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CGIU 2017: Student Reflection

Published: 7 months ago | 0 comments

By Henry Yuen

This was my second Clinton Global Initiative conference after attending my first at the University of Miami in 2015. I fondly remember the raw sense of curiosity and awe that pervaded the entire weekend in Miami when I attended my first event where the 1000+ participants around me were all doing important and impactful work in their communities. Along with hearing Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton address the audience, networking with passionate young changemakers was intensely energising.

Fast forward to CGI 2017, my experience has been quite different, yet nonetheless inspiring. In the place of an untempered amazement was a refined sense of purpose and agenda. This time round, I felt that I could piece together exactly what I was curious about and have the confidence to have a enriching conversations with and directly seek answers from fellow students.

I attribute this shift in perspective to the fact that my commitment to action has grown steadily since 2015. In fact, our team had completed only the first pilot summer camp by the first conference, and today, we’ve run seven of them teaching over 100 high school Nepali students leadership development and college readiness. I felt that I can now better understand what I know and what I wanted to know.

There was no doubt that the speakers were all inspirational. One speaker that stuck out in my mind was Darryl Davis, a famous R&B musician who also befriended Ku Klux Klansmen to convince them to quit. His story was a lesson to all of us in compassion and compromise especially given today’s growing populist sentiments. While we praise those who vehemently resist injustices and wrongdoings, we talk much less about the value of connecting to the other side who may have different opinions or discriminate us for factors beyond our control. It was an important reminder not only to continue to call out the wrong but also do our fair share of outreach and empathy with those who we dissent from.

The skill session in monitoring and evaluating results was also very helpful in terms of providing tips for my own commitment. It’s often hard to say no to new opportunities, especially when it comes to expanding the program to more locations, but it’s even more important to focus on the core mission and vision of the project. Any action that takes away from the core mission should be considered peripheral to the greater vision of the project.

I would like to thank the Duke I&E department for supporting my experience at CGI 2017 in Boston. While I wish there was more time to break out into groups with other participants to share ideas, CGI has nonetheless been an inspiring weekend with lessons learnt that I hope to carry forward into my everyday life.

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