Today was an absolutely amazing experience!
After spending the morning in an economics course and taking a three-hour quantitative methods midterm, I made my way to downtown Pittsburgh for the One Young World (OYW) Summit!!! (Learn more about OYW at www.oneyoungworld.com.)
I arrived at Heinz Hall at 4:15 p.m. in just enough time to grab a seat front in center for the OYW Opening Ceremony. What began with several amazing performances—by the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and the Children’s Festival Chorus of Pittsburgh—evolved into a summary of last year's movements (check out this short video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PA_kBkGJoIo&feature=relmfu) and expectations for this year's summit.
Dr. Steven Sokol, President and CEO of the World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh kicked off the evening. He referred to all 1,200 delegates and ambassadors from 183 countries in attendance as the “successor generation.”
When asked their impressions of Pittsburgh, to no surprise, many of the foreign delegates and ambassadors described the ‘burgh as being “friendly” and “clean!”
Cofounders of OYW—David Jones and Kate Robertson—then took the stage. We had the privilege of listening to Mayor Luke Ravenstahl discuss Pittsburgh’s exemplary methods of revitalizing an urban city. Shortly after, our keynote began—42nd President of the United States, Bill Clinton. President Clinton answered select questions from four different delegates.
The first question he was asked was regarding whether or not the Middle East was prepared for the Arab Spring. He answered the question by highlighting some the history of the U.S. and the steps that countries take to transform. He established that the Middle East is ready for the Arab Spring, but they must build it.
The second question addressed to Clinton was about foreign aid, specifically how to reduce the reliance of foreign aid. The president talked about how countries must decide what their goals are in terms of foreign aid and how they want to deal with other countries on an equal playing field.
He cited two examples: Rwanda and Haiti. In Rwanda, the country was faced with the difficult task of rebuilding after genocide killed more than 10 percent of the population in 90 days. Clinton gave specific examples of how certain aid is being used to help reestablish the country and create sustainable methods so that the country can reach its goal of being free of foreign aid by 2020.
Haiti, on the other hand, was left devastated after an earthquake. In order to rebuild, the country must use its aid efficiently so that it can manage itself and eventually be rid of aid all together.
The third question Clinton answered was what some of the greatest challenges the world will see are and have to tackle them. Without hesitation he replied: 1) Inequality. Inequality is leading to restraint on growth and every country needs a solution. 2) Too unstable. Many people will be well off, but with a market economy, the chance of success comes with the chance of failure. 3) West models of getting rich. In order to continue to grow, countries continue to spend and consume. This consumption is destroying the environment, especially in terms of greenhouse gases. Clinton argued that with the climate changing, the future could be taken away.
Last, the final question the president answered dealt with the 2015 millennium goals and the role of the private sector. Clinton talked about thriving economics and how the private sector must be vibrant, but not counterproductive.
People need a job and income but they also need to help improve communities. Governments and NGOs must work together to reach goals more quickly and efficiently. And, people who make money from natural resources need to help others from falling into a “resource trap.” Clinton's keynote directly targeted concerns of OYW delegates and provided interesting insight into some global issues.
After the president’s keynote, Joss Stone, an OYW counselor, performed two remarkable live songs. She will also begin Friday’s sessions at 8 a.m.!
After, Professor Muhammad Yunus, a Noble Peace Prize recipient, spoke passionately about his work with microfinance. He reflected on how he did everything wrong, but it turned out right. He explained his ability to look at conventional methods, do the opposite, and see positive change.
In terms of microfinance and the poor, he rationalized how the poor did not create poverty. The system created poverty. There is nothing wrong with poor people, the system just did not work for them. With creative ideas we can begin to solve these, and many other, problems. He illuminated how the distance between possible and impossible is decreasing. Just imagine the world you want to happen and it will happen; but if you do not imagine, it will not happen.
No youth-dominated event, outside of the Olympics, brings together more countries than OYW. After Professor Yunus, but before the final speaker, the Flag Ceremony took place.
The Flag Ceremony is a OYW tradition that occurs at the beginning of each summit. A flag bearer from each country in attendance walks though the audience with the flag of his or her country. OYW brings flags together to signify uniting the world.
The last speaker of the evening was Bob Geldof.
Geldof has been a longtime supporter of OYW and he really put the future into perspective. Yes, people are out there doing things but their efforts are not enough.
We are experiencing a confusing global rebalance that will most likely transition into something we cannot map. There can no longer be single world powers but people need to start asking, what is a government? What is it for? What is it supposed to do?
The G1, G2, G7, and G20 have not offered a solution. The world is faced with problems that cannot be met without collaboration. Singular outcomes are not good enough anymore. Competition does not work. Inequalities need to be eradicated in order to move forward. The world needs leaders and it is in the power to make the world new.
The speakers at the Opening Ceremony were extremely inspiring and a whimsical preview of what is to come in the remainder of the summit. The thoughts and passion expressed by the people associated with OYW is so stimulating—there were times throughout the ceremony that I literally had goosebumps.
I cannot wait to see what comes from the rest of the 2012 summit.
As if the marvelous opening ceremony was not enough, OYW also hosted a delegate bridge party! What better way to show off the city with more bridges than Venice, Italy, than a party on the Clemente bridge!
To embrace Pittsburgh culture, the bridge was set up like a street fair highlighting some of Pittsburgh’s finest establishments. There were caricaturists, baked goods from Kribel’s Bakery, pierogis, smores at the Pittsburgh Glass Center tent, fruit, lasagna and meatballs from Donato’s, lobster mac ‘n cheese from The Capital Grille, sliders in A Taste of Pittsburgh Tent, live performances and so much more.
Finally, the night concluded with a spectacular fireworks display over the river. I could not have asked for a more thought-provoking and enjoyable first day.
I wonder what tomorrow has in store!?