Alicia Keys-Keep a Child Alive
Usher-Powered by Service
Today, Day 3—Thursday, seems to be celeb day, even more than the past two. I was in a press conference with Usher (who just donated a million dollars and is launching a new youth service program, “Powered by Service” http://www.poweredbyservice.org). Really Usher, you’re chewing gum for this? The new project aims to mobilize 5 million young people in initiating projects to serve their communities. He is partnered with several other organizations, including Philippe Cousteau and his focus on Oceans of the World with the “Waterplanet Challenge.” I bumped into, literally, James Brolin who was standing with Barbra Streisand—ended up dashing for the exit with them at the end of the night when we were ducking out a bit early.
Ricky Martin opened a session about human trafficking—his focus with the Ricky Martin Foundation (http://www.rickymartinfoundation.org). He’s looking very buttoned up in his black suit and gray tie. He gets choked up as he says, “I’m here because there are so many kids who didn’t make it,” we lost them, he tells us, to slavery, sexual slavery, and human trafficking.
This is also the focus of Mira Sorvino and Julia Ormond, who are here. There’s Bono being called up on the stage, next to Jessica Alba. Eve Ensler, Jesse Jackson….and this is before the evening awards ceremony with Demi & Ashton, Alicia Keys performing, Ben Stiller as MC, Lisa Ling presenting an award, and Quincy Jones giving a super-long speech. The carpet is blue throughout this hotel, but today it seems it ought to be red.
Queen Rania of Jordan—the most stunning ruler in the world—is one of the panelists on the dais for “Building Human Capital—Creating Jobs and Strong Communities.” She gets a big reaction when she tells us, “It would cost $11 billion dollars to put every child in the world into primary education. That is the money Americans spend on their pets every three months.”
Devastating statistics again float out: On average, paternally-led families that earn one dollar a day spend, on average, 2 cents on education and 20 cents on alcohol, sugar drinks, prostitution, and gambling. When mothers are given the money to make family decisions, almost 95 cents gets re-invested into their families.
Brad Pitt, with his pointy, Green Arrow-looking beard, gets the hallways buzzing—he is a featured panelist in the Town Hall meeting, “Building a Better Future—A Progress Report on Make it Right, New Orleans.” Make it Right was born from this conference three years ago, and will, by this time next year, have built 150 houses in the Lower Ninth Ward that are green, aesthetically designed, sustainable, and affordable. Many families are already back home from their paradigm-shifting work. Bill Clinton wonders why, if we can do it in New Orleans for no more money than traditional, wasteful architecture—why would we ever build the old way, anywhere, again?
After truly dense days of emotionally and intellectually challenging forums large and small, the evening awards are a nice relief. The ballroom has gone through a mild transition—tables have dark tablecloths instead of white, more elegant chairs have been swapped in, the crowd arrives more dressed up with lots of cocktail dresses, suits, and an array of beautiful native fabrics from cultures around the world. Juanes, the most popular Latin recording star, does a couple of great numbers, and Alicia Keys, a CGI member with her outstanding fight against AIDS (http://www.keepachildalive.org), closes out with her hits, including “Superwoman,” particularly poignant considering the day’s insights.
To have been present this week to such profound commitment and the energy to make change, it felt like the people in these rooms had the drive and determination to solve all the problems in the world. How can we not, every one of us, want to be part of that?
Philippe Cousteau-Waterplanet Challenge
Ricky Martin-Ricky Martin Foundation