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Posted at 08:29 PM ET, 09/24/2012

Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting 2012: Chelsea Clinton on the case for optimism


Chelsea Clinton and husband Marc Mezvinsky listen to speakers during the 2012 Clinton Global Initiative annual meeting September 23, 2012 in New York. (STEPHEN CHERNIN - AFP/GETTY IMAGES)

The Clinton Global Initiative’s annual meeting concludes Tuesday, but before it ends, Chelsea Clinton is scheduled to host a panel discussion on “The Case for Optimism in the 21st Century.”

Clinton, daughter of former President Bill Clinton and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, is a CGI board member and correspondent for NBC News. She penned a piece published Monday by The Daily Beast on the “digital divide,”a phenomenon largely associated with the 1990s, that persists today.

Given this widening socio-economic gap, and the less-than-stellar global economic outlook, one might wonder what, precisely, there is to be optimistic about.

“I think what makes me optimistic is the mind shift in thinking about what are often deemed the world challenges — the places in the world that face the greatest number of challenges — and real opportunities,” Clinton said during a phone interview Monday. She acknowledged that the CGI meeting was a place “where cynicism is quite difficult to have,” particularly as participants outlined their aspirations and struggles relevant to their “commitments” — a plan for action on a local or global scale.

“That mix of pragmatism and dreaming,” Clinton said, “is what optimism is all about.”

But, at large global gatherings of world leaders and experts in the for- and non-profit sectors, there are often gaps between passion, intention and, most importantly, action. CGI seeks to set itself apart by bridging those gaps with its commitments, and, for the first year, the meeting has been given a theme, “Designing for Impact,” with the former president drawing particular attention to participants’ progress on their action plans.

“I think it’s a really timely theme focusing on how do we think about outcomes — not just outputs,” said Chelsea Clinton.

She spoke of moving from a paradigm of assistance and aid to one of development — where actors serve not only the needs, but the wants of those most in need.

“People value similar things around the world,” she said.

What innovations does she most look forward to?

“I believe that we have not even begun to see the ways in which technology will completely revolutionize our ability to really help people in the developing world gain ... the skills and tools that they need.”

A graduate of Stanford University, Clinton earned graduate degrees from University College Oxford and Columbia University.

“I am a proud nerd,” she said, when asked about whether she considered herself to be wonk or nerd. “I have been my whole life. I was never a cool kid. ... I thankfully, at some point, embraced my nerd-dom.”

The Clinton Global Initiative’s 2012 annual meeting concludes Tuesday and will feature remarks by President Barack Obama and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney.

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By  |  08:29 PM ET, 09/24/2012

Categories:  Business, Technology

 
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