With the support of Designmatters, in March 2008 we had the privilege to attend the Clinton Global Initiative, a two-day event that took place at Tulane University in New Orleans. The conference brought together university students from every state and 15 countries. Each student proposed a Commitment to Action, which would tackle a global problem through a self-initiated solution. The global problems addressed were climate change, peace and human rights, and poverty alleviation.
The first panel consisted of people who pioneered change within their communities. Speakers included Ray Negin, mayor of New Orleans, who spoke about the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and rebuilding a more durable and green New Orleans. Also featured were cyclist Lance Armstrong, and Bette Bigombe of the United States Institute of Peace. The panel discussed investing in youth education so that children, who are disproportionately affected by violence, can be productive members of their community.
There were a multitude of working sessions where we had a chance to meet other students and engage in solution-oriented round table discussions. Each discussion was based on a specific topic. The topics ranged from Energy and Climate Change, Mental Health in Post-Crisis Communities, and More Employable Futures: Educating Our Global Youth.
The first working session we attended was Building Peace on Campus and Beyond. Panel members included Stephanie Nyombayire from the Genocide Alleviation Network, who lost her whole family to a regional conflict in Sudan, and Courtney Spence, founder and president ofStudents of the World. We talked about how we can use emerging technologies, such as blogging, to promote peace, integrate cultural diversity in curriculum, create student organizations and clubs to sustain campus communities, and lobby for a Department of Peace and Culture of Peace.
The second working session we attended focused on Human Rights and Peace Protecting: Promoting the Rights of Women Through Empowerment. Some of the speakers included were Democratic strategist and political commentator James Carville, and president of Women for Women International, Zainab Salbi. The circulating ideas included changing the rhetoric and social expectations of gender roles through education, and direct efforts to empower women within their respective cultures without imposing preconceived Western notions of empowerment.
Lastly, Bill Clinton addressed a wider New Orleans audience and spoke about the global progress of the Commitment to Action Initiative, which is not limited to students. He stressed that anyone can make a commitment and encouraged people to do so on their own.
What we gained from this experience was invaluable. We correlated personal stories and collectively proposed and discovered solutions that can be incorporated into our daily lives. We were given the opportunity to connect with youth on a global scale and exchange ideas that broadened our perspective about the importance of self-initiated leadership roles at Art Center and in our future work. We are thankful to Designmatters for providing this illuminating experience.
CGIU.org features webcasts of all panel discussions