Posts Tagged ‘Bill Clinton’

All Together Now: A Celebration of Service

Photo: Associated Press

Tonight at 8PM, NBC will air All Together Now: A Celebration of Service, the first time since President Obama’s inauguration that all four surviving presidents will gather. Clinton, Carter, Bush & Bush will assemble at the Kennedy Center for the event sponsored by the Points of Light Institute to honor President Bush, Sr. for his contributions to engendering a country that embraces volunteering and service. Since all four have been champions of community involvement for all Americans, it is a nice move to bring all together to show that making a difference in the world means political parties make no difference. Performances this evening will also feature Garth Brooks, Sheryl Crow, Cee Lo Green, Reba McEntire, Sam Moore, Brad Paisley, Kid Rock, Darius Rucker, and Carrie Underwood to champion the service movement (and up the cool factor for different generations).

25 million more Americans are volunteering today than were in 1989—and we’ve only just begun. Dip into the well for a little boost of inspiration.

World Leadership Awards

This Friday, August 6, is the evening when the World Leadership Awards will be presented. Crowds may come for the entertainment: Usher will be joined by Ciara and Justin Bieber and Bill Clinton will receive the “Service Legacy Award,” but this first-time award from Usher’s New Look Foundation is completely dedicated to the real stars, the youth who work with the New Look Foundation, the Leadership Academy, Powered by Service projects, and MIT (Moguls in Training). All of these programs are dedicated to young people for whom circumstance has put them at a disadvantage, and making sure they not only catch up, but exceed expectation and dreams. It is all about giving young people the tools to make a difference in their own communities and in the world community.You will be floored as you learn more about these amazing alumni and current participants.

The New Look Foundation website sums it up: The New Look Foundation mentors young people as global leaders. Currently in seven cities, New Look has worked with over 8,700 young people, and has provided over 150,000 hours of leadership training. The program trains high school youth in leadership, business, education and service. Now in its eleventh year, New Look has seen a 98% high school graduation rate among alumni.  With its Powered By Service campaign and an international call to youth service, the New Look Foundation has made service more diverse, relevant and accessible to all young people.

Earth Day

happy earth day

Today is the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, a chance to take note of where we stand with the planet (worth doing every day, of course).

I’ve just returned from a conference with Condé Nast Traveler’s “World Savers” program, entitled “Doing the Right Thing Now.” It was a fantastic discussion about sustainability and corporate social responsibility with panelists from Goldman Sachs, Blue Hill and Stone Barn restaurants, and the InterContinental Barclay hotel. I found it inspiring to see different ways different sectors of the business world are taking up the gauntlet of environmental responsibility as well as what moderator Dinda Elliott (who blogs about responsible travel at: sees as the next frontier (after the travel industry has done a pretty good job leading the charge on ecology): poverty alleviation and world health. It feels quite “right” to see that huge organizations, as well as the little guys and NGOs, see it as a responsibility, as well as good for the bottom line, to be answerable for our impact. I’ll be digesting much of what I learned for quite some time.

What are YOU doing for Earth Day? Don’t just let it pass as another Thursday–find a way to mark it for yourself, your family, your community (and that includes all of us as a global community–so thank you for what you will do…for me/us).

I had the good luck this morning to sit next to a woman who works with Conservation International, an NGO I can’t wait to learn much more about. From their website:

People depend on nature for many things. A stable climate. Clean air. Fresh water. Abundant food. Cultural resources. And the incalculable additional benefits the world’s biodiversity provides. Conservation International (CI) works to ensure a healthy and productive planet for us all.

Yet economic and infrastructure development, which are so necessary for human well-being, can also have serious impacts on nature. That is why CI is working at every level – from remote villages to the offices of presidents and premiers – to help move whole societies toward a smarter development path.

Through science, policy and field work, we’re applying smart solutions to protect the resources that we all depend on. We help communities, countries and societies protect tropical forests, lush grasslands, rivers, wetlands, abundant lakes and the sea. Only through properly valuing the essential services these ecosystems provide can we create a sustainable development path that will benefit all people for generations to come.

