, open child care centers, offer parent education and marriage counseling. Churches, synagogues, and other religious institutions expand their traditional activities to include everything from aerobics classes and recovery groups to intergenerational day care centers. Parent-teacher associations, once lagging in attendance, find new life in some school districts as the baby boomer generation flocks to back-to-school nights and volunteers time in the classroom. Even our technology offers us new ways of coming together, through radio talk shows, E-mail, and the Internet.
The networks of relationships we form and depend on are our modern-day villages, but they reach well beyond city limits. Many of them necessarily involve the whole nation. They are the basis for our "civil society," a term social scientists use to describe the way we work together for common purposes. Whether we harness their potential for the greater good or allow ourselves to drift into alienation and divisiveness depends on the choices we make now.
We cannot move forward by looking to the past for easy solutions. Even if a golden age had existed, we could not simply graft it onto today's busier, more impersonal and complicated world. Instead, our challenge is to arrive at a consensus of values and a common vision of what we can do today, individually and collectively, to build strong families and communities. Creating that consensus in a democracy depends on seriously considering other points of view, resisting the lure of extremist rhetoric, and balancing individual rights and freedoms with personal responsibility and mutual obligations.
The true test of the consensus we build is how well we care for our children. For a child, the village must remain personal. Talking to a baby while changing a diaper, playing airplane to entice a toddler to accept a spoonful of food, tossing a ball back and forth with a teenager, are tasks that cannot be carried out in cyberspace. They require the presence of caring adults who are dedicated to children's growth, nurturing, and well-being. What we do to participate in and support that network — from the way we care for our own children to the jobs we do, the causes we join, and the kinds of legislation we support — is mirrored every day in the experiences of America's children. We can read our national character most plainly in the result.
How well we care for our own and other people's children isn't only a question of morality; our self-interest is at stake too. No family is immune to the influences of the larger society. No matter what my husband and I do to protect and prepare Chelsea, her future will be affected by how other children are being raised. I don't want her to grow up in an America sharply divided by income, race, or religion. I'd like to minimize the odds of her suffering at the hands of someone who didn't have enough love or discipline, opportunity or responsibility, as a child. I want her to believe, as her father and I did, that the American Dream is within reach of anyone willing to work hard and take responsibility. I want her to live in an America that is still strong and promising to its own citizens and lives up to its image throughout the world as a land of hope and opportunity.
I do not pretend to know how to nurture and protect every American child so that each one fully reaches his or her God-given potential. But I do know that we are not doing enough of what works. As of this writing, one in five children in America live in poverty; ten million children do not have private or public health care coverage; homicide and suicide kill almost seven thousand children every year; one in four of all children are born to unmarried mothers, many of whom are children themselves; and 135,000 children bring guns to school each day. Children in every social stratum suffer from abuse, neglect, and preventable emotional problems.
Even though our national rhetoric proclaims that children are our most important resource, we squander these precious lives as though they do not matter. Children's issues are seen as "soft," the province of softhearted people (usually women) at the margins of the larger economic and social problems confronting our country. These issues are not soft. They are hard — the hardest issues we face. They are intimately connected to the very essence of who we are and who we will become. Whether or not you are a parent, what happens to America's children affects your present and your future.

