20th anniversary of Summit of the Americas held at UM

In 1994, then-President Bill Clinton convened 34 leaders from across the Americas to the Summit of the Americas meeting in Miami. This meeting was dedicated to enacting change in democracy, social justice, quality of life and environmental preservation in the Americas.

Twenty years later, the now former president has called another meeting, but this time, at the University of Miami.

The Future of the Americas Summit (FOTA) is meant to commemorate the 1994 meeting and to complement the official Summit of the Americas meeting, which will be held in April in Panama. FOTA’s main focus is looking to the future of development in the Americas.

“We should be looking forward to the next 20 years and to ask ourselves, honestly, what each of us can and should do to shape them in a positive direction,” Clinton said.

UM President Donna E. Shalala introduced Clinton at the event and in her speech mentioned the significance of using Miami as the location for the summit.

“Miami is not only an American city, it is an Americas city. And today, Miami is ‘el mundo,'” she said.

In his opening remarks, Clinton mentioned that although there have been advancements in health and economy in the past 20 years, there is work that is still left to be done in areas where the hopes and goals of the 1994 summit were not fulfilled.

“It is in the nature of human affairs that it is easier to talk about change than to effect it when there are several bumps in the road along the way,” he said.

Clinton also stressed the gravity of rapid climate change and the vulnerability of coastal cities and island nations in the Atlantic that are most affected.

“We know now that the climate change problem is more severe than we had originally thought 20 years ago and that it is bearing down on us more rapidly that we had thought,” he said.

The summit consisted of breakout sessions throughout the day. Each meeting was a working discussion of topics like connectivity, chronic diseases, women’s issues, energy and education, among others. These meetings brought together foreign leaders, entrepreneurs and philanthropists from around the region, with the hopes of coming up with concrete ways to enact change in their respective countries.

“We, in these meetings, should be as specific as we possibly can at the end of the sessions about what actually we should be doing,” Clinton said.

Still, Shalala said that Clinton’s continued work has unified the nations in the Americas.

“His ongoing efforts in the Clinton Foundation, the Clinton Global Initiative and now the Future of the Americas, continued to forge lasting bonds of friendship of mutual respect and common purpose among our nations,” Shalala said.

The day concluded with closing remarks by Clinton, who reiterated the importance of holding these summits and his hopes for the future.

“I think the next 20 years will be better than the last 20 years in the Americas,” he said. “This is a precious gift, to be a citizen in this part of the world in a time when others worry about having enough water to drink … we are fortunate, we are blessed to be here.”

This story was updated at 6 p.m. on Dec. 11, 2014.