Beyond Peace in the Middle East at CGI

The Clinton Global Initiative this year was a place where politics converged with philanthropy. Since inception, this venue has been the change agent for philanthropic work throughout the world. The commitments made have been massive and have provided millions worldwide with clean drinking water, mosquito nets, eye glasses, vaccines, and education– among many others. This Foundation can be credited for ushering in new social philanthropic models involving private industry, the wealthy and government working together with non-profit organizations.
Remarkably, the topics at CGI this year spanned Empowering Girls and Women (see the prior post) to market-based solutions, clean tech, jobs, manufacturing and world peace. What an extraordinary venue it was where the participants could experience a panel with the Crown Prince and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Kingdom of Bahrain, Prime Minister of the Palestinian National Authority, and the President of Israel discussing rebuilding the region after peace. Where else and with whom else other than former President Bill Clinton – could one see and hear such a constellation of world thinkers cutting across the issues of our time. Many of us bloggers, writers and journalist bustle through the high security and put up with the fanfare –just to be inspired and sustained for the coming year.
It was a rare gift from the universe to be able to hear the Middle East session up close. It is curious that there was not enormous media coverage of this landmark discussion because all the bad stuff gets air time. Even CNN’s Fareed Zakaria this Sunday morning did not mention it. Rather he focused on the fabricated photograph of the President of Egypt from the White House for the Arab press. It is perplexing because here sat the leaders of those enmeshed in the real peace talks. In this small room, they and former President Clinton were talking gracefully with one another about rebuilding the region. Only the former President could command such authority and respect. Remember, it was Bill Clinton that attempted peace between Israel Prime Minister, Yitzhak Rabin and Palestine Liberation Organization Chairman Yasser Arafat so long ago. It was that fateful handshake on the White House lawn that in many ways led to the assignation of Rabin. And it is now Madame Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that is officiating the peace talks today. Perhaps this is a forbearing for things to come later this year. If they can talk peaceably in front of Bill Clinton, maybe there is hope for a just and final resolution. Few of us get to see our dreams come to fruition, but it appears that the Clintons both have long reach, big memories and staying power. All this woman can say is – may it be.

Rebuilding America. Is Bill Clinton Up for the Fight?

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The US and the economy were for the first time a big focus at the Clinton Global Initiative meeting last week in New York City. Hallelujah! The former President hinted at an effort to get the unemployed back to work and retrained for the new and emerging jobs. Of course, Tom Friedman from the New York Times showed up with a lofty panel of experts, and there were sessions on new market-based solutions, worldwide manufacturing and clean tech. Admittedly, there was a discussion on “Robust Job Creation in the United States.” The former President did address the issues of small business, manufacturing and clean energy. There was a panel where players such as Wal-Mart, Timberlake and others discussed the in overhauling their operations to reduce carbon emissions and create jobs. And there was the tireless work of Laurene Powell Jobs together with her co-founder Carlos Watson at College Track that has been working for over a decade to change the lives of under privileged youth by keeping them in school and preparing them for college.
So why not have Bill Clinton turn his full attention to rebuilding America? Obama’s not doing it so what the heck? Call it whatever you want to, but just do it. Bring together all of the Laurene Powell Jobs with those like Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook. Mark put his money where it mattered – the City of Newark, New Jersey’s inner city public schools, a place close to my heart. Consider the results, if the Clinton Global Initiative took a year or two to turn their full force to rebuild this country, not some third world country. We need the likes of Clinton to mobilize, incentivize and give us comfort as the Tea Party rains empty sound and fury rhetoric down on our heads. Who better? To heck with those who do not believe it is politically expedient!.
Bill Clinton gets it because if the US is broken, it will derail all of his global initiatives and we would not want that. If we can’t get it done in Congress (and we cannot), then we must forge new public/private partnerships. The former President hinted at an effort, like the WPA (Works Progress Administration), in which people went back to work to rebuild the infrastructure of this country. In fact, the WPA was the largest agency of the New Deal employing and feeding millions. Who knows why the White House isn’t using an Executive Order to start such a public works program instead of fighting about extending unemployment benefits.
I like my fellow blogger Yotta Point believe that there is work to be done on the domestic front that could leverage the infrastructure of a CGI-like effort. It will take a village to start the hard work of rebuilding this country, and it must be done brick by brick. Indeed we are falling behind the world in terms of education, math and science, and qualified job applicants for the next generation of jobs. The call to action is to make this happen. Instead of being one of the many threads at the annual convening of CGI – this could become the sole focus, or at least an independent focus, to repair America for the next few years. We might make it happen if Clinton and his mighty Foundation marshal their forces to rebuild this country’s economy, and heal the social fabric. Instead of rage rallies and tea, the best and brightest could come together for public discourse, and problem solving in CGI-like forums. CNN and the other broadcasters cannot do, and there are few other outlets capable of something of this magnitude.
Mr. Clinton, we need your global initiative to become local. After all, we’ve got Madame Secretary watching over the world from the State Department for the next few years. The people of this country are in big trouble. Help us think globally and act locally.
Note: originally posted on the Huffington Post, “Clinton’s Global Initiative Gets Local.”

