Michelle Obama Urges Non-Profits to Hire Military Veterans
At the closing plenary of the Clinton Global Initiative, President Obama ceded the spotlight to First Lady Michelle Obama, who called upon non-profit leaders in the audience to hire military veterans and spouses.
"That passion for serving, that commitment to helping others, doesn't just disappear when [veterans] return to civilian life," Mrs. Obama said. "For these folks, service is the air they breathe. It is the reason they were put on this Earth. ... They want to make their whole life a tour of duty."
Obama also spoke about the unrecognized skills of military wives, and suggested they would be an asset in the international humanitarian sector--especially in post-disaster zones--because of their emotional resilience.
But military families often have trouble transitioning to civilian life. "Sixty-one percent of employers say they don't understand the skills our veterans have to offer," Mrs. Obama said. "So often veterans find themselves under-utilized...or out of work for months on end."
Unemployment, which is near 10 percent, is a key mid-term election issue.
"I'm asking you to reach out and engage our veterans and military spouses," Obama said. "Take advantage of their talent, their dedication, and their experience. ... I'm not asking you to do this out of the goodness of your heart, do it because it's good for your bottom line and the success of your organization."
President Obama Praises His Wife, Hillary Clinton at CGI
President Obama said very little during his brief appearance at CGI Thursday, mostly joking about his marriage and the Clinton's marriage.
Bill Clinton "knows what it's like to be married to someone who is smart, somebody who's better looking, somebody who's just all around more impressive than you are," Obama said. "This is not news to people. since Michelle and I first started dating 22 years ago, pretty much everybody I know who's met her comes up to me and says you know Barack, you're great and I like you, but you know, your wife is really something."
The president continued, "I'm grateful that Michelle, so far at least, has not run for any offices I've been running for. She would beat me thoroughly."
Introducing the first lady—whom he called "the best mother I know"—Obama praised his wife for confining her interest in politics to "who we're helping" as opposed to "who's ahead in the polls."
Haitian President Honors Wyclef Jean at CGI, Pleads for More Aid
Haitian President Rene Preval appeared at the Clinton Global Initiative Thursday alongside erstwhile candidate Wyclef Jean, the Haitian-American musician.
Jean announced in August that he would run to succeed Preval as president, triggering widespread ridicule. Jean's charity, Yele Haiti, has been criticized for financial improprieties. Furthermore, Jean was never eligible to run, because he is not a resident of the island nation.
Standing next to Jean, Preval said, "Haitians love their country. Wyclef made the plight of Haiti visible before the earthquake. He carries love of his country in his heart, and that is why I have made him a Goodwill Ambassador. He has pleaded for the Haitian cause ... He presented our case before the Congress, and the HOPE legislation will help us to export textiles to the United States and create many more jobs."
Preval's term ends in February 2011. He is not eligible to run for reelection. He told the CGI audience they should continue to open their wallets for Haiti. "What we need is international aid...public investment in infrastructure, roads, electricity," he said, speaking in French through a translator. "And we need private investment in order to create jobs."
Preval lavishly praised President Clinton for his longterm interest in Haiti, noting that Bill and Hillary took their honeymoon in the country. Preval kept his political comments short: "We will have our elections in November, and we must have a legitimate government. The rebuilding of the country will not be possible without a legitimate government."
Clinton said philanthropists should work with NGOs and government to enroll 100 percent of Haitian children in school. Currently, only 45 percent of children attend school. The same percent of adults are literate.
— Dana Goldstein
Ashton Kutcher’s Emancipation Proclamation
Arianna Huffington headed up a panel discussion on “Democracy and Voice” Thursday morning, featuring the actor Ashton Kutcher, who is notoriously rambunctious but was instead insistently serious; he elicited some junior-high titters only when he implored people to “get off their asses and do something” about human trafficking and sex slavery, his cause célèbre with wife Demi Moore.