I write these words looking out through the windows in the White House at the city of Washington in all its beauty and squalor, promise and despair. In the shadow of great power, so many feel powerless. These contradictions color my feelings when I think about my own child and all our children. My worry for these children has increased, but remarkably, so has my hope for their future.
We know much more now than we did even a few years ago about how the human brain develops and what children need from their environments to develop character, empathy, and intelligence. When we put this knowledge into practice, the results are astonishing. Also, because when I read, travel, and talk with people around the world, it is increasingly clear to me that nearly every problem children face today has been solved somewhere, by someone. And finally, because I sense a new willingness on the part of many parents and citizens to turn down the decibel level on our political conflicts and start paying attention to what works.
There's an old saying I love: You can't roll up your sleeves and get to work if you're still wringing your hands. So if you, like me, are worrying about our kids; if you, like me, have wondered how we can match our actions to our words, I'd like to share with you some of the convictions I've developed over a lifetime — not only as an advocate and a citizen but as a mother, daughter, sister, and wife — about what our children need from us and what we owe to them.
This book is not a memoir; thankfully, that will have to wait. Nor is it a textbook or an encyclopedia; it is not meant to be. It is a statement of my personal views, a reflection of my continuing meditation on children. Whether or not you agree with me, I hope it promotes an honest conversation among us.
This, then, is an invitation to a journey we can take together, as parents and as citizens of this country, united in the belief that children are what matter — more than the size of our bank accounts or the kinds of cars we drive. As Jackie Kennedy Onassis said, "If you bungle raising your children, I don't think whatever else you do matters very much." That goes for each of us, whether or not we are parents — and for all of us, as a nation.
In the pages that follow, we will consider some of the implications of what is known about the emotional and cognitive development of children. We will explore both big and bite-sized ideas we can put to work in our homes, schools, hospitals, businesses, media, churches, and governments to do a better job raising our own children, even when the odds seem weighted against us. Above all, we will learn ways to come together as a village to support and strengthen one another's families and our own. Most of these lessons are simple, and some may seem self-evident. But it's apparent that many of us have yet to learn them or to apply them in our families and communities.
These lessons come from family, friends, and neighbors; from dedicated volunteers and professionals; and from the many men and women whose passion is to see the promise of children fulfilled. I wish I had the space to introduce more than a few of the many people whose determination to help children has touched me and to describe more than a fraction of the innovative ways in which our villages are working right now to improve the lives and futures of my child and all our children.
Some lessons come from countries I have had the opportunity to visit. The sight of baby carriages left unattended outside stores on the streets of Copenhagen said more to me about the safety of Danish babies than any research study could, and it made me long to know what the Danes and other cultures might teach us. As Eleanor Roosevelt said, "There is not one civilization, from the oldest to the very newest, from which we cannot learn."
Perhaps most important are the lessons I have learned from my daughter and her friends and from children all over the world. Children have many lessons to share with us — lessons about what they need, what makes them happy, how they view the world. If we listen, we'll be able to hear them. This book is about the first and best lesson they have taught me: "It takes a village to raise a child."

Copyright © 1996 by Hillary Rodham Clinton

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Table of Contents

It Takes a Village

No Family Is an Island

Every Child Needs a Champion

The Bell Curve Is a Curve Ball

Kids Don't Come with Instructions

The World Is in a Hurry, Children Are Not

An Ounce of Prevention Is Worth a Pound of Intensive Care

Security Takes More Than a Blanket

The Best Tool You Can Give a Child Is a Shovel

Children Are Born Believers

Childhood Can Be a Service Academy

Kids Are an Equal Employment Opportunity

Child Care Is Not a Spectator Sport

Education = Expectations

Seeing Is Believing

Every Business Is a Family Business

Children Are Citizens Too

Let Us Build a Village Worthy of Our Children

Acknowledgments

Index

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First Chapter

It Takes a Village

We cannot live for ourselves alone. Our lives are connected by a thousand invisible threads, and along these sympathetic fibers, our actions run as causes and return to us as results.
HERMAN MELVILLE

Children are not rugged individualists. They depend on the adults they know and on thousands more who make decisions every day that affect their well-being. All of us, whether we acknowledge it or not, are responsible for deciding whether our children are raised in a nation that doesn't just espouse family values but values families and children.

I have spent much of the past twenty-five years working to improve the lives of children. My work has taught me that they need more of our time, energy, and resources. But no experience brought home the lesson as vividly as becoming a mother myself.

When Chelsea Victoria Clinton lay in my arms for the first time, I was overwhelmed by the love and responsibility I felt for her. Despite all the books I had read, all the children I had studied and advocated for, nothing had prepared me for the sheer miracle of her being. For the first time, I understood the words of the writer Elizabeth Stone: "Making the decision to have a child -- it's wondrous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body."

