The Clinton Global Initiative is the largest global telethon for good causes the world has yet witnessed. Unless you are a well connected blogger or “friend of Bill (or Hillary)”, the expense to attend is high — not only financially but in the robustness of the attendee’s “commitment” to some project or effort that will improve the lot of mankind.
I’m here in New York now listening to former President Clinton open this year’s session. Bill Clinton knows he is a big global player, and I think it is great that he is focusing his celebrity status and ability to be one of the world’s best global conveners on fixing various global problems.
Clinton just said that there are three things that unite the people in the room and those watching by webcast:
“First, our common humanity is more important than our interesting differences.” “Most conflict,” Clinton said, “is usually a result of people thinking that there differences are more important then their common humanity.”
“Second, we all accept our shared responsibility for correcting the current challenges in the world — and passing on a better world to our children.”
“Third, the people here think we can do it.”
There are 1300 Clinton Global Initiative members here today. Each has paid more than $15,000 just to get in the door — which is only the beginning of other substantial financial “do good” projects a member must commit to.
So far, there have been more than 600 commitments made at previous CGI meetings — and now, the Clinton Global Initiative has launched a new site for people not at this meeting to propose and declare their commitments. The site is called MyCommitment.org. Interesting idea actually. Inspirational for those looking to feel connected to a larger network of socially concerned people and groups.
I just met CGI Communications Director Ben Yarrow who said that although they “don’t want to be the philanthropy police,” folks just can’t come in, make commitments, and not fulfill them if they want to be invited back to future CGI meetings. Last year, 17 CGI commitment makers failed to follow through and were dropped from the roles. This year, there were only 5. CGI has standards.
One of the really incredible things about this meeting is that there are 52 former and current heads of state in this meeting — and about 45 of them just got introduced one by one at this opening plenary session.
Angelina Jolie is here. Hillary Clinton is not (she’s preparing for the New Hampshire debates tonight). Former Commerce Secretary Bill Daley just said hello as I walked by — and then I stumbled into former Disney CEO Michael Eisner, or maybe he stumbled into me.
Of bloggers, I’ve seen Matthew Yglesias, Ezra Klein, Brian Beutler, Blake Hounshell, and Sameer Lalwani here.
Now, we are moving to the first panel — including World Bank President Robert Zoellick, Philippines President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and Wal-Mart CEO H. Lee Scott, and surprisingly Al Gore (who still doesn’t much like the Clintons we hear) — who Bill Clinton just recognized “as perhaps the world’s leading crusader against climate change.”
— Steve Clemons