25 black Suburbans and heightened security blocking a busy New York City street is always a telltale sign that the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) and United Nations week is upon us once again. This is an annual meeting of heads of state and ministers, nonprofit leaders, and the business community gathering to discuss innovative solutions to the world’s most challenging social, environmental and political problems facing us today.
A theme underlying this year’s CGI event was “the case for optimism” in addressing these daunting issues—reasons to be more hopeful about opportunities to create positive change. For me, one of the highlights of the week was watching 15-year old, Jack Andraka, Intel’s International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) grand prize winner speak on a panel with Chelsea Clinton about “hope.” He lamented the fact that kids in school are taught to memorize things rather than to think critically (why memorize when information is at our fingertips?). He impressed a plenary full of world leaders with his vision for the changes needed in the U.S. education system, as well as drug and medical test approval systems. Only 15 years old and he is an optimistic visionary.
Another highlight for me was participating in the U.S. State Department’s Equal Futures event, where Secretary Clinton highlighted real commitments by both the public and private sectors to women’s social, economic, and political participation. It affirmed the signs of progress that women around the world are gaining social and economic power that they have never had before. The UN Secretary General also made an unprecedented commitment to put Education First in the UN agenda in partnership with governments and business around the globe. Speaker after speaker from CGI to the UN focused on the power of technology in playing a significant new role in addressing global challenges. Now, that’s reason for optimism.