Student has opportunity to learn about program that aims at getting concrete results for world problems

Amy Eggert

Amy Eggert

There are a few things I’ve learned in my three years on the staff of The Collegian. Mainly, journalism isn’t easy, especially for a student trying to balance a full course load, extra-curricular activities and sometimes even another job. It’s even more difficult if you’ve never taken a journalism class. I spend a ridiculous amount of time in the Union basement and am the first one informed of “anonymous” attacks via the Web site. Every so often, something comes along that makes up for my plunging G.P.A. and lack of a social life.

On Feb. 13, I had the opportunity to partake in a conference call with former President William Jefferson Clinton. College Media Network, the parent company of College Publisher – the company that handles The Collegian’s Web site – set up an exclusive conference call with the former Commander-in-Chief and Scott Cowen, president of Tulane University in New Orleans, La., to discuss a new branch of the Clinton Global Initiative: Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U).

Just to clarify, I am a tree-hugging, equal rights demanding, first amendment supporting, idealistic bleeding-heart liberal. I believe that through diplomacy and soft power, we can achieve much more than with sheer might alone. I recognize my bias and thus present this not as a straight news story, but as a first-hand account. To me, getting the chance to speak to President Clinton is the stuff dreams are made of. No matter what you thought of his presidency, it is hard to argue with the worldwide impact he has made since he left office.

The Clinton Global Initiative, a project of the William J. Clinton Foundation, was started in 2005 by Bill Clinton as a way to turn lofty goals of fixing the world’s problems into concrete results. The project is currently focused on four main areas: education, energy and climate change, global health and poverty alleviation. Focus areas change yearly at the annual meeting, where each member is required to make a commitment to action, be it through gifts of money, time, skills or products. Since its inception, members will affect 180 lives in over 100 countries through 1,000 commitments worth tens of billions of dollars.

Current commitments range from a power company pledging to build solar power plants to a travel magazine raising $1 million within a year towards medical support for children five and under worldwide. There’s a company providing 10 million free energy-efficient CFL lights to homes across China, while the Dubai royal family is launching a community-based fundraising campaign for children in developing countries. With 249 member commitments this year, I could go on for pages, but I’ve been warned to stick to my word limit.

CGI U brings the same spirit of change to the next generation of leaders: American college students. It may be scary to think that we will one day be running the show, especially when most students seem more worried about what’s on Facebook rather than what’s in the grade book. Of course, there are plenty of young people making a real difference out there. In Clinton’s latest book, “Giving,” he discusses Ellie Winkleman, a student at Scripps College who sold Challah bread once a week with all proceeds going to help the children of Darfur. She raised tens of thousands of dollars and got others thinking about the issue.

CGI U will tap into the boundless idealism and optimism of today’s youth and pair them with non-profit groups and social entrepreneurs to create real results. The inaugural meeting will be held March 14-16 at Tulane University in New Orleans. Sadly, the deadline for registration was Feb. 18. Students can still participate by visiting on March 15 for a live Web cast from Tulane or by going to and making a commitment.

Of course, there’s plenty you can do right here at SDSU. President Clinton has a dream of every college and university in the U.S. having their own non-governmental organization and thus incorporating this type of worldwide community service into everyday college life. While we haven’t quite achieved that, we do have numerous on-campus groups dedicated to achieving many of the same goals found in CGI. Groups such as Sierra Club and Amnesty International are local branches of international organizations while clubs like Project Sustainability @ sdstate and South Dakota Students for Fair Trade are SDSU startups. For those students wanting to get involved, find the groups on Facebook or attend a meeting and jump right in. It’s a bit cliché, but in the words of Mahatma Gandhi, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.