This past weekend, college students representing 50 fifty states and more than 90 countries convened at the University of California, San Diego for the 4th annual meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative University (CGIU). Madeleine Fox and I were fortunate enough to attend for our commitment to empowering girls in the developing world through education.
My name is Lindsay Brown and I am a She’s the First volunteer at the University of Notre Dame. During the fall, my soccer team and I sold enough tie-dyed cupcakes to sponsor three students at Kopila Valley School in Surkhet, Nepal! Inspired by the huge outpouring of support we received, Madeleine and I decided to attend CGIU in the hopes of learning from other college students’ experiences how we could expand our She’s the First efforts not only at Notre Dame but also in the broader community.
Prior to CGIU, student groups dedicated to positive change make a “Commitment to Action” in one of five focus areas: Education, Environment & Climate Change, Poverty Alleviation, and Public Health. CGIU offers these commitment groups a place to come together, share ideas, network, and collaborate to move our commitments one step closer to concrete realities.
On Friday, Former President Bill Clinton stated, “CGIU is more than an event. It’s a community of individuals who work throughout the year to inspire and support.” By the time CGIU convened a mere two days later on Sunday afternoon, I had already began to understand what Former President Clinton was hinting at. I consider myself beyond lucky to be a part of this unique and powerful community. I am honored that I was able to represent She’s the First and its commitment to empowering girls in the developing world. I wish every She’s the First supporter had the opportunity to experience CGIU. It provided me with the sense that between all the chaos of school, family, soccer, and whatever else can possibly fit into 24 hours. I am one of many working toward a united vision of a better world.
I’m having a difficult time finding words to accurately describe the colossal amount of positive energy I encountered.
For two hours straight, every which way I turned I encountered another person overflowing with eagerness to explain their unique vision of a better world and how they planned to go about it. One might find it overwhelming or perhaps even exhaustive, yet for me personally, this energy was reassuring and to some an extent, calming.
For the first time in my life, I was surrounded by nearly 1,100 other college students who seemed to share my own restlessness, my own inability to sit still and be satisfied with the way the world is. It was calming to find that I am not the only one amongst my peers plagued by an unidentifiable force, this unknown gravity, compelling me to act. At this point, I can only be certain of one thing, this force is creating a momentum amongst young people that cannot be constrained by boundaries or stopped with the simple telling of a no. Our energy cannot be contained within the box therefore our ideas are guaranteed to be found outside of it. Kennedy Odede told us “the ideas you have can change the world.” The world better be ready for change because our generation’s vision of a better tomorrow is already becoming a reality.
Hellen Keller once said, “the only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision.” Whether it may be educating girls, eradicating malaria, ending global hunger, or fighting climate change, our generation’s solutions to today’s pressing challenges will lead us to a better tomorrow. However, I would like to ask what good is this vision if it never becomes a reality? We have the energy, we have the drive, now it is up to us to make it happen.
Here are some powerful quotes from various CGIU panel members that I think strike a chord with every She’s the First supporter!
- “Women are the engine of development in any society.” Kennedy Odede
- “If you just do what you can- you can make a difference.” Former President Clinton
- “Education is a right, not a privilege.” Mehnaz Akber Aziz
- “When you change a girl’s life you begin to change the world.” 10×10 The Documentary Group
- “Empowerment should be fun and sustainable.” Jessica Matthews
- “Community members must understand that education is an imperative that we must work for together.” Eduardo Padron
- “What we have in common is more important than our differences.” Former President Clinton
- “Having a cross-cultural dialogue is really the only way to solve these global problems.” Anu Shradharan
- “Don’t patronize people, SEE them.” Former President Clinton