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CGIU 2017: Student Reflection

Published: 7 months ago | 0 comments

By Sandra Martha Batakana

Upon reading the theme of the Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U 2017) “Students turning ideas into actions,” I got very excited and was ready to make the most of my weekend in Northeastern University, Boston. The theme summarizes my expectations of the conference. It was my hope that by the end of the weekend, I would have the tools that would enable me to turn my ideas into actions. Indeed, my expectations were beyond fulfilled.

The opening plenary, “What Unites Us: Building Community in a Divided World” struck me most. The topics that were explored included creating a culture of dialogue and reconciliation, encouraging effective and even difficult discussions that are rooted in empathy and honest. Additionally, opportunities to harness education and entrepreneurship to transcend religious, social, racial, political, or geographic barriers and expand offline social networks were discussed. We were also encouraged to build systems for innovative community engagement, inclusivity and civic participation.

The president of Northeastern University – Joseph E Aoun, brought out the theme clearly and concisely. He used one of my favorite African proverbs, “When you walk alone, you go very fast but when you take others with you, you go very far.” This is a proverb that I grew up hearing and putting into practice since my early childhood days in Eastern Uganda. Hearing this proverb reinstated in my mind the presence of all the great minds and amazing audience of students and high achievers in the room, such as Chelsea Clinton and Dr. Paul Farmer, to mention but a few. I realized that we were all there for a great cause and that we were there to support each other. This was thus an opportunity for me to continue walking my journey with more than 1100 students from different universities around the world.

The president went on to talk about how important it was to honor the uniquely bound human attributes. In his perspective, the best approach to solving the world’s problems is by addition and multiplication, and not subtraction and division. This came as a sounding realization to me. Well, my cause for being at the conference was to multiply and add to the world, while starting with my community.

President Bill Clinton moderated the panel where among the panelists was Olympic medalist, entrepreneur, activist and Duke alum Ibtihaj Muhammad. Despite the challenges that she has faced as a young African American woman, she has made her way to the top of her industry. She put an emphasis on how education is the most important tool that one can use to transcend most of the barriers to prosperity in the world, including racial and religious barriers. This was reassuring for my commitment to action – an educational initiative to encourage more girls and boys to keep in school in Eastern Uganda by providing extra resources such as mentorship and scholastic materials.

I also attended other sessions such as “Raising Money for Your Commitment” where I learned the secrets to writing a good proposal, fundraising and how to use early moneys. Additionally, I attended the “Skills vs Degrees” session. The session was made interesting and enjoyable by the great sense of humor of the moderator; Mr. Joseph E. Aoun. Nonetheless, I learned that despite the increasing use of technology, human skills are still essential to the development of the world. We wrapped up the weekend by doing community service where I had fun planting daffodils.

I left Boston feeling more empowered and ready to tell my narrative and put my idea into action. I learned to protect my tomorrow from today and to change the conversation in a way that will benefit the world.

I am grateful to Duke and the Clinton Global Initiative for the great opportunity that I was given to attend this conference, given that I am currently studying abroad at University College London this semester. Special thanks go to the Duke Innovation and Entrepreneurship, The MasterCard Foundation, family and friends for having given me the necessary support and preparation for this conference. I know that I am the opportunity and the inspiration that I am thinking and I am ready to turn my ideas into action.

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