Kutcher seemed highly skeptical of traditional media in his speech, suggesting that the issue “doesn’t generate profits” and thus does not receive adequate coverage. (However unintentionally, Kutcher drew attention to his recent personal problems with the tabloids.) He hailed Lady Gaga for her guerrilla efforts to draw attention to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
Immediately after the panel, Kutcher held a press conference with Moore to announce the couple’s new advocacy effort, “Real Men Don’t Buy Girls." He compared the efforts to end human trafficking to the abolition of slavery in America, drawing the parallel as far as Wednesday’s 148th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation. “This,” he said of the couple’s cause, “is about people treating each other like people.”
Over the course of the morning, Kutcher and Moore unleashed a barrage of facts:
-Of the top 100 moguls, 90 percent are white males over the age of 40.
-Of the top 100 tweeters, 30 percent are women, and 30 percent are African American.
-264 people on Twitter have 1 million-plus followers. (Kutcher had 5,832,167 at the time of this posting.)
-80 percent of the world’s slaves are women.
-There are 27 million slaves in the world today, “more than ever before in history.”
-The average age of entry into the sex trade is 13 years.
-76 percent of underage girls are trafficked online.
-One in five men have engaged in commercial sex trade.
In closing, Kutcher used his “ass” line, and the press gamely giggled.
- Claire Howorth
What to Watch on Day 3
There’s one last day to go at the thought-provoking (and exhausting!) Clinton Global Initiative here in New York. Today’s theme is technology, and Ashton Kutcher, Arianna Huffington, Nick Kristof, and Cherie Blair will be speaking.
· 9 a.m: Enhancing access to technology. A panel of CEOs, including Twitter founder Jack Dorsey, discuss how the world’s coolest tech tools can serve the neediest people.
· 10:30 a.m: Democracy through technology. All-stars Nick Kristof, Arianna Huffington, and Ashton Kutcher will discuss how technology gives voice to the voiceless, alongside exiled Iranian journalist Omid Memarian and U.S. Undersecretary of State for Global Affairs Maria Otero.
· 2 p.m: Haiti’s recovery. Bill Clinton will check up on the island nation’s progress alongside Haitian President Rene Preval, World Economic Forum founder Klaus Schwab, and a group of CEOs working in the region.
· 4 p.m: The Obamas arrive. Bill Clinton, President Obama, Michelle Obama, and Bill Gates will all make closing remarks on the future of international aid and philanthropy.
Bill Clinton defends Obama’s Economic Record, Calls for More StimulusSeptember 22, 2010 | 6:55pm
Bill Clinton defended President Barack Obama’s economic policies Wednesday in a conversation with CNBC’s Maria Bartiromo at the Clinton Global Initiative.
Clinton said Obama’s stimulus package had stemmed the economic blood loss, even though a record number of Americans are now living in poverty, and that the best way to improve the economy further would be through more stimulus spending, preferably focused on job training for unemployed workers.
“For the first time since World War II, posted job openings… are going up twice as fast as new hires,” Clinton said. He floated the idea of the federal government providing states with stimulus money to train the unemployed, focusing on local industries unable to fill open positions.
Clinton also supported Obama’s efforts to repeal the Bush tax cuts for those with incomes over $250,000, the top 2 percent of American earners. “I’d love to give up my tax cut as long as I knew it was going to train unemployed workers to go back to work quicker,” Clinton said.
FDIC Chairwoman Sheila Bair also participated in the conversation, along with Dow Chemical CEO Andrew Liveris and Standard Chartered Bank CEO Peter Sands.
The key to improving the private sector’s confidence and encouraging lending is clarity on both national and international government regulations, Sands said.
Liveris advocated for better instruction in math, engineering, and science in American schools. “It’s this country that has atrophied science and technology, and shame on us,” he said. It is especially important to get young women interested in technical fields, Clinton added. “Young women have abilities in this area equal to men. They get cultural messages.”
Bloomberg and Bush Women Steal the ShowSeptember 22, 2010 | 3:45pm
Over chicken entrees and $10 bottles of Merlot and Chardonnay, CGI guests listened to an afternoon plenary featuring President Clinton, Mike Bloomberg, Laura Bush, Queen Rania, and a surprise appearance by Bush twins Jenna and Barbara, who were filling in for Shakira.
Clinton introduced Bloomberg as “not only one of the best mayors in the world, but also one of the finest social entrepreneurs.” Bloomberg returned the admiration, saying, “Bill deserves the applause,” and gushing at being able to call his “friend the president” by his first name.