Bill and I had wanted to start a family immediately after we married, in 1975, but we were not having much luck. In 1979, we scheduled an appointment to visit a fertility clinic right after a long-awaited vacation. Lo and behold, I got pregnant during that vacation. (I have often remarked to my husband that we might have had more children if we hope for. Like every child, Chelsea was her own person from the beginning. She arrived with a look of determination on her face that conveyed a focus and intensity we would come to know well. I prayed that I would be a good enough mother for her.

Every uncertainty and doubt I had was mixed with wonder and astonishment. I was beginning to discover for myself a timeless truth: Parenthood has the power to redefine every aspect of life -- marriage, work, relationships with family and friends. Those helpless bundles of power and promise that come into our world show us our true selves -- who we are, who we are not, who we wish we could be.

From the time I was a child myself, I loved being around children, looking into their faces or listening to the stories they told. Like many firstborn children, I learned to care for children by babysitting my two younger brothers. As a teenager, I baby-sat for other children too, and at thirteen I got my first "real" job, supervising children at a park on summer mornings. Through my church, I helped care for the children of migrant farmworkers while their parents labored in the fruit orchards and vegetable fields near my home.In college, I tutored children, and later, in law school, I got permission to add an extra year to the regular curriculum to study child development. I wondered about children I passed on the streets, and I worried about their journeys to adulthood. As a law professor and a staff attorney at the Children's Defense Fund, as well as in my private practice, I saw first-hand the results of our failure to invest in children at the most critical stages of their lives. Too often, the best interests of children seemed not to be a priority on either i ndividual or national agendas. The consequences are there for any of us to see: children's potential lost to spirit-crushing poverty, children's health lost to unaffordable care, children's hearts lost in divorce and custody fights, children's futures lost in an overburdened foster care system, children's lives lost to abuse and violence, our society lost to itself as we fail our children.

And then I had a child of my own to love, wonder at, and worry about. Like most mothers, I am the designated worrier in our family. When Chelsea arrived, I went from worrying only five days a week to worrying on weekends too. My biggest challenge was to quell my longing to protect my daughter from everybody and everything that might hurt or disappoint her. As any parent knows, that is mission impossible. Life is unpredictable -- and a child's impulse toward independence ultimately too powerful.

At four, my daughter refused my request to wear a sweater on what seemed to me an unusually chilly summer day. "I don't feel cold, Mommy," she said. "Maybe you do, but I have a different thermometer." Chelsea speaks up when she thinks I have exceeded the acceptable maternal worry quotient. But, like many parents, I feel there is much to worry about when it comes to raising children in America today.

Everywhere we look, children are under assault: from violence and neglect, from the breakup of families, from the temptations of alcohol, tobacco, sex, and drug abuse, from greed, materialism, and spiritual emptiness. These problems are not new, but in our time they have skyrocketed. Against this bleak backdrop, the struggle to raise strong children and to support families, emotionally as well as practically, has become mo re fierce. It is a struggle that has captured my heart, my mind, my life.

Parents bear the first and primary responsibility for their sons and daughters -- to feed them, to sing them to sleep, to teach them to ride a bike, to encourage their talents, to help them develop spiritual lives, to make countless daily decisions that determine whom they have the potential to become. I was blessed with a hardworking father who put his family first and a mother who was devoted to me and my two younger brothers. But I was also blessed with caring neighbors, attentive doctors, challenging public schools, safe streets, and an economy that supported my father's job. Much of my family's good fortune was beyond my parents' direct control, but not beyond the control of other adults whose actions affected my life.

Children exist in the world as well as in the family. From the moment they are born, they depend on a host of other "grown-ups" -- grandparents, neighbors, teachers, ministers, employers, political leaders, and untold others who touch their lives directly and indirectly. Adults police their streets, monitor the quality of their food, air, and water, produce the programs that appear on their televisions, run the businesses that employ their parents, and write the laws that protect them. Each of us plays a part in every child's life: It takes a village to raise a child.