Next Week I Blog From The Clinton Global Initiative

Next week I will be in New York to blog from the Clinton Global Initiative, as I have done from two previous CGIs. I’ll be blogging for Social Edge. Take a look at my first post there, and stop in there to see what’s up. I will also be updating Seeing the Forest.
This will be a VERY interesting event, as it takes place with so many world and business leaders attending during the current turmoil in the financial world — and at the same time as the annual United Nations General Assembly.
I received this in my email:

The following are among those who have confirmed their attendance at the 2008 CGI Annual Meeting: Queen Rania Al-Abdullah (Jordan), Prime Minister Gordon Brown (UK), President Felipe Calderón Hinojosa (Mexico), President Leonel Fernández (Dominican Republic), President Armando Guebuza (Mozambique), President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf (Liberia), President Paul Kagame (Rwanda), President Hamid Karzai (Afghanistan), President Shimon Peres (Israel), Prime Minister Kevin Rudd (Australia), President Jalal Talabani (Iraq), UN Secretary Genereal Ban Ki-moon, former Prime Minister Tony Blair (UK), former President Ernesto Zedillo (Mexico), former Vice President Al Gore (United States), Senator John McCain (Arizona), Senator Barack Obama (Illinois), Mayor Bill White (Houston), former Senator Bill Frist (Tennessee), Jacques Aigrain (Swiss Re), Muhammad Ali (Athletes for Hope), Bradbury Anderson (Best Buy), Lance Armstrong (Lance Armstrong Foundation), Craig Barrett (Intel), Maria Bartiromo (CNBC), Bono (ONE), Tom Brokaw (NBC News), Lester Brown (Earth Policy Institute), John Chambers (Cisco), Peter Chernin (News Corporation), Former Army General Wesley Clark (UCLA’s Burkle Center for International Relations; Emergya Wind Technologies, BV), Ian Davis (McKinsey & Company), Paul Farmer (Partners in Health), Bill Gates, Bob Geldof, David Gergen (Harvard University), Neville Isdell (The Coca-Cola Company), Wyclef Jean (Yéle Haiti), Ashley Judd, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. (Riverkeeper Alliance; NRDC), Anne Lauvergeon (Areva), Wangari Maathai (Green Belt Movement, Kenya), Amre Moussa (League of Arab States), Dikembe Mutombo (Dikembe Mutombo Foundation), R.K. Pachauri (TERI), T. Boone Pickens (BP Capital), Victor Pinchuk (The Victor Pinchuk Foundation), Carl Pope (Sierra Club), Judith Rodin (Rockefeller Foundation), Robert Rubin (Citi), Joseph Saunders (Visa Inc), Josette Sheeran (World Food Programme), Dominique Strauss-Kahn (IMF), Barbara Streisand (The Streisand Foundation), Myron Ullman (J.C. Penny’s), Ann Veneman (UNICEF), and Muhammad Yunus (Grameen Bank).
Both United States presidential candidates will have a role in the Annual Meeting. Senator John McCain will deliver the opening remarks live at the “Integrated Solutions: water, food and energy” plenary session. Senator Barack Obama will address meeting participants via satellite.

2007 Clinton Global Initiative

I am in New York where I will be blogging, beginning tomorrow, from the 2007 Clinton Global Initiative. I will be blogging for Social Edge, and you can read my posts there. I have an introductory post up already – and last year’s posts are still up. I’ll be cross-posting some of my posts here, but visit the Social Edge blog for the rest.