Clinton, notable speakers welcome students at plenary session

Nick Gangemi // Photo Editor
Nick Gangemi // Photo Editor
President Bill Clinton, Yale student Paul Lorem, actress America Fererra, U.S. Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Tawakkol Karman (left to right) discuss the motivations behind their public service. Nick Gangemi // Photo Editor

The 2015 meeting of Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U) opened officially on Friday evening. Over 1,100 student “commitment-makers” were welcomed to the University of Miami by Clinton Foundation Vice Chair Chelsea Clinton, and UM President Donna E. Shalala. The event featured a panel of notable speakers moderated by the 42nd President of the United States, William Jefferson “Bill” Clinton.

President Clinton and Chelsea Clinton took this time to announce their hopes for Shalala’s prospects as the future president of the Clinton Foundation after her tenure at UM.

“I hope you don’t run for office,” President Clinton joked to Shalala. “Stay with us.”

President Clinton then opened up the plenary with a “lightning round,” during which he invited five individuals from past CGI Us to briefly discuss the success of their initiatives. Initiatives tackled malnutrition, vaccination and international economic development.

The following panel, entitled “Fast Forward: Accelerating Opportunity for All,” featured actor, producer and activist America Ferrera; Surgeon General of the United States, Dr. Vivek Murthy; Sudanese refugee, entrepreneur and Yale University student Paul Lorem; and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and founder of Women Journalists Without Chains (WJWC), Tawakkol Karman.

According to President Clinton, the panel’s purpose was to gather people who had rendered “public service as private citizens,” and to help students see “how the trajectory of their lives are reflected” in students’ lives.

The speakers each provided calls to action for the students at CGI U, emphasizing that the problems of the world were connected. Dr. Murthy said that the world could not be looked at in “silos” of problems that could be individually examined.

Ferrera called taking action to better society as the “smart thing to do.”

“Talent is universal, but opportunity is not,” she said. “Engage those who aren’t where you are … then go work with them to make the future you want to live in.”

As a Yemeni activist and senior member of the Al-Islah political party, Karman spoke extensively about her motivation to protest and put her life at risk. According to Karman, it was the desire to make the world better for her children and for all Yemeni youth that drove her actions.

“We live in a small village,” Karman said. “We are all one family – we must take care of ourselves.”