I chose that old African proverb to title this book because it offers a timeless reminder that children will thrive only if their families thrive and if the whole of society cares enough to provide for them. Soon after I began writing, a friend sent me the cartoon on this page, which I think about every time I hear someone say that child ren are not the responsibility of anyone outside their family.

The sage who first offered that proverb would undoubtedly be bewildered by what constitutes the modern village. In earlier times and places -- and until recently in our own culture -- the "village" meant an actual geographic place where individuals and families lived and worked together. To many people the word still conjures up a road sign that reads, "Hometown U.S.A., pop. 5,340," followed by emblems of the local churches and civic clubs.

For most of us, though, the village doesn't look like that anymore. In fact, it's difficult to paint a picture of the modern village, so frantic and fragmented has much of our culture become. Extended families rarely live in the same town, let alone the same house. In many communities, crime and fear keep us behind locked doors. Where we used to chat with neighbors on stoops and porches, now we watch videos in our darkened living rooms. Instead of strolling down Main Street, we spend hours in automobiles and at anonymous shopping malls. We don't join civic associations, churches, unions, political parties, or even bowling leagues the way we used to.

The horizons of the contemporary village extend well beyond the town line. From the moment we are born, we are exposed to vast numbers of other people and influences through radio, television, newspapers, books, movies, computers, compact discs, cellular phones, and fax machines. Technology connects us to the impersonal global village it has created.

To many, this brave new world seems dehumanizing and inhospitable. It is not surprising, then, that there is a yearning for the "good old days" as a refuge from the problems of the present. But by turn ing away, we blind ourselves to the continuing, evolving presence of the village in our lives, and its critical importance for how we live together. The village can no longer be defined as a place on a map, or a list of people or organizations, but its essence remains the same: it is the network of values and relationships that support and affect our lives.

One of the honors of being First Lady is the opportunity I have to go out into the world and to see what individuals and communities are doing to help themselves and their children. I have had the privilege of talking with mothers, fathers, grandparents, civic clubs, Scout troops, PTAs, and church groups. From these many conversations, I know Americans everywhere are searching for -- and often finding -- new ways to support one another.

Around the country, for example, neighborhoods organize to close down crack houses and protect children as they walk to school. Businesses adopt family-friendly policies, open child care centers, offer parent education and marriage counseling. Churches, synagogues, and other religious institutions expand their traditional activities to include everything from aerobics classes and recovery groups to intergenerational day care centers. Parent-teacher associations, once lagging in attendance, find new life in some school districts as the baby boomer generation flocks to back-to-school nights and volunteers time in the classroom. Even our technology offers us new ways of coming together, through radio talk shows, E-mail, and the Internet.

The networks of relationships we form and depend on are our modern-day villages, but they reach well beyond city limits. Many of them necessarily involve the whole nation. They are the basis for our "civil society," a term social scientists use to describe the way we work together for common purposes. Whether we harness their potential for the greater good or allow ourselves to drift into alienation and divisiveness depends on the choices we make now.

We cannot move forward by looking to the past for easy solutions. Even if a golden age had existed, we could not simply graft it onto today's busier, more impersonal and complicated world. Instead, our challenge is to arrive at a consensus of values and a common vision of what we can do today, individually and collectively, to build strong families and communities. Creating that consensus in a democracy depends on seriously considering other points of view, resisting the lure of extremist rhetoric, and balancing individual rights and freedoms with personal responsibility and mutual obligations.

The true test of the consensus we build is how well we care for our children. For a child, the village must remain personal. Talking to a baby while changing a diaper, playing airplane to entice a toddler to accept a spoonful of food, tossing a ball back and forth with a teenager, are tasks that cannot be carried out in cyberspace. They require the presence of caring adults who are dedicated to children's growth, nurturing, and well-being. What we do to participate in and support that network -- from the way we care for our own children to the jobs we do, the causes we join, and the kinds of legislation we support -- is mirrored every day in the experiences of America's children. We can read our national character most plainly in the result.

