The Clinton Global Initiative University Summit (CGI-U) opened today at the University of Texas at Austin. CGI-U was launched last year as a means for university students to gain the skills and knowledge that will help them tackle global problems with practical, innovative solutions. The Initiative's namesake, former President Bill Clinton, delivered the opening address to nearly 1,200 students and educators from across the globe, laying out the challenges facing our planet and telling them that they "have more power to change the world than any other generation in history."
Following his address, the former president introduced a panel comprised of student and business leaders and social innovators who are effecting positive change. The former president engaged each of them in questions about their inspirations, challenges and what the future holds. Panelists included Natalie Portman, who spoke passionately about her work securing microloans for citizens of developing countries and the need for economic empowerment and education for women across the globe; Blake Mycoskie, founder of TOMS Shoes, a business that donates shoes to people who need them for every pair they sell, and Paul Bell, Dell's President of Global Public and head of our Global Giving Council.
Bell, who served in the Peace Corps following his graduation from Penn State University, spoke of the importance of finding causes that people are passionate about and applying their talents to uncover viable solutions. As examples, he cited Dell's environmental initiatives, such as going carbon neutral, designing products for greater energy efficiency and powering Dell's Round Rock campus completely on renewable energy, among others. Former President Clinton asked him about the work Dell has done to bring computers and the Internet to school children who would otherwise would never have had the opportunity to learn about IT. As a result of this work, sixty thousand classrooms in Mexico are now connected and the students are learning and teaching each other how to use and benefit from this technology.
In keeping with the former president's message that young people today have unseen potential to change the world, Mr. Bell invited students to enter their ideas on tackling the world's pressing social issues in Dell's Social Innovation Competition. The winner of the competition will receive $50,000 to begin implementation of his/her idea. The best idea related to sustainability will receive $10,000.
If the opening events prove to be any indication, CGI-U promises to be productive and educational, shaping and inspiring the world's future leaders and innovators. Let us know your thoughts on what you’re hearing and seeing over the Web. We've got video from the opening ceremony forthcoming, but in the meantime, you can catch the rough cast on GCI U's page here. See you on campus!