Live from the Clinton Global Initiative University at Wash U
This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Washington University is hosting the Clinton Global Initiative University this weekend, an event that's expected to bring nearly a thousand students from all over the world to the private institution.
The event is aimed at bringing some of the world’s most prominent thinkers together with hundreds of college students from around the country. Besides Bill and Chelsea Clinton, the weekend's guest roster includes Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus, Twitter founder Jack Dorsey and actress Jada Pinkett-Smith. Comedian Stephen Colbert will interview Bill Clinton on Saturday.
Check this page frequently over the weekend for running updates from the conference.
Sunday, 4:30 p.m.
For Staci Shelton, a project to stop the spread of vacant buildings requires a lot of collaboration.
Shelton, an Air Force veteran and a student at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, wants to renovate “abandoned, dilapidated and boarded-up homes in urban areas.” She wants to provide training and technical skills to the individuals sprucing up the homes, which she said may provide help with future employment.
Shelton told the Beacon that she hopes her project “will be very much a collaborative effort.” That’s especially important, she said, since combating problems with vacant properties is a big problem in the St. Louis area.
“I know I myself can’t do everything,” Shelton said. “But I’m hoping with connecting and joining hands with other organizations that will be able to tackle that… I hope in the next two years to make a dent in the amount of dilapidated and abandoned homes in St. Louis.”
Sunday, 4:23 p.m.
St. Louis University student Jeremy Goss wants to turn a discarded transit bus into a moving farmers' market.
It's a project that's not necessarily trying to jump on the "food truck" bandwagon. Rather, Goss wants to deliver fresh fruits and vegetables -- as well as nutrition education – to underserved urban areas.
“We’ll go into communities – food deserts – that don’t already have grocery stores and provide fresh, affordable food that’s also local,” said Goss. “Unfortunately it’s the case that some of these communities have gone for years at a time without grocery stores. There are children who have grown up their entire lives not having an orange.”
Goss was one of several student projects spotlighted in a press conference by Chelsea Clinton. Click on the video below to hear Goss talk more about his project – and the challenge of getting healthy food in parts of St. Louis:
Sunday, 4:15 p.m.
Washington University senior Nancy Ye is one of the masterminds behind "barbershop-based health care."
The initiative seeks to turn St. Louis barbers into peer educators explaining metabolic syndrome to their clients. Metabolic syndrome is a combination of medical maladies that increase the risk of cardovascular disease and diabetes.
"This is heavily prevalent within the African-American male population,” Ye said. “And we thought barbershops were a great way to access basic information about health care with a population that’s really at risk, because [a barbershop’s] patients or clients might not necessarily have a physician to go to on a regular basis. But they go to their barber, which is a really important person in their community.”
Ye said that barbershops are a “community place, a gathering place.” And that makes them a natural locale to provide more information about the disease.
“It’s more than a place where you get your hair cut,” Ye said. “It’s the place where you go to hear the latest gossip, where you bring your kids and talk about all sorts of things – including health.”
In addition to talking about her project, Ye talked about how CGIU benefited her project.
Sunday, 1:05 p.m.
Right before she introduced former President Bill Clinton, Gateway STEM Principal Elizabeth Bender noted that two students at the city magnet school were registered EMTs.
Those two individuals are Adela Redzic and Jon Walter. The two seniors talked with reporters after Clinton's speech to Clinton Global Initiative University participants about how the school is preparing them for the "real world."
Sunday, 12 p.m.
Former President Bill Clinton used his roughly 10-minute address at Gateway STEM High School to call for a robust interest in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields.
Clinton and his daughter Chelsea Clinton were on hand at the St. Louis magnet school to kick off nearly $250,000 worth of service projects. It's a finale of sorts for the three-day Clinton Global Initiative University, which took place on the campus of Washington University.
Before spending nearly an hour talking with volunteers around the parameter of the school, Clinton linked the country's future prosperity with students being trained in the "STEM" fields.
"We live in an interdependent world. Our fates are bound up together. If you want a future of shared prosperity, everybody’s got to have a fair chance to be a part of it," Clinton said. "And we’re not doing that today. Roughly speaking, we need to produce for the next decade 1 million more people trained in the STEM areas just to maintain our current position."