How well we care for our own and other people's children isn't only a question of morali ty; our self-interest is at stake too. No family is immune to the influences of the larger society. No matter what my husband and I do to protect and prepare Chelsea, her future will be affected by how other children are being raised. I don't want her to grow up in an America sharply divided by income, race, or religion. I'd like to minimize the odds of her suffering at the hands of someone who didn't have enough love or discipline, opportunity or responsibility, as a child. I want her to believe, as her father and I did, that the American Dream is within reach of anyone willing to work hard and take responsibility. I want her to live in an America that is still strong and promising to its own citizens and lives up to its image throughout the world as a land of hope and opportunity.

I do not pretend to know how to nurture and protect every American child so that each one fully reaches his or her God-given potential. But I do know that we are not doing enough of what works. As of this writing, one in five children in America live in poverty; ten million children do not have private or public health care coverage; homicide and suicide kill almost seven thousand children every year; one in four of all children are born to unmarried mothers, many of whom are children themselves; and 135,000 children bring guns to school each day. Children in every social stratum suffer from abuse, neglect, and preventable emotional problems.

Even though our national rhetoric proclaims that children are our most important resource, we squander these precious lives as though they do not matter. Children's issues are seen as "soft," the province of softhearted people (usually women) at the margins of the larger economi c and social problems confronting our country. These issues are not soft. They are hard -- the hardest issues we face. They are intimately connected to the very essence of who we are and who we will become. Whether or not you are a parent, what happens to America's children affects your present and your future.


I write these words looking out through the windows in the White House at the city of Washington in all its beauty and squalor, promise and despair. In the shadow of great power, so many feel powerless. These contradictions color my feelings when I think about my own child and all our children. My worry for these children has increased, but remarkably, so has my hope for their future.

We know much more now than we did even a few years ago about how the human brain develops and what children need from their environments to develop character, empathy, and intelligence. When we put this knowledge into practice, the results are astonishing. Also, because when I read, travel, and talk with people around the world, it is increasingly clear to me that nearly every problem children face today has been solved somewhere, by someone. And finally, because I sense a new willingness on the part of many parents and citizens to turn down the decibel level on our political conflicts and start paying attention to what works.

There's an old saying I love: You can't roll up your sleeves and get to work if you're still wringing your hands. So if you, like me, are worrying about our kids; if you, like me, have wondered how we can match our actions to our words, I'd like to share with you some of the convictions I've developed over a lifetime -- not only as an advocate and a citizen but as a mother, daugh ter, sister, and wife -- about what our children need from us and what we owe to them.

This book is not a memoir; thankfully, that will have to wait. Nor is it a textbook or an encyclopedia; it is not meant to be. It is a statement of my personal views, a reflection of my continuing meditation on children. Whether or not you agree with me, I hope it promotes an honest conversation among us.

This, then, is an invitation to a journey we can take together, as parents and as citizens of this country, united in the belief that children are what matter -- more than the size of our bank accounts or the kinds of cars we drive. As Jackie Kennedy Onassis said, "If you bungle raising your children, I don't think whatever else you do matters very much." That goes for each of us, whether or not we are parents -- and for all of us, as a nation.

In the pages that follow, we will consider some of the implications of what is known about the emotional and cognitive development of children. We will explore both big and bite-sized ideas we can put to work in our homes, schools, hospitals, businesses, media, churches, and governments to do a better job raising our own children, even when the odds seem weighted against us. Above all, we will learn ways to come together as a village to support and strengthen one another's families and our own. Most of these lessons are simple, and some may seem self-evident. But it's apparent that many of us have yet to learn them or to apply them in our families and communities.

These lessons come from family, friends, and neighbors; from dedicated volunteers and professionals; and from the many men and women whose passion is to see the promise of children fulfilled. I wish I had the space to introduce more than a few of the many people whose determination to help children has touched me and to describe more than a fraction of the innovative ways in which our villages are working right now to improve the lives and futures of my child and all our children.