Bloomberg announced a coming decade of traffic awareness, stating some frightening statistics—the equivalent of the population of Dallas, Texas, dies every year in car accidents, which threaten to overtake AIDS and tuberculosis in fatality rates.
Clinton showed some signs of fatigue, vocally faltering at several points during his introduction of Valentino Achak Deng, the Southern Sudan advocate whose life story was the basis for Dave Eggers’ What is the What. (Eggers was in the audience.) Clinton regained his composure and told a few jokes.
Queen Rania spoke of her newborn charity, 1Goal, which uses a handful of celebrities—Jessica Alba, Matt Damon—to reach out to the world’s millions of soccer fans and promote education.
The Bush women stole the show, however, doing their best to make the Democratic-leaning crowd forget any hangover from the George W. Bush years. Jenna Hager, currently a public school teacher in West Baltimore and Today show correspondent, spoke about how early marriage is a catalyst for poverty and maternal health problems in developing countries.
- Claire Howorth
Bush Twins’ Surprise AppearanceSeptember 22, 2010 | 3:14pm
In a surprise appearance, Laura Bush took the stage with her daughters Jenna Hager and Barbara Bush; the twins were an unannounced replacement for singer Shakira, who could not attend at the last minute. "We replaced one smart, beautiful woman with two smart beautiful women," said Al Jazeera journalist and panel moderator Riz Khan, as he introduced Hager (he dropped her maiden name) and Barbara. Mother Bush recently reached across the aisle, making a 9/11 appearance with Michelle Obama in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
Hager addressed the issue of early marriage in developing countries, which, she said, was a catalyst for poverty and maternal health problems. Barbara spoke of promoting health in developing countries and of her philanthropic background with UNICEF before starting her own foundation, The Barbara Bush Foundation for Literacy.
- Claire Howorth
Cancer's Unequal BurdenSeptember 22, 2010 | 1:25pm
In Mexico, some women avoid mammograms because of fear their husbands will leave them if they are diagnosed with breast cancer, still a deeply stigmatized disease in many parts of the world.
In Haiti, there is one oncologist; in Rwanda, zero. “What there’s a lot of is cancer,” said Partners in Health founder Paul Farmer.
Indeed, cancer is often thought of as a first-world disease, while HIV, tuberculosis, and malaria ravage poorer countries. But the developing world is expected to bear 70 percent of the cancer burden in coming decades, up from 56 percent today.
"We're going to have to knock this disease off one individual at a time," said cyclist, testicular cancer survivor, and advocate Lance Armstrong.
A high-profile panel at the Clinton Global Initiative Wednesday afternoon fought back against the idea that philanthropic anti-cancer efforts for the poor should focus on prevention instead of more equitably distributing the most advanced, expensive treatments.
“The most pressing problem…is lack of access to modern medical care. Poor people are kind of getting shafted,” Farmer said. He used the example of cervical cancer: There is a vaccine, Gardasil, that can prevent some cases of the disease, and regular gynecological exams can detect it early enough to successfully treat it. But hundreds of millions of women around the world have access to neither.
HRH Princess Dina Mired of Jordan, who heads a cancer foundation, spoke about her own young son’s battle with leukemia. Even as a person of wealth and influence, “I had to come to the United States to give my son a chance to live … We have women from Sudan begging for treatment for their children,” she said.
The Middle East does not have a cord blood bank—a way for parents to preserve their baby’s umbilical cord blood, which contains stem cells and can later be used to treat some genetic disorders and cancers.
“My son was saved by the sheer chance that my daughter happened to be a good [bone marrow] match,” Mired said.
Paul Farmer concluded, "We need a global fund for cancer care"—an international body to organize efforts to beat the disease in the developing world.
- Dana Goldstein
Women Inmates Still Shackled During Childbirth in 40 StatesSeptember 22, 2010 | 11:50am
One of the leaders in the fight to shut down the Craigslist adult services section, Rebecca Project founder Malika Saada Saar, spoke at the Clinton Global Initiative Wednesday about efforts to end the practice of shackling female prisoners during labor and childbirth.