Even in the last few years of economic turmoil, Clinton said, there's still been a high demand for people in the STEM fields.
"There were 120,000, give or take, openings just in the computer science field," Clinton said. "And the aggregate total number of people who graduated from our universities with those degrees was 40,000. It's a good argument for immigration reform in the short run, but it's a better argument for schools like Gateway in the long run."
Gateway STEM High School prompts students to pick a major. Some students train to become EMTs or work with airplanes. Students can also go into pre-vet and certified nurse assistant programs.
"This school is a metaphor, a symbol and a part of America’s future," Clinton said. "And everybody who teaches here, everybody who works here, everybody who goes to school should understand that. This is not just about you and your opportunities, although they are important. People with bachelor’s degrees in STEM fields earn 65 percent more than people with master's degrees in other fields."
He went onto say what's "really important is whether we’re going to have a modern electrical grid or are we going to have a modern broadband."
"It bothers me that South Korea is No. 1 in download speeds. And that national average in South Korea is nearly three times as fast as ours," Clinton said. "I’m thrilled that not far from here in Kansas City, Google is a spending a billion dollars to make Kansas City one of the modern places on planet Earth."
Sunday, 7:55 a.m.
In addition to giving a little exposure to student projects, Chelsea Clinton fielded a few questions from the media.
One reporter asked her about the state of the Clinton Global Initiative and why she's decided to increase her profile in the organization.
Clinton was also asked about how students are being taught about challenges and setbacks when implementing their projects.
Sunday, 7:50 a.m.: Final day
The final day of the Clinton Global Initiative features a pep talk from a former president and a lot of elbow grease.
Participants will head to Gateway STEM High School in the city for a morning of service. Both former President Clinton and Chelsea Clinton are slated to speak before hundreds of students get to work.
Check back later this afternoon for reports from that event. In the meantime, there's plenty of material from Saturday that'll be added to this page.
First: Chelsea Clinton held a press conference Saturday afternoon to showcase some of the student projects at the three-day convention.
Several participants at the presser were students at St. Louis universities, including St. Louis University and the University of Missouri-St. Louis. Their projects focus on stemming the tide of vacant buildings in the Gateway City, as well as delivering healthy food to underserved areas.
Below is a video of the beginning of the press conference, which features Chelsea Clinton and several students providing a breakdown of their projects:
Saturday, 10:26 p.m.
One final bit. Here's video of Stephen Colbert and former President Bill Clinton answering questions from Clinton Global Initiative University participants.
Keep in mind that this video doesn't include the part taped for the "Colbert Report." That exchange will be broadcast on the show Monday:
Saturday, 5:43 p.m.
Count former President Bill Clinton as a cautious optimist when it comes to gridlock dissipating in Washington, D.C.
Comedian Stephen Colbert asked Clinton if he thought that Congress and President Barack Obama could find consensus on weighty issues. The former president noted there have been small signs that that’s happening.
“What I thought would happen after this election when the president won is that there would be some breaking open of this iceberg,” Clinton said. “And I still think there will be to some extent. They voted to let some of the Bush tax cuts expire. They voted to extend the Violence Against Women Act.”
Of course, Clinton isn’t necessarily thrilled by the pace of this thaw.
“It’s happening too slow to suit me,” Clinton said. “And it makes us look small to ourselves and the rest of the world. But I’m not sure we’re not trending back to where we were by the year 1996 when I was president.”
That's it for today. Be sure to check back tomorrow for much more content, including interviews with a number of students participating in CGIU.
Saturday, 5:28 p.m.
Although most of Clinton Global Initiative University participants directed their questions to former President Bill Clinton, comedian Stephen Colbert did get at least one query from the audience.
Colbert was asked what commitments or causes he feels particularly strong about. He answered it would be helping “women and small children,” especially ones who are in poverty.
“I’m old fashioned,” Colbert said. “I have a very Dickensian view of charity – widows and starving children. I don’t know how to apply technology to that.”
“But people who have no one to care for them -- whether it’s people in sexual slavery, whether it’s people who are abandoned. Abandoned people,” he added. “I know that everybody is helped by all the initiatives that make a better place to live in for those people. But people who have no one to care for them. A child who doesn’t have enough to eat kills me to consider.”