Some lessons come from countries I have had the opportunity to visit. The sight of baby carriages left unattended outside stores on the streets of Copenhagen said more to me about the safety of Danish babies than any research study could, and it made me long to know what the Danes and other cultures might teach us. As Eleanor Roosevelt said, "There is not one civilization, from the oldest to the very newest, from which we cannot learn."

Perhaps most important are the lessons I have learned from my daughter and her friends and from children all over the world. Children have many lessons to share with us -- lessons about what they need, what makes them happy, how they view the world. If we listen, we'll be able to hear them. This book is about the first and best lesson they have taught me: "It takes a village to raise a child."

Copyright © 1996 by Hillary Rodham Clinton

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 16 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 31, 2005

    Dead, Solid Perfect

    Hilary gets it right on the money. Although society starts off as a family, the whole idea behind nuclear family was unknown until the 50's. In our fast paced world where both parents feel like they must work, where children keep getting treated like second-class,where overstressed adults find no way out, this provides the answer.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 1, 2000

    A Must for All to Read

    This book was marvelous! I found it to be quite inspiring. Mrs. Clinton did a phenomenal job in targeting the most valuable issues on raising children today. The only thing she could have left out was all the talk about politics.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 13, 2005

    A reviewer

    She's absolutely brilliant. I love how she exposed her wonderfully thought out idea of how we should turn America over to Fidel Castro! It's so subtle, but obviously there! I just love it when liberals tell the truth about themselves and use the heartwarming excuse that they learned their methods of mass moral decay from children. Someone should remind Hillary that there is a reason children can't run for president.

    3 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 14, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    ABSOLUTELY RELEVANT AND A MUST READ/LISTEN FOR ANYONE WHO COMES IN CONTACT WITH A CHILD!

    I ordered this book on CD to help fill the 30-45 minutes I drive to/from work each day. I am both a parent and admirer of Hillary Clinton, so I was open to receive Hillary's message about raising children in our country. I AM SO HAPPY THAT I ORDERED IT!!!!

    This book not only sheds important light on the value of "community," but it also provides a unique insight into Hillary Clinton "the woman." Throughout the book, it is apparent that Hillary Clinton is a sincere advocate of children and families. The ideas and personal stories that she shares makes her more of an everyday person and less of the politician and celebrity-like figure that she has become today.

    I feel that with the current state of our economy and social issues, this book is a MUST READ. Hillary's message is delivered in a way that informs without lecturing and truly inspires you. Since reading it I have worked to become more involved in my community and to ensure my family receives quality time from me (not just quantity).

    If children are important to you, read this book.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 23, 2002

    Changed My Life

    One of the best books I have ever read, it was like reading my mind. It has changed my life as well as the others I have helped and motivated me to seek my teaching certificate. I believe it should be required reading in every high shool in the United States, as it exemplifies what politics are truly about: helping families to raise wonderful children. Ever since I read this book, I never doubt that every little bit of help can brighten the world.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 19, 2000

    The title says it all.

    This book clearly maps how the stages of raising children are all related. I felt this was a very clear, well researched, well written book. Even half way through reading it, I felt 'It Takes a Village' should be required reading from about the 9th grade up and sent home with new parents from the hospital.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 30, 2006

    An Inherently Dishonest Book

    As far as I am concerned, this book is another outright attempt to edge our society from democracy to socialism. This process has been happening under our noses bit by bit and the book shares Hillary¿s belief system that is geared toward socialism. Our children have textbooks written to draw the concepts of socialism and create a society that will eventually want it. The writers have stated that if they are to succeed, the children need to begin school earlier so that the ideals of their parents, such as attending church and the close knit unit the family has, can be stopped or lessened before it gets too embedded. There are many reasons for that one is that with religion, for example, socialism will not work. This approach to create a socialistic society where we have a large government and they control pretty much everything, is the undertone for this book and I find it a backhanded way for Hillary to nudge us further in the direction of what she feels the nation must ¿progress to¿. Hillary attempts to look the part of a concerned `mother¿ type who wants what is best for OUR children, however you do not have to be a genius to figure out her goal has little to do with our children and more her own personal beliefs and goals. I find it appalling that this book is out there under a disguise of a helpful manual type guide created by a women who deeply cares about children in America when it is clear that her reasons for it are really more left wing extremist and to teach us to be socialist ¿ eventually to be controlled by the government. Just for the fact that this book is inherently dishonest and its motives hidden under a ¿care and compassion¿ label, it¿s a horror. I recommend that whoever read this review, find another more credible and honest book written by an author who actually does care and doesn¿t have the compassion of cold stone and the motives of a snake in the grass.