They have some outstanding international initiatives, and it is worth getting involved. Here is a link to ways you can help CI make a difference.

To get a jump start, tonight there is a Green Auction at Christie’s that will help raise funds for CI as well as three other great institutions. A Bid to Save the Earth will support Conservation International, Oceana, Central Park Conservancy, and the Natural Resources Defense Council.

You can bid in person or online tonight, as well as bid on silent auction items through May 6—everything from a round of golf with Bill Clinton or a day on the set with Hugh Jackman to a Lexus hybrid or lunch with Vera Wang.

Aside from bidding…reducing, reusing, and recycling…and finding new ways to change your habits of consumption and eco-responsibility…turn off this computer and GET OUTSIDE!!!, wouldya?!

The Lunchbox Fund

The Lunchbox Fund is a charity founded in 2004 to aid school children in Soweto, South Africa. The students of economically impoverished Meadowlands School and, now, three additional schools, are directly impacted by the Fund. The cause is simple–feed the hungry. Even simpler is the methodology–provide a free nutritious lunch at school. For far too many it may be their only healthy meal of the day, and it adds a great incentive for attendance. Keeping kids in schools and keeping minds and bodies fed. Answers to some of the world’s largest problems needn’t be complex.

The Fund also does a celebrity-driven annual fundraiser, where stars decorate lunchboxes that are then put up for auction. From Bono to Bill Gates to Bill Clinton to Beyonce to Chef Mario Batali to Bowie (and a whole bunch of folks who don’t alliterate with the B’s), everybody does a box, and the money makes an entire generation grow.

Clinton Global Initiative-Day 3

Alicia Keys-Keep a Child Alive

Alicia Keys-Keep a Child Alive

Usher-Powered by Service

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” 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 ( 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 (, 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

Philippe Cousteau-Waterplanet Challenge

Ricky Martin-Ricky Martin Foundation

Ricky Martin-Ricky Martin Foundation

Clinton Global Initiative-Day 2


Lordy I love Diane Sawyer—she is just so damn smart and so unpretentious. She lets you in on everything without making you feel stupid—no small feat at this event where we swim in statistics and stories of hardship (and eventual stories of victory and success)

This morning’s plenary session of the Clinton Global Initiative is “Investing in Girls and Women.” Bill Clinton looks better rested today as he sets the context: Every problem in the world today is exacerbated by gender inequality. Women perform 66% of the world’s work, they produce 50% of the world’s food supply (in Sub-Saharan Africa and Asia it is 60%-80% of the food supplied by women), but they only earn 10% of the income and own only 1% of the world’s property. In Sub-Saharan Africa, 59% of HIV/AIDS cases are women, almost none of them contracting it through their own high-risk behaviors, but contracting it from non-monogamous partners as well as a huge number of women and girls who are sexually molested/raped. 75% of the Sub-Saharan youth HIV/AIDS patients are women and children—infected by sexual molestation. Continue reading

Clinton Global Initiative


Last night, Tuesday, was the opening plenary session and welcome for the Clinton Global Initiative fifth annual meeting. There were a thousand members of the press wedged into the basement of the New York Sheraton hotel, and a thousand special guests upstairs in the Metropolitan Ballroom…and at least a thousand more security and secret service.

After metal detectors and security wands and pat downs, I was finally admitted to the bowels of the building. The technology is impressive with several Wi-Fi channels and the conference even has it’s own closed messaging system, so Barbra Streisand can tell Brad Pitt his haircut looks great and it’ll stay between them.

The CGI is an annual gathering of Non-Government Organizations (NGOs) and charitable orgs, business leaders, and world leaders (the rooms are lousy with presidents and prime ministers) who gather to make specific commitments to projects to better the world. This was the birthplace, in past years, of projects like Matt Damon’s water program (, expanding this year to Haiti), the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Women Initiative, and so many more. In the five years since beginning there have been 1,400 commitments made (participants are required to make commitments to existing projects or commit to creating new projects), valued at $46 billion dollars, and impacting the lives of 200 million people in 150 countries. This year’s meeting will give birth to 30 more of these programs.

Continue reading