Children Of Presidents Feel Spotlight

ByABC News
February 15, 2001, 9:44 PM

March 10 -- When you're the daughter of a president, even simple things you do can become big news.

Chelsea Clinton found that out when she was seen around Stanford University with a boyfriend.

The young man's hometown of Woodlands, Texas, issued a press release and fielded phone calls about their native son dating a president's daughter. The whole town, it seemed, was delighted.

"These kids are our royalty," said Brad Meltzer, who spent a year researching children of presidents for his book First Counsel. "Whether they like it or not their privacy is invaded, and we love to hear any juicy details we can about them."

Artist, Author, Playboy Model

There are 24 living first children, each of whom has fashioned his or her own lifestyle from sometime children's book illustrator Amy Carter to Patti Davis, who wrote a book about her "cold and uncaring" father, former President Reagan, and posed in Playboy magazine.

But many have come to be defined not only by what they have done, but also what has been written and said about them.

John F. Kennedy Jr. faced several "The Hunk That Flunked" New York Post headlines after twice failing to pass the bar. He finally passed on his third try. His tragic death, along with his wife and her sister, in a small airplane he was piloting, was major worldwide news.

When Ron Reagan Jr. and Davis criticized their father, television talk shows took the opportunity to put a microscope on the family dynamics.

And when a young Amy Carter decided that reading a book at the dinner table was more interesting than listening to the adults talk politics, many Americans pegged her family as ill-mannered.

Chelsea Clinton was mostly seen and not heard. Perhaps the most memorable images of President Clinton's only child were moments when it seemed actions meant more than words a picture of Chelsea holding both her parents' hands, walking between them just after the country learned of her father's trysts with young intern Monica Lewinsky. When Hillary Rodham Clinton was running for senator, her poll numbers spiked when it was announced that Chelsea was going to leave school for the semester and work on her mom's campaign.