    1 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 24, 2005

    The Push For Bigger Government

    It seems Sen. Clinton feels there should be no limit to the reach of the government. What a ridiculous thought process she has. Or could it be lack of traditional American Values. And to think, people are starting to call her a moderate.

    1 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 10, 2004

    Reactionary, socialist drivel

    In May of 1945 all Germans stared at each other with a 'what happened' look on their faces. What the fools failed to do was read Hitler¿s `Mein Kampf¿ to educate themselves on the socialist hell he intended to put them through. Hillary¿s book, which reads with all the warm of your new blender¿s instruction manual, is a clarion call to a world regulated and run from the center. By her elitist attitude ('many of these lessons are simple...but it's apparent that many of us have yet to learn them'), her swift call for compulsion (¿The Village needs a town crier...and a town prodder.¿), and her complete disdain for any restraints on government power; Hillary gives clear evidence of the clarity to Leon Trotsky's warning that a government that controls access to resources will eventually use that fact to obtain obedience. 'The old principle: who does not work shall not eat, has been replaced with a new one: who does not obey shall not eat.' So if you want to eat, you will learn to accept 'our lifelong responsibility to them (meaning children) and the Village' (p.168). Should you choose, in order to avoid Hillary's lessons, to forbear having children, forget it because 'the Village as a whole owes expectant and new mothers and fathers...the resources they will need' (p.91). 'It is not only parents who need expert coaching in children's development; the rest of the village does, too.' (p.54). An easily duped eager beaver, Hillary gushes that the experts 'have given researchers a whole new understanding of how the human brain develops' so we can now elicit each child's 'full potential' (p.52). 'The quality of the nutrition, care giving, and stimulation the child receives determines how they are wired...for intelligence' (p.58). The Nazis had their plan for a super race built through racial purity; the Communists a new man built through class conscience, now Hillary will breed a new race of super babies through superior federally run day care centers. Fool us once, shame on you, fool us twice, shame on us. Fool us a third time, and we've got Hillary the Village Idiot. How can anyone still fall for such drivel? It takes a college degree to be this stupid. With just a few nips and tucks from the censor's knife, It Takes A Village could have circulated freely in any Communist or Nazi country. This woman is completely bereft of any shred of humility, and has an insatiable urge for power. The Constitution was specifically designed with politicians like Hillary in mind. Read this book carefully, she will be our president soon.

    1 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 28, 2004

    On Point

    This is a wonderfully written book that examines what is wrong with society today -- there isn't enough involvement in the lives of youth. The feelings of disconnection, disassociation among youth is at an all-time high. Ms. Clinton writes passionately about the missing sense of community and responsibility in today's society. A wonderfully written book that brings to light the African proverb! Well done!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 26, 2004

    Family is Foundation of Society

    This book is absolutely scary. For thousands (perhaps millions) of years, the family has been the basic building block of society. Now, we have a government (village) which, through heavy taxation and social-engineering has virtually destroyed the family and will continue to do so. And the best solution Clinton sees, is that very same government (village).

    1 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 3, 2002

    WAKE UP AMERICA

    Most people obviously did not read the underlying message. The title should have been....GIVE THE GOVERNMENT YOUR CHILDREN!

    1 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted December 22, 2009

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    Posted December 10, 2014

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    Posted September 27, 2010

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    Posted December 22, 2009

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