Advocates worked with the Department of Justice to successfully end the practice in federal prisons in 2008, but in 40 states, prisons still shackle women inmates’ hands, legs, or even torsos during childbirth.
The practice is well outside international norms, Saada Saar told The Daily Beast. “We did receive some information that it had been done for a period of time in England and was stopped. We have not been able to find documentation of it happening elsewhere.”
While American infants born to inmates are typically taken away from their mothers and placed immediately in kinship or foster care, internationally, babies often live with their mothers inside prisons—a controversial practice due to varying conditions within the facilities. But Saada Saar said recent research within the U.S. suggests “what’s most important is the mother-child attachment. It doesn’t matter where that attachment is formed. Internationally that bond between mother and child is honored and yet in the U.S., it is not necessarily honored.”
Saada Saar said there is little evidence that birthing women present a threat to medical staff. Many are “simply suffering from untreated addiction and should be in a health system, not a criminal justice context,” she added.
- Dana Goldstein
Tom Friedman: Obama Era Will Be About Cutting Social BenefitsSeptember 22, 2010 | 10:27am
In conversation with White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett, New York Times columnist Tom Friedman—(in)famous for advancing Big Ideas about how the world works—said the Obama era would be defined by government rescinding, not granting, social benefits.
“For the last 50 years, to be a leader in politics or business has been, on balance, to give things away to people. I believe we’re entering another 50 years where to be a leader, on balance, will be to take things away from people,” Friedman said.
“Yet the needs are more manifest than ever and more urgent than ever. Therefore, [there is] the necessity of forging market-based initiatives and solutions that start from the ground up and have two critical factors to them: that they have scale and they be self-sustaining.”
Obama’s record so far seems, at least partly, to dispute Friedman's theory. His stimulus package gave away nearly $800 billion, while his health-care reform program aims to expand insurance coverage to over 30 million people while ultimately reducing the federal deficit. Whether such large-scale stimulus spending can continue depends in large part on the results of this November’s mid-term Congressional elections.
Jarrett didn’t dispute Freidman’s premises. “We shouldn’t look at [social spending] as granting money away,” she said. “It should be an investment that should attract private dollars.”
An example of such an Obama program is the Social Innovation Fund, a small $50 million federal program to help midsize, effective non-profits scale-up. Grant winners are required to match the federal money with private sector philanthropic contributions. Similar programs are housed within the Department of Education and Department of Energy, but none of them have the immense scale of the federal anti-poverty efforts of past eras, such as Medicare, Social Security, or the Works Progress Administration.
- Dana Goldstein
Today at CGI: Day 2September 22, 2010 | 1:02am
We’re back for another day of live coverage from the Clinton Global Initiative in New York. Wednesday’s theme is how to get business on board with transformative social change. Here are some highlights, with guest appearances by Lance Armstrong, Jim Carrey, and Laura Bush:
• 9 a.m.: How can the private market better serve the public good? Why has the private sector been so bad at sharing wealth with those who need it most—and can global interdependence overcome centuries of greed? New York Times columnist Tom Friedman, a forceful defender of globalization, will discuss the issue with White House senior adviser (and rumored next chief of staff) Valerie Jarrett, along with a group of CEOs.
• 10:30 a.m.: Pulling back the curtain on corporate supply chains. From poor working conditions to environmental degradation to horrors such as human trafficking, companies have a responsibility to examine the ethics of their global supply chains. Business leaders discuss the issue with Jane Nelson, director of the Corporate Responsibility Initiative at Harvard’s Kennedy School.
• Noon: Cancer in the developing world: Advocate and survivor Lance Armstrong will discuss how cancer ravages the less fortunate and how we can help. Joining him will be Partners in Health founder Paul Farmer and CNN doc Sanjay Gupta.
• 2 p.m.: Educating tomorrow’s work force. Former first lady (and school librarian) Laura Bush will join international journalists and businesspeople to discuss battling unemployment through better education and training.
• 3:30 p.m.: Empowering small farmers. Who knew actor Jim Carrey was a philanthropist interested in raising the income of small family farmers around the world? He’ll discuss the issue of Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack.
