That’s right. I just had the amazing opportunity to dine with a former president – President Clinton to be exact. Now that’s an unbelievable way to end a Monday.
So in case you didn’t already know, not only is the UN MDG Summit happening this week in NYC, but if you leave my hotel, walk past Grand Central Station and through Times Square, you’ll hit the annual meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative. Basically what CGI does is turn ideas into action. All this week, folks from around the world and from all walks of life – NGO’s, corporations, media, Nobel Peace Prize winners, world leaders – will come together to make critical commitments on issues like water, climate, education, health (to name just a few).
And late last week, I heard that I had been invited to join President Clinton and a small group of bloggers for a private dinner and lively conversation during CGI.
What an unbelievable experience it was.
There were only 15 of us in total, all ages and all different areas – folks from Foreign Policy and the Huffington Post to a writer from the University of Texas at Austin and a blogger from the Seattle group Worldchanging. We waited a bit for the President to arrive in a small room wrapped in CGI wallpaper, and then there he was, in his blue shirt and blue tie, walking around our long rectangular table, shaking everyone’s hand. He took a peek at the sandwiches on the table, said they looked pretty good, headed over to his chair, casually took his jacket off, and said “we can do this anyway you want.” So the questions began.
In case you were wondering, President Clinton is unbelievably prepared for any topic you throw at him. We started off with domestic politics, veered over to climate change, briefly hit health care, the Middle East – and he handled every question with lots of stories and lots of stats. Only trouble with that? Since he’s so well-versed, his answer to the first question took roughly 20 minutes, so I never got a chance to chime in (I tried really hard). But he still left me with something to think about.
He told a story about visiting Ohio. He asked the crowd if they liked football and everyone yelled yes. And then President Clinton told them that when something’s really important like football, we care about the facts. But too often we live in a fact-free world.
And that got me thinking. People often ask us at ONE about why they should care about helping those in extreme poverty around the world when we face so many issues here at home. And it made me think about football and what President Clinton said. We’ve got to keep working hard to get the facts out there. We need to make people see that what we’re doing works, that money isn’t being wasted and that amazing programs – like the Global Fund – are saving lives every day. And we’ve got to tell those facts in a way that people can understand. We’ve got to make them care about extreme poverty and preventable disease the same way they think about football. And this week is a great week to push that important message and make sure it gets heard.
It’s getting pretty late, and I’ve still got a few things to cross of on my to-do list tonight, but I really wanted to share my dinner plans with all of you. I hope you’ve enjoyed Day 1 of our coverage. Stay tuned for lots more tomorrow!
PS: In case you’re wondering what President Clinton’s favorite tv commercial is these days, take a look at this.