Saturday, 5:17 p.m.
During a question and answer session with Clinton Global Initiative University participants, an audience member asked whether former President Bill Clinton would have preferred eight more years as president or to complete 16 of CGI's initiatives.
The two-term president’s answer? “I would rather keep doing what I’m doing.”
“Because I think America will have some very good choices for president,” said Clinton, which sparked a round of applause.
(Whether his wife – former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton – is in that category was left unsaid in the former chief executive’s remarks.)
Interestingly, Clinton did say he wouldn’t be opposed to changing the constitution to allow a two-term president to run again after sitting an election out. He cited the fact that people are living longer than they did in the past.
“But I would personally like to keep on doing what I’m doing for as long as possibly could do it,” Clinton said. “Because I think I have learned how to do it. And I’m not sure that anybody else would be doing this. Whereas I’m quite sure there will always be a lot of talented people to be president of the United States.”
Saturday, 4:17 p.m.
Stephen Colbert asked former President Bill Clinton whether he's felt disheartened by the state of American politics.
"I do," Clinton said.
Clinton noted that he engaged in bitter battles with the Republicans that controlled Congress during his administration. Colbert eventually asked: “It was bad then. But how did you get beyond the badness to get something done?”
"No matter what they tried to do, I acted like I didn’t remember while I was on the job,” Clinton said.
When Colbert asked which problem he would want to eliminate, Clinton said "the disparity and treatment between boys and girls and women and men."
Clinton also mentioned that his relationship with then-President George W. Bush got better during the 2000s. That's because Bush worked with Clinton to lower the price of AIDS drugs in developing nations.
Saturday, 4:10 p.m.
Now that the embargo is lifted, comedian Stephen Colbert has "shaken off his character" after talking with former President Bill Clinton.
Colbert -- a graduate of Northwestern University who hosts the popular "Colbert Report" on Comedy Central -- spent the first 20 minutes filming an interview with the former president for his show. He plays an outlandish version of himself on the program.
“I can ask you some things I actually care about," Colbert said.
Colbert told Clinton that "I do care about what happens" in American politics. Just because his character on his show is zany, he said, doesn't mean he doesn't closely follow what's going on.
"I’m not making jokes about it because I don’t care," he said. "It’s because I do."
Saturday, 3:15 p.m.
Fifteen minutes from now, comedian Stephen Colbert will interview former President Bill Clinton to close out the Clinton Global Initiative University at Washington University.
The first part of the program -- where Colbert will be in character -- is embargoed. But this live blog will start up again when the two men take questions from the crowd.
Saturday, 3:10 p.m.
Besides discussing his own issues with prescription drug abuse, actor Matthew Perry honored students working on projects to combat the problem.
Perry presented two groups of students with “commitments” from the Clinton Global Initiative University. The first group was from the University of Vermont, the second group was from Northwestern University.
Saturday, 12:07 p.m.
Actor Matthew Perry is in St. Louis this weekend – and it isn’t to reminisce about his time on "Friends."
Rather, Perry was part of a panel on prescription drug abuse. As noted earlier, President Bill Clinton was personally affected by the issue when the son of one his friends died of an overdose.
Perry, too, was personally affected. He said he became addicted to painkillersafter being prescribed Vicodin by a doctor in Los Angeles.
“I took it. I felt better than I ever have in my life,” said Perry, who added he had the “alcoholic gene.” “I felt euphoric.”
Things got so bad, Perry said, that one of his friends observed that he had “returned to his original birth weight.”
“That’s when I heard the first words that ‘it wasn’t my fault,’” Perry said. “It wasn’t my fault because I had a disease. I believe it was labeled a disease by the American Medical Association in 1955 or something like that. And there was a solution to it. And I fought it very stubbornly for years.”
Ultimately, he said, he took “charge of his own life.”
“Addicts as a rule lie,” Perry said. “They don’t tell the truth. They lie about this because there’s a lot of shame to protect their habit. So they lie. And it takes a very strong person to break through that lie. And I had this friend who said, ‘I know so-and-so who can help you.’ And I just burst into tears. They punctured the membrane of that lie and I was able to get help.”
