It was a weekend to remember at the University of Miami, where over 1,000 students from all over the world gathered to commit themselves to taking action on global issues.
As a part of the third annual Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U) Meeting, which included workshops, a service project in Homestead and plenary sessions with U.S. Surgeon General Regina Benjamin, Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Pierre Garçon and recording artist Pharrell Williams, among others, President Bill Clinton addressed the UM student press, sending his message of hope for Haiti to the student body.
Clinton, who has worked with Haiti for 35 years, said good intentions in the past have mistakenly prolonged Haiti’s dependence on other nations.
Moving forward, Clinton’s plan is to build Haiti into a self-sustaining modern state, something he believes to be possible now more than ever.
“I’m doing this because I know how smart [the Haitians] are and how good they are and I see how well Haitians do when they come to the United States,” Clinton said. “They have been misgoverned. They have been abused and neglected from without and they have been abused and neglected from within.”
Although not all students are as motivated to create change as the UM students who made 257 commitments at this year’s CGI U, Clinton believes the potential lies within everyone.
He said it is the responsibility of non-governmental organizations (NGO’s), organizations that students themselves can start and join, to fill in the gaps between what is produced by the private sector and what is provided by the government.
Before the economic crisis, the United States had over one million NGO’s. Haiti had around 10,000, behind only the United States and India, Clinton said, but they were highly disorganized.
Clinton said the keys to successful relief efforts in Haiti are organization and transparency.
He spoke of plans to implement a computer system used in Aceh, Indonesia after a devastating tsunami in 2004 that monitored public money as well as donations from NGO’s. The data, which included who sent the funds, what they were for and how they were used, was open to the public and was audited continuously during and after the projects were completed.
Clinton said the clarity of and access to this information made it the most corruption-free operation ever run in Indonesia.
“I plead with you- don’t get bored with this,” he said. “Follow this. Hold us all accountable. Chase this money and if you do it and the Haitians do it, we’re going to be just fine.”
Clinton hopes that hosting so many students and leaders who have integrated service into their lives will have positive effects on UM well past CGI U 2010’s closing event Sunday.
“What I hope will happen is that you’ll have a higher percentage of students permanently engaged in student service and that more of the service projects will be self-generated,” Clinton said. “That means you will create more NGO’s on your own, you will have more solutions to problems on your own.”
Nina Ruggiero may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.