The conference opened with former President Clinton welcoming the more than 50 current and former heads of state who are attending. He gave a short talk explaining that the idea of the conference is an attempt to tackle big global challenges in bite-sized pieces, and asked the attendees for promises to take action. He pointed out that some projects with smaller budgets can have a very large impact, and that beyond just money pledges of time and talent can have an impact, too.
President Clinton then introduced First Lady Laura Bush, who spoke about global education and literacy – and had a big announcement.
Mrs. Bush talked about the goals shared by people in every country – the desire to have a better life for them and their families. Poverty, lack of education, endemic diseases have kept people from achieving their desires. She outlined different programs the US government is engaged in, including schools and teacher training for women in Afghanistan, malaria programs, and AIDs relief in 120 countries.
Then she announced a new public-private alliance to address the problem of lack of clean drinking water in Africa and other regions called Play Pumps. These are children’s merry-go-rounds that are also pumps, pumping water out of wells, “fueled by a limitless energy source.” Children playing brings up clean water. This program is funded in an alliance with Steve Case’s Case Foundation and Ray Chambers’ MCJ Foundation.
Immediately following these opening proceedings there was a panel on Urgent Issues and Innovative Solutions.