Chelsea Clinton talks leadership, apologies and Rush Limbaugh at University of Maryland

Chelsea Clinton spoke with college students about channeling anger into action and how she’s learned to deal with her critics at a conference held at the University of Maryland. (Jackie Kucinich/The Washington Post)

Chelsea Clinton told a ballroom full of women at the University of Maryland that she learned the importance of growing a thick skin early in life, thanks to a childhood in the public eye and people like Rush Limbaugh.

“I’m a believer in a thick skin as a survival tactic,” she said during her speech Thursday to the National Conference for College Women Student Leaders. “I have the indubious honor of being compared to a dog as a 13-year-old by Rush Limbaugh. That was not about me, that was about him.”

She added, “Maybe that’s an extreme example, but unless a lot has changed in middle school and high school since I was a student, I can promise you that every woman in this room has encountered something similar – that’s not about us.”

As her mother, Hillary Clinton, gears up for her book tour blitz next week, Chelsea Clinton, vice chair of the Clinton Foundation, has also out been out on the speaking circuit to talk up the foundation’s initiatives like the empowerment of women and girls.

Her thick skin advice was just one of the tips Clinton shared. Here are some of the other words of wisdom from her speech:

On taking criticism: “I think it’s important to think about criticism in one of two ways: First, to think about whether it’s serious, and if it’s serious criticism, if it’s about the quality of your idea, if it’s about the quality of your action plan that you’ve translated that idea into a road map for moving forward, I think it’s worth taking that criticism seriously, but not personally. And to think about whether or not there is something valid in that criticism that will help make your idea or your action plan, or your general approach better and stronger. Then I think there’s a second basket of criticism, and that’s the criticism that’s not about you but it’s about the critic who is saying it.”

On becoming a leader: “I’m frequently asked, often by young women, ‘Well, how should I engage in the world?’ And my first response is, well, think about what makes you angry, if that doesn’t work for you, think about what makes you really passionate and inspired,” she said. “I think that anger and passion are far more likely to be durable motivators than any other emotion.”

On apologizing: “Some of the best feedback I ever got…when I was working at McKinsey and one of the partners I was working for at the time…said to me one day, pulled me aside and said, ‘You’ve got to stop apologizing’ and, of course, I said, ‘I’m so sorry.’

He said to me, ‘People are not going to take you seriously as you deserve to be taken if you are apologizing all the time particularly for the things that are de minimis.’ It was great advice and it took me a long time to stop with the visceral apologizing.”

The stop in Maryland was the second of the day for Clinton. The first was at an event for the Aspen Institute’s Franklin Project in Gettysburg to encourage young people to participate in a year of service.

While the two speeches on Thursday didn’t yield the excitement of other Chelsea Clinton appearances – she used a Clinton Foundation event in April to announce that she was expecting her first child in the fall  – she did tweet out a baby-related gift she received from a fellow panelist and Americorps alum, Mary Bruce.

RELATED: Chelsea Clinton, from first daughter to philanthropist

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