Bill Clinton on CGI U Summit: People that Want to ‘Make a Difference for the Grassroots Up’ — ABC News Exclusive

By Jennifer Wlach

Apr 2, 2012 7:51am

This weekend over 1,000 college students from around the world descended upon Washington D.C. to participate in the 5th Annual Clinton Global Initiative University, or CGI U—a summit started by former President Bill Clinton in 2008 to inspire the youngest generation of Americans to lead a life of service.

ABC News’ Jake Tapper sat down exclusively with the former President to discuss the marked achievements of the collegiate arm of his CGI network, as well as the current political climate of this election year.

The former President commended the ingenuity of the CGI U participants—saying the entire summit benefits from a dichotomy of groups. “There are the young people who are always idealistic and always have good ideas. Then there are the young people who are disillusioned with government or with the private sector, who think, ‘Okay, I wanna take things in my own hands. Start my own organization. Do something that makes a difference for the grassroots up,’” Clinton said. “And we had both types of young people here. It was very interesting.”

Two student initiatives Clinton highlighted belong to Tyler Spencer and Kyle McCollum. Tyler’s commitment Grassroot, connects NCAA Division I athletes with local school children to promote HIV/AIDS awareness in Washington D.C., the city with the nation’s highest rates of infection.

Triple Thread, the commitment started by then-Vanderbilt student Kyle McCollum hires recently released prisoners from the local jail, trains them in the t-shirt screen printing business, and offers them a job and a smooth transition back to the workforce. “That’s just one school,” said President Clinton. “If every college or university that had a prison within 40 miles did something similar, we could…”

After the interview, Clinton and Tapper took to the streets of Washington where hundreds of student participants at CGI U were partaking in an annual service project.

“We always end with a community service project so that people can not only have their ideas of what they want to do but they can get the experience of working together,” Clinton explained. “They’re all sitting there doing these community service projects together. I think it’s so good for them as well as good for the causes here. Wherever we work… wherever we meet… we always pick a different service projects.”
For the 5th annual CGI U, students participated in not one but two community service projects. The first partnered with the USO to put together care packages for soldiers. The second teamed up with Rebuilding Together to refurbish homes in a Northeast Washington neighborhood.

In the 5 years since its inception, Clinton Global Initiative University has had over 5,000 students declare over 4,000 commitments, many of them returning in consecutive years to grow their already successful endeavors. In 2012 alone, the students participating in CGI U made 915 commitments. This year’s summit closed with a special one on one panel where Daily Show host Jon Stewart interviewed President Clinton and both men took questions from a packed audience of students at George Washington University. In an afternoon of serious conversations Stewart provided moments of levity to be sure; he ended the event poignantly saying, “I’ve rarely been in a room where I felt like I would like to work for each and every one of you.”

In the years since its inception, CGI U has been held on different college campuses across the country—California, Texas, Miami. Good Morning America anchor Robin Roberts was in New Orleans to help launch CGI U back in 2008. In five years, the summit has awarded over $1 million in grants to various student initiatives.

Next up for President Clinton and CGI? His summit on the U.S. economy & domestic job growth—CGI America—set for June 7 & 8 in Chicago.

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