In addition to his acting pursuits, Perry is now an ambassador for the National Association of Drug Court Professionals.
Saturday, 10 a.m.
When his bank first began lending money to women, Muhammad Yunus said he faced opposition “from men in the same family.”
Many husbands, he said, were threatened that “his wife is gaining the power of handling money.” They demanded to handle the loans because they weren’t confident that their wives would pay the funds back.
The key, Yunus said, was persuading the husband “to have some patience.” The entire dichotomy was altered, he added, when women proved that they could make installments to pay the money back.
“The whole scenario of the family has changed,” Yunus said.
Saturday, 9:40 a.m.
Chelsea Clinton asked Dell President and COO Stephen J. Felice how America can ensure more girls are “kept and inspired” to delve into science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
Felice said that accomplishing that goal is “not just strictly teaching the technologies.”
Rather, he said it’s about “creating a support environment" where women can "express their own opinions" and know "that they can take risk.”
Many women in developing countries, he said, need mentoring and advice before they start businesses. The key, he said, is for women to “ask for things and not be afraid to put themselves forward.”
“A lot of the work that we spend time on is just as much as around mentoring as it is enabling the technology itself,” Felice said.
Saturday, 9:26 a.m.
Shabana Basij-Rasikh is the managing director of the School of Leadership in Afghanistan, an organization that helps Afghan women access education worldwide.
Educating women in countries like Afghanistan can reap big benefits down the road, she said.
“You know that all of those students will pay it forward,” Basij-Rasikh said. “They will invest in other people’s education. And they will go back and make a difference.”
Basij-Rasikh estimated more than 66 million girls are waiting to be sent to school. Men need to play a role in reducing that number.
“We really need to focus in bringing men to this conversation,” she said. “One of my biggest supporters in my life is my father. He recognized the value of educating his daughter and his sons.”
Basij-Rasikh was a featured speaker on TEDx Women last year. Click here to learn more about her story and her organization.
Saturday, 9:17 a.m.
Chelsea Clinton noted that Muhammad Yunus’ bank has provided $11 billion to over 8 million borrowers, with 97 percent of those borrowers women.
The Bangladeshi native noted that he started his “micro-lending” to overcome the problems of loan-sharking.
“The bank should go to the people,” he said.
Micro-lending proved to be more effective when women participated, Yunus said. “Our job is to go back again and again to peel back that fear until she becomes a normal human being. We saw money going to the women, bringing so much more benefit than going to men,” he said.
Saturday, 9:07 a.m.
Chelsea Clinton walked on the stage to a nice ovation. Before moderating the panel, she announced continued “commitments” to a couple of student projects, including a group of students trying to reduce the maternal mortality rate in the developing world. The SAFE Team, Clinton said, features a number of students from Rice University in Texas.
In introducing the four panelists, Clinton quipped that Yunus -- who won the Nobel Peace Prize for his work with "micro-lending" -- is getting a "rock star welcome. I think panelists should get more applause than the moderator."
Saturday, 8:20 a.m.: Welcome back
The second day of the Clinton Global Initiative University is probably the most packed of the three-day weekend.
In about a half hour, Chelsea Clinton will moderate a morning plenary session on “A Better Future for Girls and Women: Empowering the Next Generation.” Participants include Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus, Dell President and COO Stephen J. Felice, Hawa Abdi Diblawe and Shabana Basij-Rasikh.
The main event, so to speak, will occur in afternoon, when comedian Stephen Colbert will interview Clinton. Part of that discussion will air later this month on the comedian’s popular Comedy Central show, "The Colbert Report."
It bears watching how Colbert reacts to Washington University’s mascot -- a bear. On his Comedy Central show, Colbert’s character is deathly afraid of the animal.
U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., even made light of this fact when she appeared on his show a few years ago.
It probably doesn’t help that a giant statue of two bears stands in front of Washington University’s athletic center.
Maybe Colbert’s handlers should steer the South Carolina native clear of that for now.
Friday, 8:30 p.m.
Photographers from Washington University captured some moments of tonight's opening session of the Clinton Global Initiative University:
Friday, 7:57 p.m.
