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At Clinton Global Initiative Conference, Bill And Chelsea Inspire Awe

Kaysie Ellingson |
April 5, 2013 | 9:10 p.m. PDT

Staff Reporter

It is nearly 10 p.m. here in St. Louis, MO, almost 8 p.m. California time. There is no excuse for the fact that I’m sitting in my hotel room dozing off as I write this, but I am exhausted. Today was the first day of the Clinton Global Initiative University conference, an annual event started by former President Bill Clinton. Maybe the fact that I am so tired is due to the excitement over my encounter with him today. 

He along with several other brilliant minds including his daughter Chelsea—who I must say is as charismatic as her father—Stephen Colbert, Matthew Perry and many more are penciled down for the lineup of speakers. This weekend they tackle a vital element in the process of starting a program: the HOW. 

I, along with over a thousand other college and graduate students, am here to get the necessary information on how to begin a project I proposed to the members of the Clinton Global Initiative back in January.

Tonight’s evening began with a networking session. The sports center of Washington University was packed with hundreds of people crowding around tiny tables with labels that fit the description of their projecst. I chatted with several attendees whose projects range from training college students in CPR to helping refugees in Syria with housing. 

After dinner and conversing, Chelsea Clinton opened the final event. I remember reading a book about her in the third grade…something about letters to the president’s daughter. I also remember voting for Bill Clinton in a fake election my third grade teacher put on for us. Instead of a donkey for Democrats, she used a whale, so I think that is what utlimately won my vote. Either way, my nine-year-old self and my appreciative adult-self collaborated into one antsy 25-year-old body tonight as these two political figures stood before me.  

Eventually four powerhouse leaders—Kenneth Cole, Zainab Salbi, Jack Dorsey (cough, cough Twitter co-founder) and William Kamkwamba—joined the stage for a panel discussion led by the former president. As each speaker spewed out his or her words of wisdom I anxiously jotted down every statement I could. 

“Constraint inspires creativity,” Dorsey said, which explains the motive behind the 140-character maximum on Twitter.

“I was living in a country (the U.S.) that allowed me to act,” Salbi said regarding the condition of women in the Middle East. “I had the responsibility to act.” 

“Every morning I look at my closet and say what’s not here,” said Cole, “and then I go to work and make it.” 

The evening concluded with a photo opportunity for all thousand attendees and our idol Clinton, which was pure chaos. Now as I lie in my hotel bed, my stomach is full with the best seafood chowder I’ve ever had and a glass of wine.

I will spend the rest of my night researching questions to ask Matthew Perry during our office hours and crossing my fingers for another conversation with Sarah Kendzoir from Al Jazeera tomorrow. Stay tuned for more updates directly from the conference. 



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