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Chelsea speaks of despair in U.S.

Sitting in an airport lounge with a group of girls who scaled Africa's highest mountain, Hillary Rodham Clinton knew it was time to let the young speak to the young.

So she turned the proceedings over to daughter Chelsea, who seemed to feel a bond with these girls and offered some thoughts about life in America.

When one girl asked about the challenges facing young Americans, Chelsea, 17, articulated them with earnestness.

"We have a big problem with violence in our country, in all spectrums," Chelsea said. "We have a big problem with drugs. And we have a big problem with people not thinking they have a future. Young women and young men. We're very cynical. There's a lot of hopelessness."

How, one girl asked, is hopelessness being dealt with? Parents and teachers are trying to help by setting standards, Chelsea began, and then she said:

"But with our problem of hopelessness and cynicism, that ultimately has to come from the young people themselves. That's something we have to work on collectively, as a group, to try to realize that we are the future, and we make of our future what we make of it.

"Ultimately we have to do it for ourselves, regardless of what we're given in the beginning."

Throughout her mother's two-week goodwill tour of Africa, Chelsea has been quiet, following closely behind the first lady through meetings, tours and cultural displays in country after country.

It wasn't clear why Chelsea suddenly spoke up here with the girls from the Weru Weru secondary school, although Mrs. Clinton gave a clue as she congratulated the girls for their achievement.

"She has also climbed mountains and been much more adventurous than her mother," Mrs. Clinton said. "So I was going to see if she has any questions, or if she has anything she wants to talk with you about. She is more your age, and understands what it took to train for your climb."

For her part, Chelsea was curious about the girls who climbed Kilimanjaro on a six-day adventure.

The girls said the 19,340-foot mountain towers over their school. They would look at it every day, wondering what was on top.

So they climbed it, with little equipment, very little food and scoffing remarks in their ears: "African women are too weak for the toils of Kilimanjaro."

"We made it, we silenced the critics," the girls related in a poetic presentation.