Near the end of Friday's opening session of the Clinton Global Initiative University, all four panelists were asked to briefly describe what drives them.
While the questioner asked for one word, the panelists went beyond that limit.
Zainab Salbi: “It’s absolutely possible to live in a better world and to live in a better place.”
William Kamkwamba: “I can do it if other people can do it. I can bring the change that will benefit anybody in the world.”
Kenneth Cole: "You can change your outfit. You can outfit change. Or both."
Jack Dorsey: ”It would have to be the word why. It’s the easiest question to ask, but it’s the hardest question to answer.”
As for former President Bill Clinton, he gave two words: "99.5 percent." He later explained that phrase came from how the Human Genome Project showed that everybody around the world was "99.5 percent the same."
Friday, 7:47 p.m.
Prompted by a questioner on Twitter, Zainab Salbi of Women for Women International shared her lowest emotional point.
When she started her organization, almost all of her money went to help women around the world, she said, leaving little for herself.
A turning point came, she said, when she got a call from the White House. President Clinton wanted to honor her for her work in Bosnia, which at the time was a country of immense conflict.
At that point, she said, she had “a hole in my shoes.”
"I was so excited to be acknowledged by the president of the United States," Salbi said. "That is a turning point and an opportunity. And I’m still emotional about it."
Friday, 7:31 p.m.
After some prompting from Clinton, Jack Dorsey gave a little insight into the origins of Twitter.
Initially he was going to release the service in 2001 because he "wanted to update where I was around me."
"It wasn’t the right time," he said. "And I didn’t have the right team."
Things changed, he said, in 2006 when SMS text messaging "got really big in this country." He said the 140-character limit was adopted “not only because constraint inspires creativity,” but also because the format “works on every single device around the world.”
“We could create a system where a $5 cell phone in the middle Kenya… could participate in the same conversation that Justin Bieber is having in America,” he said, to some laughter.
The biggest pushback to Twitter, he said, was from people who asked “why would anybody use this?” He added that detractors argued that nobody cared what he “was having for breakfast.”
“My response always was … there is one person who does care. And that’s my mother,” he said. “She loves that I’m eating. She loves knowing that I’m alive. And she loves those Tweets.”
Clinton noted that Square – a service that allows people to easily take credit cards with an iPod or iPhone – would be a "huge help" for the working poor around the world.
Friday, 7:25 p.m.
Clothing designer Kenneth Cole talked about his decision to become active in the charities fighting AIDS in the 1980s. At that time, he said it was decidedly controversial.
But Cole said that he was glad his company got involved in the cause. Clinton then asked about the impact on his company.
"I can’t tell you that we sold more clothes or shoes because of it," Cole said. "But I know people feel better about connecting with the brand."
"I can tell you it hasn’t hurt my company," he added.
Friday, 7:10 p.m.
William Kamkwamba, a Malawi native who gained international attention when he built a windmill in his home country, was asked by Clinton why he did it.
Kamkwamba said he got the idea when he saw a windmill while reading a book. While he was determined to complete the endeavor, he said a lot of people around him “laughed” at him.
“Some people thought I was smoking weed,” Kamkwamba said, prompting laughter from the audience.
He went onto say that he managed to accomplish his goal because he “trusted” himself.
“I can do it if other people have done it before,” he said. “So I think that’s what encouraged me to do it.”
Friday, 6:55 p.m.
One benefit of being college students, Clinton said, was that they're "relatively free of constraints that are imposed on straight for-profit businesses or people with a full-time government job."
"You might find way to do public goods faster, better and at lower costs," Clinton said. "It’s a really exciting time to be alive. So welcome to the show."
The former president went on to say that participants' "commitments say a lot about what you care about and what kind of world you want to live."
He then introduced five students who received assistance at recent CGIU meetings, including Lindsay Brown, who started the SEGway Project.
That initiative teaches soccer to girls in developing nations. She told the crowd that the project has mentored 70 girls in Nepal and Kenya. It will soon expand to Cambodia, she said.
"Through soccer, these girls are breaking down gender barriers, learning to be competitive… and learning to segue into the leaders they were born to be," Brown said.
Friday, 6:50 p.m.
