Chelsea waves goodbye to the White House

And then there were three: Bill, Hillary and Socks. Chelsea Clinton, the First Daughter, left the White House yesterday to begin her student career at Stanford University in California.

It is a ritual that has been playing out across the land. Fathers and mothers getting in their cars to deliver their suddenly grown-up children to universities in unfamiliar towns and unfamiliar states.

"The first thing I did this morning," the President confided to White House reporters, "was ... make sure we had all the right things". But this kid's belongings were piled not into the back of the family Ford but into the belly of a 747 jumbo jet - Air Force One. And, for the President's daughter, the wrench of leaving home may be a little more daunting than for some of her peers.

Until now, the Washington press has more or less let Chelsea be. But Hillary, especially, fears for her daughter's privacy. In a syndicated newspaper column yesterday, the First Lady said that attending the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales, and seeing the two princes left behind, had made her worry more about her daughter. The First Lady also remembered some of her own undergraduate epiphanies, including, "the long walks through city streets or across campus that ended in a tender moment with a handsome new boyfriend. I can't imagine having any of those private experiences ... interrupted by the bright lights of cameras".

But for Chelsea, who chose a place of learning about as far from Washington as is possible without actually leaving the contiguous states, the anticipated liberation may not be all that she expects. Those beefy men in T-shirts trailing her into the dormitory building? Secret Service agents.

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