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A Word from the President
October 7, 2009
The Spirit of Partnership at the Clinton Global Initiative
I had the privilege to attend the Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting in New York City this September. Each year, former President Bill Clinton convenes a group of individuals involved in the leadership of business, government and the nonprofit sector to address the significant global issues of poverty, health care, climate change and education. Keystone has been honored to be a member of CGI since 2007.
Opening CGI 2009, President Barack Obama thrilled attendees by delivering the keynote presentation. He spoke of a new spirit of partnership to form global partnerships across all sectors to address global challenges. The Clinton Global Initiative fosters this spirit of partnership, providing leaders with abundant opportunities to form partnerships and collaborations, and President Obama charged all individuals present to lead a life of service.
Other notable participants included John T. Chambers, the chairman and CEO of Cisco; Rex W. Tillerson, chairman and CEO of ExxonMobil; Jeffrey Immelt, chairman and CEO of General Electric Company; Mike Duke, president and CEO of Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.; and Muhtar Kent, chairman of the board and CEO of the Coca-Cola Company.
Over the last three years of discussions at CGI, several themes have emerged. A particularly compelling theme focuses on population growth. At one time, there was great concern that the global population would continuously increase, putting extreme demands on the world's water, food and energy resources. Now, that concern has been mitigated by a broad-based consensus that the growth of the global population will level off around 10 billion – a sustainable population in terms of the world's stores of food, water and energy.
Sustainability has become a key component within many corporate business models. Major global corporations are increasingly integrating issues of sustainability into their business models, particularly along their supply chains, including access to clean water and education, and issues of equity and justice. In their leadership, many global CEOs are becoming very articulate and passionate about the roles of their corporations in issues of sustainability, development and human potential.
More and more people are recognizing that extreme poverty, in which three billion people live on less than $2 a day, is a profound threat to stability and global prosperity.
Larry Summers, the director of the National Economic Council, spoke about his perspective on the economy and gave his opinion that recovery from the recession is underway, though he expects this recovery to be an extended process. He expressed a belief that the historical models of unemployment may not apply to this recovery, and new models will need to be developed.
A second theme emerging from CGI is a trend called the “Girl Effect” – a recognition of the role of girls and women as the building blocks of society. Educated and empowered women are at the cutting edge of creating a stable and enduring society. Women's deep and abiding commitment to the welfare, security and opportunities of their children is a powerful force in building a better and more secure world.
A significant number of initiatives and collaborations are centered on the “Girl Effect” concept. Last year, Charles Hooker and I met Linda Lockhart, the founding director of Global Give Back Circle. Ms. Lockhart wanted to create a mentorship program in Kenya for young women as they graduate from high school and move on to advanced opportunities, an idea that became Global Give Back Circle (GGBC). At this year's CGI Annual Meeting, I met four of the young women who have been mentored in GGBC. These four young women shared the stage with President Clinton during the opening session. At the closing session, he invited them back on stage and announced that they will be receiving full scholarships to American University in Dubai.
Secretary Hilary Clinton provided closing remarks and spoke elegantly about the United States' role in the global community. Under President Obama's administration, the U.S. foreign policy will be based on three components: military power, diplomacy and development.
There is a direct and powerful connection between the strategies of global partnership that have emerged from the Clinton Global Initiative and the direction of the new U.S. foreign policy. Secretary Clinton anticipates that the United States' investment in development initiatives will more than double in the coming years.
Forming partnerships and taking action to address global challenges is at the heart of CGI. Each participant makes a Commitment to Action to address at least one of the focus areas – poverty, education, health care and climate change. Keystone's Commitment to Action incorporates our International Practical Internship Program. Our international colleagues participate in internships and share ideas and practices they can adapt to their home countries. Our Commitment also facilitates partnerships between NGOs in the U.S. and countries that are just developing their human services. To implement our Commitment, we have formed partnerships with PAR (Pennsylvania Association of Resources – Autism and Intellectual Disabilities, National Association of Childcare Workers, FICE International, FICE-USA, FICE South Africa and Sharp Visions, Inc.,
We are also advocating within CGI for greater visibility and priority for disability issues among all of the four focus areas. I had the privilege to meet John Podesta, the former chief of staff during President Clinton's administration and chairman of President Obama's transition team. Mr. Podesta currently serves as the founding director of the Center for American Progress, which plays an influential role in policy development for the Obama administration, including health care reform. I spoke with him about Keystone's interests in supporting persons with disabilities and the implications of health care reform for them.
It is increasingly clear that the capacity, experience and expertise of Keystone in the areas of intellectual disabilities, mental health, autism, early childhood development and Head Start are of great value to the people in the developing world. This is a credit to all of the people engaged in Keystone's Mission and is built on many years of dedication and commitment to vulnerable persons.
For almost 40 years, Keystone has been a powerful advocate for the rights and opportunities of persons with disabilities, working to ensure that each person has the chance to be a valued, fully participating, contributing member of society. It is abundantly clear that disability is a global issue and is an inherent aspect of the human condition. Because of this, if we make the choice to stand up for persons with disabilities and advocate for rights, choice and opportunity, we are morally obligated to speak on behalf of all persons with disabilities, not just those defined by specific geographic boundaries.
The Clinton Global Initiative is a valuable forum for NGO members to connect with corporations, governments and foundations to develop collaborations and initiatives to address the development and humanitarian issues confronting the world. We will be following up on these collaborations to include our psychological and support services in Beslan, our Community for All project in Moldova, our Isbindi partnership in South Africa, the Adult Community Autism Program (ACAP) in the U.S., and our autism initiative in Azerbaijan.
The people who attend CGI are individuals who have an important role in tending the garden of life. More than anyone else, they have a window into the human condition and the huge challenges facing humanity. It is easy to be overwhelmed by the global scale of poverty, conflict, lack of access to clean water, natural disasters and food scarcity. However, each individual participating in CGI is fully engaged in the issues and remains surprisingly hopeful for the future.
CGI encourages all of us to think bigger and work toward meaningful and significant global change. It fosters partnerships between diverse sectors and unites the global community in taking action toward solutions to crucial global issues. We must work together in a spirit of partnership to bring about change. As President Obama reminded us, “That is the beauty of service – everyone can do it and everyone should try.”