Washington University Chancellor Mark Wrighton introduced former President Bill Clinton to a standing ovation.
Before the 42nd president came to the stage, Wrighton alluded to Clinton's 1992 debate at Washington University with then-President George H.W. Bush and Texas businessman Ross Perot.
Clinton thanked Wrighton for "rekindling the memory of the last time I was here."
"I was a debater then," Clinton said. "Now I’m a moderator. That’s a better deal."
Friday, 6:45 p.m.
Chelsea Clinton noted that it was no accident that CGIU is closing with comedian Stephen Colbert interviewing her father.
"We don’t have to time to be discouraged. So I hope you realize it’s not an accident that we close with Colbert," she said. "It’s important that it’s fun."
She added that the nearly 1,000 college students that made the trip to Washington University demonstrated "a lot of courage."
"And clearly, by definition of you being here, it demonstrates a lot commitment," she said.
Friday, 6:33 p.m.
The opening session has started. Chelsea Clinton received a resounding ovation as she walked on the stage.
"Thank you to all the Washington University students for letting us invade your campus," she quipped.
She said part of the reason to start the Clinton Global Initiative was to answer fundamental questions: “How do we prioritize what needs to happen? How do we measure impact on what we’re doing? How do we double down on our successes? How do you be honest about our failures and walk away from them?”
She added that CGIU came about because “we believe that young people have a vital role in answering all those questions.”
“There are a lot of people who feel you need to wait until your hair is a little like my father’s to make an impact,” she said. “We just couldn’t disagree with that more strongly. And we feel CGIU is the greatest repudiation to that.”
Friday, 6:15 p.m.
Washington University has a Flickr page with a constantly updating stream of pictures from the weekend.
Some of the university's photographers captured some moments during a networking session for CGIU participants.
Former U.S. Rep. Richard Gephardt addresses participants in during the Clinton Global Initiative University on the campus of Washington University.
Credit Joe Angeles | WUSTL photos | 2013
Friday, 6:05 p.m.
And within about 20 minutes, the athletic center is getting packed.
Friday, 5:45 p.m.
The press is now seated inside the Washington University Athletic Center for CGIU's opening session. So far, hundreds of seats are empty:
Friday, 5 p.m.
Among other things, Jack Dorsey spent part of the press briefing discussing the relationship between technology and government:
He also discussed how growing up in St. Louis influenced him -- and other people who were interested in the business of technology:
Friday, 4:08 p.m.
Jack Dorsey -- the co-founder of Twitter and Square -- is glad to be back in his hometown.
Jack Dorsey, the co-founder of Twitter and Square, spent over 30 minutes talking to reporters on Friday. Dorsey is one of the most prominent participants of this year's Clinton Global Initiative University.
Besides participating in tonight's opening plenary session with former President Bill Clinton and Washington University Chancellor Mark Wrighton, Dorsey says he's using his time back in the Gateway City to see family and partake in familiar food.
"Flew in yesterday and ate dinner on the Hill," Dorsey told a group of reporters on the campus of Washington University. "My parents live on the Mississippi River now, so it’s good to be home."
Before spending a half an hour answering a raft of questions from reporters, Dorsey spent time with engineering students at Washington University. He said the most common question he's getting is how to make the transition from college to the "real world."
"How do you make that transition? How do you make that leap from being at school to being in the world?" Dorsey said. "My answer to that is: I would think about it as much as a transition as much as the very next thing. It’s a point of order. And if you put too much into what am I going to do with this transition? I’m going out into the world and I don’t really know what I’m going to do, you’re going to do something you don’t want to do."
His general advice to students is to "really figure out what you believe in, have a real strong conviction around."
"That means having the self-awareness to figure out what that thing is and what it's going to take to get you to the next level," Dorsey said. "That could be joining a company. That could be starting a new company. It could be traveling the world for a bit and learning what's out there.
"If we put too much stress on like 'oh my God, I'm getting out of here -- what do I do?' I don't think we're really focused on the right things," he added.
Tonight's opening session will also feature clothing designer Kenneth Cole, Dartmoth College student William Kamkwamba and Women for Women Internation founder Zainab Salbi. Clinton and Wrighton will serve as moderators.