That was one of the key messages at the 11th annual CGI U, held this year at UChicago. The three-day event engages the next generation of leaders and social entrepreneurs to help them make a positive impact in communities worldwide. The conference included more than 1,000 students—with more than 150 students from UChicago—focused on commitments to action that address specific problems in one of five focus areas: education, environment and climate change, poverty alleviation, peace and human rights, and public health.
Such social impact projects by UChicago students include confronting the air pollution crisis in India, fighting the opioid epidemic in the United States and improving sustainable farming in Haiti. Learn more about the projects here.
Finding solutions and putting them into action can be difficult without collaboration and optimism.
“There’s so much in the world that I don’t know about,” said Ray Andrada, a third-year UChicago law student who attended CGI U. “There are fearless young people who are tackling these big problems, and I should be inspired to think on a more daring scale as well.”
Ambitious themes ran through the conversation Saturday led by the Clintons, who spoke for more than an hour at the University’s Ratner Athletics Center. During a wide-ranging discussion moderated by Chicago Community Trust CEO Helene Gayle, Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton called on the audience to reach out to others with open minds, but to do so without losing conviction in their own beliefs.
“Too many people are, when they get older, broken by their disappointments,” former President Clinton said. “Don’t you ever let that happen to you.”
“Because nobody gets out of life for free,” he added. “And nobody gets to win all the time. But my faith is rooted in what I see here every year, and what young people say to me all over America and all over the world.”
During the discussion, Hillary Clinton acknowledged that the public has had reason to be frustrated with democratic institutions. But, she added, it remains crucial to combat the forces attempting to undermine such institutions.
“Every person has a stake in working through, in your own mind, how you can hold institutions accountable without walking away from them,” she said. “Or without giving up on them, and playing into the hands of people who want to see them disrupted and dismantled—because that gives them more space to grab and hold on to power over you.”
Before the evening discussion, students participated in skill-building workshops and special programs, all designed to help them further develop their commitments.