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CGI University (Day One) -- Opening Plenary

March 15, 2008

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("Live" posts listed in reverse chron order; read from bottom up.)

11:25 a.m.: Good advice from Dr. Skorton to all young people interested in making change:

  1. Listen. Learn everything you can about your issue or cause.
  2. Make a plan.
  3. Do whatever you can on your own.
  4. After you've done the first three, enlist the help of others.

That ends the opening plenary session. Breakout sessions in four areas -- global health ("Starvation Amidst Plenty, Obesity Amidst Poverty: Malnutrition's Devastating Toll on Children"), energy and climate change ("Seizing the Economic Opportunity"), human rights and peace ("Building Peace on Campus and Beyond"), and poverty alleviation ("Students Ending Poverty: Start From Where You Are") -- to begin at 11:45 a.m. (EST).

11:16 a.m.: Lance Armstrong cites a statistic in a study he recently came across which says that China is anticipating losing 1 billion people to tobacco-related illness in the 21st century.

10:44 a.m.: Opening remarks concluded. On to opening plenary panel, "Working Together: Students and Universities Take the Lead on Global Challenges," moderated by Clinton and featuring:

  • Lance Armstrong, founder and chair, Lance Armstrong Foundation
  • Betty Bigombe, Jennings Randolph Senior Fellow, United States Institute of Peace
  • Brittany Cochran, graduate student, Xavier University of Louisiana
  • David Skorton, M.D., president, Cornell University

Format is tailor-made for Clinton, a master of extemporaneous speaking. Contrast with George Bush's performance yesterday before the Economic Club of New York (which I happened to catch in its entirety on CNBC) is striking.

10:38 a.m.: Press release from CGI hit my mailbox as I was typing the last bit. Notes that nearly 700 college students from more than 250 colleges and universities, representing almost every state and continent except Antarctica, have travled to the campus of Tulane University for the evnt. They have been joined by 29 university presidents, 11 national youth organization directors, social entrepreneurs, and college and university faculty and administrators.

Clinton quote: "Today’s generation of young people has more power to change the course of our future than any previous generation," President Clinton said. "Whether it’s from their computer in a dorm room or through student groups on campus, they are seizing opportunities to put their innovative ideas into action. I hope CGI U will embolden more students to help solve the great challenges we all face in the 21st century."

The following first-day "commitments" were announced (read this to learn more about commitments). All language lifted directly from the CGI press release:

Mambidzeni Madzivire, Student, Mayo Graduate School: This commitment will repair medical equipment in the developing world by pairing engineering graduate students with faculty service trips. These groups will hold trainings in Ghana and Jamaica, where the school has pre-existing relationships.

Tony C. Anderson and Marcus Penny, Students, Morehouse College: This student group will raise funds to install one million energy efficient light bulbs including compact fluorescent bulbs over four years in low-income households. The pilot program will take place in Atlanta's West End.

Jokom Riak, Student, Salt Lake City Community College: This commitment will support returning farmers to Southern Sudan following the peace agreement by providing farming equipment, seeds, and pesticide. Riak, a Lost Boy, came to the United States as part of the Clinton Administration's decision to grant the Lost Boys refugee status. President Clinton's resettlement initiative, has already created a website to assist in the collection of funds and will reach out to other Lost Boys to spread awareness and combine efforts.

Lu Hardin, President, University of Central Arkansas: The University is creating a new program that will leverage faculty and student research relating to poverty alleviation. Undergraduate researchers will identify best practices that can be applied in rural Arkansas. These students will work towards the implementation of their research by collaborating with think-tanks and non-profits working in the region.

Elizabeth Coleman, President, Bennington College: Bennington College will create a center on campus that will house problem-based educational programs in five subject areas: education, energy and climate change, international health, human rights, and poverty. Visiting interdisciplinary scholars, practitioners and activists from diverse disciplines and backgrounds will spend semesters at this center, and new classes will be launched to introduce students to these issues and identify promising solutions to them.

Julie Carney, Student, Yale University: Through this commitment, The Artemis Project will create an online network to allow truth commissions and their successor organizations to upload, store, and share materials. In countries with the technological capacity, truth commissions can upload digitized documents to a central database. Where this capacity is not available, The Artemis Project staff will work alongside local truth commissions to help digitize documents on the site.

Scott Cowen, President, Tulane University: This commitment will create neighborhood-based health centers throughout New Orleans for residents without health insurance. Each center will employ five to eight primary care physicians, and will service up to 20,000 distinct patients.

Elliott Sanchez, Student, Loyola University - New Orleans: This commitment will create a student-sponsored microfinancing fund for community members to purchase income-building assets, such as painting supplies.

Anna Monhartova, Student, Tulane University Student: This commitment will create a tennis-based after-school program in New Orleans, which will give students an opportunity to develop as student life and ease community tensions through sports.

Laurie Gonzalez, Katherine Reeves, Kavinda Udugama, Students, Lafayette College: These students are working on an entrepreneurship and development project with the Holy Cross Neighborhood Association in the Lower 9th Ward of New Orleans and the Center for Bio-Environmental Research (CBER) at Tulane and Xavier Universities to help the community build a "green" urban economy. This student group has conducted similar programs worldwide.

Qian Xiao, Student, University of California -San Diego: In partnership with Peking University, this commitment will collect and distribute 7,500 children's books for primary and middle school students in rural China. They will also compile a guidance package with instructions on how to develop and maintain school and community libraries. This commitment will target 8 rural villages and help 800 students and 100 rural teachers.

Di Ling and Jenna Hook, Students, Rice University: This commitment will create medical diagnostic backpacks for nomadic doctors in sub-Saharan Africa. Jeannie’s commitment will customize and prepare the backpacks for doctors working with the Pediatric AIDS Corps in Tanzania, Botswana and Malawi. Jenna will work with Jeanie’s team to develop a backpack to bring with her to Lesotho.

Ruth Simmons, President, Brown University: Brown University will build on the current partnership between Princeton, Brown and Dillard Universities to "green" Dillard University facilities and promote sustainability on campus. These institutions will also collaborate on educational opportunities for students and faculty research.

10:13 a.m.: I'm going to attempt to "live" blog the opening plenary/early sessions of the first CGI University. (Hat tip to Barry Ritholtz of The Big Picture for the idea.) I'm in NYC, of course, so my "attendance" at the event will be courtesy of the Kaisernetwork webcasts.

Things just got started, with Samuel Anei, a Truman College student and co-founder of the Lost Boys of Southern Sudan, introducing former President Clinton.

Clinton enters to big round of applause and rolling Zydeco music; resplendent in dark suit and kelly green tie (for St. Patrick's Day). Immediately introduces New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin, who takes the stage tie-less and looking like he was up late. Hails New Orleans as "one of the most interesting cities in the world...the birthplace of jazz." Calls post-Katrina New Orleans "an incubator" for solutions to many of the society's most pressing problems -- global warming, social and ethnic inequities, drug abuse and gang violence, etc. Reminds the audience before exiting "to pay your New Orleans taxes at Harrah's casino." Big laugh give way to rueful chuckles.

Clinton quote: "Today’s generation of young people has more power to change the course of our future than any previous generation. "Whether it’s from their computer in a dorm room or through student groups on campus, they are seizing opportunities to put their innovative ideas into action. I hope CGI U will embolden more students to help solve the great challenges we all face in the 21st century."

-- Mitch Nauffts

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Good advice to all people and thanks for your motivation.

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