• 5 p.m.: How to revive America’s economy? President Clinton will address the question on everyone’s mind, alongside FDIC chair Sheila Bair and the CEOs of Dow chemical and Standard Chartered Bank.
- Dana Goldstein
The Top 3 Ideas from CGI Day 1September 21, 2010 | 5:28pm
Here are the ideas inspiring us after the first dynamic day at the Clinton Global Initiative.
· Contribute $10 to United Nations flood-relief efforts in Pakistan by texting SWAT to the number 50555 (from Richard Holbrooke, U.S. Special Representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan).
· Lobby for the U.S. to institute a longer school day, spending the extra time focusing on academic, artistic, and social enrichment for kids. “We have one of the shortest school days in the industrialized world,” said Harlem Children’s Zone founder Geoffrey Canada. “No one thinks, if the kids are all failing, maybe we should work a little longer to see if they succeed?”
· Talk to a young woman in your life about the challenges facing girls in the developing world, including widespread sexual violence and lack of access to school. Find out how to start the conversation at Girl Up. In the words of former president Bill Clinton, we need to speak more openly about “women not yet having equal status with men, girls not having equal status with boys in the minds and hearts of people in cultures throughout the world."
Check back for more CGI coverage tomorrow!
- Dana Goldstein
Ashley Judd Takes on Hillary’s Rape in the Congo Record September 21, 2010 | 5:00pm
The actress and women’s health activist Ashley Judd had harsh words Tuesday for Hillary Clinton at the Clinton Global Initiative, the conference hosted by the secretary of State’s husband.
Speaking about the gang rape epidemic in Congo, which has affected nearly 5 million women and girls over the past 15 years, Judd said, “There is a lot of disappointment in the wake of the secretary of State’s  trip [to Congo] because so many people feel she didn’t hear exactly what they were saying to her, that the solutions include economic, political, and judicial reform.”
Congo activists complain the Obama administration has not been tough enough on Rwanda, whose militias are accused of perpetrating ethnic violence and rape over the border in the DRC.
Judd said she met one mother in Eastern Congo who was gang raped three times—twice by the Rwandan militia FDLR, and once by Congolese soldiers. Suffering from a torn fistula, the woman’s husband eventually left her. Judd also spoke about Congolese children who had been raped.
Daily Beast Editor-in-Chief Tina Brown, who moderated the panel discussion on women’s security, responded, “I’m the mother of a 19-year-old girl. How privileged our girls are here is something we should all think about and also talk to our daughters about.”
Another panelist, Richard Holbrooke, the State Department Special Representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan, criticized the U.S. military for not doing enough to teach Afghan police trainees that sexual violence is unacceptable.
“When I took this job, nowhere in the police training curriculum was anything about respecting women, and one of the biggest abusers are the police, who are also very corrupt,” Holbrooke said.
But he also warned that too much meddling with sexist gender norms could lead to local resentment. “If the United States…were to link its aid to changing the social structure, we’d be out of business. Our first job is saving the women and children,” he said. “If we tamper with ingrained deep cultural issues at the same time, we’re going to lose both issues. We’ve got to focus on rescue, recovery, and preventing the spread of disease first.”
To that end, Holbrooke urged the audience to donate to the United Nations' flood relief efforts in Pakistan. He displayed a map of the U.S. with a yellow oval superimposed over a landmass stretching from the Canadian border to Florida—equal in size to the geographic area affected by Pakistan’s flooding.
Holbrooke called the crisis “the greatest humanitarian disaster in our lives,” affecting the health, homes, and livelihoods of more than 20 million people. He said the public was tuned out because there had been fewer deaths than in the Haiti earthquake or Asian tsunami.
Panelist Gary Cohen, executive vice president of BD, the medical supplies company, said his firm's corporate philanthropy working to protect girls from sexual violence is driven not only by humanitarianism, but also by business smarts. "It’s a human rights issue, but it’s also an economic issue,” Cohen said, adding that traumatized women or those with HIV/AIDS are often unable to become productive breadwinners and consumers.
Brown closed the panel with a call to “please emphasize the narrative”—real-life stories of women and girls living in the midst of what she called “a medieval horror show that is still raging on.”
