The University of Miami (UM) had the opportunity to host the Clinton Global Initiative University (CGIU) established by the Clinton Foundation. UM has made history with this program as they are the first university to host this event twice. The first time that UM was its host was in 2010. CGIU was established to bring students together from all over the world to collaborate and take steps to make a difference.
To open the session, President Shalala welcomed the 1100+ students from all over the country and the world. She encouraged students while they were there to get to know one another and work together to expand their horizons. Additionally, she told those in attendance to “create your own motivational mix tape and turn up the volume to the power of yes.”
Following President Shalala’s introduction of the moderator, President Bill Clinton, President Clinton announced to the crowd that following her tenure as the president of UM, President Shalala will be named the president and CEO of the Clinton Foundation.
Five students who participated in previous CGIU’s and made commitments to change were invited to share about their projects and their projects. The projects were varied in nature and included using gaming technology to help agencies reach people and make better decisions, providing healthy and low cost food options to students who may not otherwise have access to them outside of school, and helping to reverse the effects of deforestation in Haiti. Additionally, some of the other projects have included helping to increase the efficiency of free clients and finding a low cost solution to combating iron deficiency.
Four panelist were invited to share their experiences and how they became involved in making a difference in their surrounding community. President Clinton stated that those on the panel were “private citizens that made a difference in public life.”
On this panel was America Ferrera, an actress, producer, and activist who shared her story of turning her circumstances into motivation to help others. The point that she most wanted students to take home was this, “WE have to learn to stop compartmentalizing issues as though they are not connected to all of the other issues. We have a shared destiny and shared future. Don’t go and tackle these issues because it is the right thing to do. What should compel you is that these issues will impact your future and it is the smart thing to do. Talent is universal but opportunity is not. Meet them where they are at and learn about the real obstacles that stop people from getting to where you have. Then go out and help create the opportunities to create the place that you want to live in.”
Tawakkoi Karman, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and founder of Women Journalists Without Chains shared her experience as a female journalist in Yemen and the risk it entailed. She was the first Arab to win a Nobel Peace Prize and at the time the second youngest person to win. She has been jailed numerous times, the most recent occurring after first being kidnapped from the street. Members of the organization, Journalist Without Chains, have also been jailed and beat up for this cause but they were willing to make the sacrifice. Through her organization, she was able to launch a peaceful revolution and break all of the chains surrounding her and others who wanted more for the women in Yemen. Despite the numerous threats to her life and her family, she will not give up because she is willing to keep pressing forward for freedom.
Paul Lorem, a student at Yale University grew up in a refugee camp in Africa. He was born in South Sudan and his family went across the border into Kenya in order to seek lifesaving medical treatment for him. The camp did not have an infrastructure for school yet he still was pushed to go to school and his eventually led him to Yale. While in the refugee camp, he began business projects and still continues to use business in order to help people advance. He wants to create opportunities for other people because that is how he feels a true difference can be made in the community.
Vivek Murthy, United States Surgeon General, United States Department of Health and Human Service. It was instilled in him by his parents to become a good citizen. To him it meant that when he saw an issue or something broken, he stepped up in fix it, no qualifiers. As a freshman at Harvard, he built a nonprofit organization to help combat HIV because they realized that there was an opportunity for him to do something to make a difference. Though he admitted that there were several failures, what continued to drive him was perseverance and passion.
From this stories and past projects, students were encouraged to become a part of global change. President Clinton left students with this. “Just because you can’t do everything, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do anything. Do whatever you can do.”
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