Wednesday
Dec 12
2012
December 12, 2012

Five Things I Learned at Clinton Global Initiative University That Aren’t Always Taught in the Classroom

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Applications are open for Clinton Global Initiative University 2013, where more than 1,000 college students representing all 50 states and countries all over the world will gather at Washington University in St. Louis to address pressing global issues.

 A University of Texas-Arlington student who attended last year’s meeting recalls the lessons he learned beyond the lecture hall.

Last April, I had the opportunity to attend the annual Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U) meeting in Washington, D.C., among hundreds of students striving to create a better future through innovation and collaboration. While I learned a plethora of information on economic development and sustainability, there were five lessons that I learned at CGI U that I probably could never have learned in a college classroom.

FAILURE CAN BE EDUCATIONAL

The first lesson, and also the one that has stuck with me for the longest, was to embrace failure. This lesson was provided by Biz Stone, the co-founder and creative director of Twitter, Inc. Mr. Stone expressed the importance of using your mistakes to represent your character. Failure, he said, is an integral part of developing a durable, fully realized brand. When faced with disappointment, adapt, don't repress. In an auditorium full of scholars and academics, never before had I been so inspired by my failures.

CONSIDER THE MARK YOU LEAVE ON THE WORLD

The second lesson -- which was more abstract in nature, but resonated nonetheless -- came from renowned environmentalist and Indian philosopher, Dr. Vandana Shiva. She spoke with clear eyes and a full heart when she said that we are not Atlas carrying the world on our shoulders: Despite what we may believe, the planet is carrying us. Point taken, Dr. Shiva. If I can't leave the planet a better place, the least I can do is not harm it any further.

YOUTH ARE POWERFUL

The third lesson was provided by the captivating Chelsea Clinton. Even with a unique global perspective, she was able to connect with students on a personal basis. She noted the importance of young people around the world in creating great social and economic shifts, specifically around Occupy Wall Street and the Arab Spring. Upon hearing this, I felt it almost mandatory that leaders around the world create committees that monitor and take seriously the input of young people when making decisions. Nearly nine months out of the meeting, I still have a tough time thinking of an instance where young people have not been at the forefronts of movements that made the world a better place.

YOUR DEGREE DOESN’T DEFINE YOU

The fourth lesson came from human rights leader Sadiqa Basiri Saleem. This was the woman who had come extremely close to earning a medical degree before the Taliban shut down her Afghan-run school. While she marked the importance of education, she also spoke from experience in telling us that that a Ph.D. is not necessary to make a difference. There are endless ways to both make a living and make change, she said. I can say with confidence that many of us in attendance, who weren’t looking forward to four more years of graduate school after college, found reassurance in her words.

DON'T WAIT TO BE CALLED ON

As President Bill Clinton would put it, at CGI U, we don't just talk. We do. That’s the fifth lesson. CGI U students are a group of doers and not just talkers. We welcome students of all ages, races, and backgrounds from around the world to join us every year in creating a better future.

President Clinton will host CGI U 2013 from April 5-7 at Washington University in St. Louis. The deadline to apply is January 30. To learn more or apply online, visit CGIU.org.