- Dana Goldstein
Hillary on Fire About Clean Cookstoves September 21, 2010 | 4:02pm
As Secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton normally deals with trillion-dollar problems—Iraq, Afghanistan, the Israeli-Palestinian troubles, nuclear proliferation in North Korea and Iran.
So it was surprising Tuesday afternoon to see her focus all her considerable talent and energy—to say nothing of the power of the United States government—on clean cookstoves.
With the sort of fanfare normally reserved for peace in our time, Clinton announced the Clean Cookstove Global Alliance—to which the U.S. government pledges to contribute $50 million over the next 10 years. If that doesn’t sound, in this day and age, like real money, the goal is to raise a total of $250 million from other governments, businesses, and foundations.
“As we meet here in New York, women are cooking dinner for their families,” Hillary Clinton told hundreds of participants in the Clinton Global Initiative, as her husband, the former president, listened with an awestruck expression on his face. “As many as three billion people are gathering around open fires or old and inefficient stoves in small kitchens, poorly ventilated houses.”
Shockingly, it turns out that these primitive cooking methods are killing two million people a year, many of them children under 5 years old, who are breathing dangerous toxins—“about 200 times the amount that our own EPA considers safe for breathing”—and causing pneumonia, lung cancer, and other respiratory diseases.
“The next time you sit down with your own families,” she urged the well-heeled crowd at the New York Sheraton, “please take a moment to imagine the smell of smoke. Feel it in your lungs. See the soot building up on the walls. And then come find us at the Global Alliance.”
After the speech, Melanne Verveer, U.S. ambassador-at-large for global women’s issues and Hillary’s longtime friend and confidante, conceded that the secretary has much bigger fish to fry. But she added that the lack of clean cookstoves is an important international development problem, and solving it will have a lasting impact on the environment and health.
“This is a health issue,” Verveer said in an interview with The Daily Beast. “Health has been a longtime issue of hers.”
Any truth to the occasional speculation, Verveer was asked, that Clinton might be persuaded to leave the State Department to become President Obama’s running mate in 2012?
“That’s you in the press,” Verveer scoffed. “She does the job that she has accepted. She’s going forward to continue to be as engaged as she is. And I think, by all accounts, most people think she’s doing a very good job.”
Verveer, who was Clinton’s chief of staff when she was first lady and also a key player in her 2008 presidential campaign, added: “I can’t speak for her. She says she’s finished with politics. She has said that she does not intend to run. I can only repeat what she has said. I don’t have any other information. As far as we’re all concerned, she’s secretary of State.”
- Lloyd Grove
Liberian President: Women Are Superior to MenSeptember 21, 2010 | 2:52pm
With all the talk at the Clinton Global Initiative about mobilizing the private sector in service of the public good, it can be easy to forget just how fundamental legal rights really are. Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the first female African head of state, spoke powerfully Tuesday about the necessity of government reform on behalf of women in the developing world, where rape and domestic violence are often not considered crimes.
"Rape is now a crime," she said in conversation with Katie Couric and Queen Rania. "It’s something we’re going to maintain. Men’s lawyers say no, it’s an infringement on rights."
She continued, "We established a special court to be able to deal with violence against women, a special unit in the Ministry of Justice."
Johnson Sirleaf noted that most of Liberia's productive farms are managed by women, but that female farmers risk rape and harassment when they leave home to bring goods to market. Some are able to avoid this hard choice by selling their produce directly to the World Food Programme, which picks it up locally.
"Women are much more conscious and much more dedicated in working the land," Johnson Sirleaf said. "The men would rather just play drums."
- Dana Goldstein
Richard Holbrooke on the Greatest Humanitarian Disaster in Our LivesSeptember 21, 2010 | 5:53pm
To Richard Holbrooke, the U.S. Special Representative to Pakistan and Afghanistan, the gravity of the Pakistani floods cannot be hammered home enough. Since the monsoon floods came in late July, some 21 million people have been left homeless and 2,000 more have died. So on Tuesday afternoon, he unequivocally called it “The greatest humanitarian disaster in our lives.”
