BY VERONICA MENALDI
Daily Staff Reporter
Published February 18, 2009
Most campus groups spend their time promoting their causes handing out fliers on the Diag. But last weekend Will Work for Food got to pitch their ideas to former President Bill Clinton.
The group met with the former president at the Clinton Global Initiative University conference in Austin, Texas. LSA senior Josh Cohen, one of the group’s founders, said Clinton responded positively to the group.
Cohen said Clinton gave the group some advice, telling it “the 21st century needs to be redefined to include active and global participation and citizenship,” which Cohen said fits well into the group’s goal.
The group’s aim is to build online social networks to connect volunteers and donors to promote global citizenship. Through the organization’s website, participants can sign up do community service and be sponsored by family or friends. Money from sponsors is then sent to organizations helping to aid Darfur.
Steven Weinberg, president of Will Work For Food, said the group’s founders were inspired by Clinton’s speech at the University’s 2007 Spring commencement. In the speech, Clinton highlighted the role that the current generation can play in an unequitable and unstable world.
“(Clinton) also provided a spark of inspiration by recognizing that with how connected the world is today through the media and Internet, our generation has a greater potential to solve these matters by being 21st century global citizens,” Weinberg said. “Citizens that not just help others in our own communities but also commit to providing relief to those in need around the world.”
Clinton echoed these sentiments at the conference, Weinberg said.
The CGI U conference is built off the Clinton Global Initiative model that brings world leaders together to take action on difficulties facing people around the world.
The conference featured over a thousand university students from 50 states and 60 countries, as well as representatives from nonprofit organizations.
Cohen said everyone there had made a commitment to action.
“It’s about turning good intensions into tangible results,” he said.
The conference consisted of a panel with notable speakers, including actress Natalie Portman, two smaller sessions about nonprofit organizations and a CGI U exchange that allowed the participants to get information about each other’s organizations.
Cohen said he was happy to get the chance to share his project with others at the conference.
“We are proud of our projects but we’re so engulfed in it that to back up and view it from an unbiased perspective and to see the validation from others was exciting,” he said. “We saw really positive reactions.”
Weinberg said seeing reactions from the other participants cemented his belief that they “were on the right track.”
"The best part of it was that we got positive reactions from everyone, including other students, directors of other large nonprofits and even former President Clinton," he said. "That the program can be well received by such a wide range of people is really encouraging."