Bill Clinton’s annual Clinton Global Initiative kicked off Sunday morning with a cast of political, celebrity, and nonprofit all-stars, with this year’s theme, “Designing for Impact,” bringing a flood of new commitments to push for real, fast change. The former president himself stressed urgency in finding solutions for the world’s problems.
Here are the best moments from the seventh installment of the initiative, which drew leaders from across the globe, determined to get things done.
Seeing his philanthropy bear fruit isn’t a side note for the former president. He wants results and he wants them now. “I am not getting any younger,” the 42nd president told the audience at the conference’s opening plenary. “I am impatient about this.” Clinton sat with Michael T. Duke, president and CEO of Walmart; Queen Rania al Abdullah of Jordan; Ban Ki-moon, secretary-general of the United Nations; and Jim Yong Kim, president of the World Bank Group, to discuss how effective solutions to major global issues can be put in place. Duke joked that he knew he’d “hit big-time when a small company from Arkansas can be mentioned on the Jon Stewart show by President Clinton.” At one point, the former president raised the need for jobs in hard-hit areas and challenged Duke to open a store in war-riven Libya.
“I had a mother, and she was told to institutionalize me. To put me in an institution, and that would be the end of it,” Loretta Claiborne, a six-time gold medalist at the Special Olympics, told the audience at CGI’s opening plenary. “Still today, around the globe, people with intellectual disabilities such as I are still being housed in warehouses and institutions.” Claiborne, who was born partially blind and experienced delays in walking and speech development, made a touching speech leading to the announcement of a $12 million donation by philanthropist Tom Golisano to expand the Special Olympics’ health services.
Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari likes to see action on and off the court. “I don’t like getting involved where there’s no scoreboard,” he said. At the “Turning Inspiration Into Action” breakout meeting, he talked about seeing the first photos emerging from the Haiti earthquake in 2010 and leaping into action with his team, raising $1 million in one day soon after. It wasn’t something to mull over, he stressed. “People were dying. What we had to do was act now. I went to Haiti, and, I’ll be honest with you, we kept people alive.”
The secretary of state and the former president’s other half, Hillary Clinton touched on the recent protests in Muslim countries and condemned the violence against American embassies. “The people of the Arab world did not set out to trade the tyranny of a dictator for the tyranny of a mob,” Clinton said in a speech outlining the way diplomacy and development can interact to push for freedoms and change in countries currently starting to transition to democracy.
Attendees at the Clinton Global Initiative occasionally have a hard time containing their excitement upon meeting each other. (Last year Archbishop Desmond Tutu proclaimed his love to Burmese democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, praising her beauty and saying he felt like a giddy schoolboy.) At this year’s plenary discussing early childhood investment, Jay Naidoo, chairman of the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition, told Malawian President Joyce Banda that he wished she could be cloned and her achievements duplicated across Africa.
The Awards Ceremony
Sometimes politicians, CEOs, and otherwise stiff-lipped professionals need to let loose too. At the Global awards ceremony, musical artists set the crowd on fire, especially Benin singer Angelique Kidjo. Belting out rhythmic African songs, Kidjo climbed down from the stage to get the audience singing. Sister Rosemary, a Ugandan nun at president Clinton’s table, waved her hands over her head as Clinton sang along. At one point Kidjo passed the microphone to Mexican billionaire businessman Carlos Slim, who gave the ceremony a taste of his vocal cords. Not bad.