“The tsunami, the Haiti earthquake, and the 2005 earthquake in Pakistan combined and more,” he added. “More people affected, more long-term economic and political consequences. The only area where it’s not as bad as the previous three mentioned disasters is lives lost. And that’s because the Pakistanis did a pretty good job of evacuating people.”
Sitting in front of a map of the flooding area superimposed on the U.S., Holbrooke showed that it would span from the Canadian border to Florida. And the situation could soon get worse. In some parts of the country, the water is still rising, nearly two months after the floods began. In others, it has begun receding, but that only brings a fresh set of problems.
“A staggering amount of money is necessary in the early phases,” Holbrooke said.
- Josh Robinson
Geoffrey Canada Vows to Fire Bad TeachersSeptember 21, 2010 | 1:34pm
Harlem Children’s Zone founder Geoffrey Canada spoke bluntly about overhauling the teaching profession at the Clinton Global Initiative Tuesday, and was greeted with whoops and cheers from the crowd, a mix of political, corporate, and philanthropic elites.
“Here’s something that absolutely needs to be changed,” Canada said. “I believe that if you’re a terrible teacher, you should be fired. I know, it sounds harsh. People are thinking, ‘Oh my God.’”
The issues of teacher tenure and pay are increasingly under a public microscope. Earlier this year, the Obama administration’s Race to the Top education grant competition rewarded stimulus funds to states that agreed to tie teacher evaluations and salaries to student achievement on standardized tests.
A new education reform documentary, Waiting for 'Superman', opens this Friday, and largely blames the achievement gap between middle class and poor children on teachers’ unions protection of poor performers. The documentary elides other problems in American education, such as increasing racial and socioeconomic segregation and the lack of a national curriculum. And while the film cites Finland’s schools as the best in the world, it does not mention teachers there are unionized and awarded tenure. Instead, director Davis Guggenheim, of An Inconvenient Truth, focuses mostly on the successes of a small group of non-unionized and high-performing charter schools, which admit students through competitive lotteries.
Canada referenced the controversy over Waiting for 'Superman' Tuesday, and tried to find common ground. “One group in America wants to talk about [the Harlem Children’s Zone] as a charter network, and the other group wants to talk about the fact that we provide comprehensive services to children. And these two groups are at war. It’s really a war. They hate each other!”
Canada explained that the Harlem Children’s Zone includes both charter schools and intensive community outreach that begins with expectant parents who attend Baby College, a course and support group where they learn about the latest neuroscience on how children learn and develop.
“If you want to end poverty in America, you have to do more than just do schools,” Canada said. “You have to improve outcomes for an entire community.”
- Dana Goldstein
Bill Clinton Says America Should Be Like FinlandSeptember 21, 2010 | 11:42am
America should be more like tiny, social democratic Finland, former President Bill Clinton said at the opening plenary of his Clinton Global Initiative conference in New York Tuesday.
“This is probably one of the only political things I’ll say all week,” Clinton noted as he introduced Finnish President Tarja Halonen. “I’m hoping that if we’re not living in a totally evidence-free world, some of the things she says will demonstrate that every successful country in the 21st century has both an excellent private sector and government.”
Clinton said some Americans want to cut government—a not so veiled reference to the Tea Party and GOP—but that an effective public sector is necessary to support non-profits and businesses. “Our friends in Finland have done a pretty admirable job,” he continued.
Finland has universal low-cost or free government-provided health care, daycare, and nursery school. Universities are tuition-free, and the federal government provides college students with living stipends during their studies. Finland's education system is rated the best in the world by the OECD.
CGI opened with a focus on disaster regions, including post-flood Pakistan, post-earthquake Haiti, and the American Gulf Coast. Clinton introduced corporate donors supporting recovery projects in each region.
Former Irish President Mary Robinson then introduced donors working to close down landfills in the developing world.
“If you want to fight climate change, improve public health, find new sources of wealth for poor people…the closest thing to a silver bullet is closing all the landfills in the cities,” Clinton said, explaining that landfill glass and plastic can be recycled for money, while organic trash can become soil, fuel, or be compacted to make electricity.
“Almost every landfill is a goldmine, which is why so many poor people scavenge in them,” he said.
- Dana Goldstein