Former first daughter Chelsea Clinton's parents always encourage her to speak her mind and to take action. So naturally, when she was 5 years old and had a beef with President Ronald Reagan over his plan to visit a Nazi cemetery in Germany, she wrote him a letter.

"I wrote: Dear Mr. President. I have seen 'The Sound of Music.' The Nazis don't look like very nice people. Please don't go to their cemetery. Sincerely, Chelsea Clinton."

"I never heard back," she told an audience at the Borlaug Dialogue at the Des Moines Marriott Downtown.

But she remembered the lesson that she should have an opinion, express it and pursue her interests.

Clinton, vice chairwoman of the Clinton Foundation, book author and an adjunct professor of health policy and management at Columbia University, gave the opening address at Wednesday's World Food Prize afternoon session. She then joined a panel discussion on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) issues with former World Food Prize laureates Catherine Bertini and Robert T. Fraley, Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds and representatives of Google Inc. and Starbucks Corp. 

Clinton detailed some of the foundation's work in Rwanda, Malawi and Tanzania, which includes empowering women while fighting hunger. In one Ghana program, female farmers grow and roast peanuts that are made into a protein snack that is served in schools, Clinton said. A food company committed to buying the products for at least a decade. "I think that's remarkable because it is empowering the Ghanaian farmers to own more of their own economics," Clinton said.

The United States is among the countries with severe hunger problems, even though the country grows enough food to feed everybody, Clinton said. "And yet we know that we have more work to do in this country," she said. "We have to have a humility and an urgency about our own domestic food insecurity.

"I think it is unconscionable that in the wealthiest country on Earth, 14 percent of Americans are food insecure, one out of five children is food insecure, and one out of three African-American children is food insecure," Clinton said.

She is working with a variety of nonprofits and corporate foundations on the Food Security Genome Project, which attempts to create a publicly available system that will lead people to every study ever completed by government, companies and nongovernment organizations regarding hunger in the United States.

"If we have a holistic data set of what has worked and what hasn't worked, we will have better predictive analytics about the cost and possible impact of new hunger and food security efforts in the future so hopefully we can all make decisions more quickly about where to invest our research dollars or our programmatic dollars," Clinton said. That should improve efficiency. The project should be done in less than two years.

Continue reading to learn what Clinton and others had to say about challenges in getting girls to pursue STEM careers. Full Insider story >>>


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