The Clinton Global Initiative University (CGIU) is a forum created by President Bill Clinton to encourage students to develop innovative solutions to pressing global challenges. Technion student Adi Hanuka, who is starting a Master’s program in electrical engineering, was invited to attend after submitting an idea to develop a software project to teach autistic children how to take care of themselves. Her design combines Kinect (Microsoft’s motion sensing device) with other educational/behavioral methods of autism therapy.
Below is Adi’s account of the event, held at Washington University in St. Louis in early April.
CGIU Experience- Adi Hanuka
April 5 — I arrived in St. Louis and had lunch with my sponsor, the McDonnell International Scholars Academy. Elad Gilboa, a PhD student from the Technion, who is also sponsored by them, gave me a tour of campus.
My grandmother told me she likes President Clinton and she will be happy to see a picture of us together, and as a good granddaughter I want to please my nani . Moreover, before coming to the conference I said to myself there is no way I am flying so many miles and don’t shake his hand!
The doors were supposed to open at 17:45, so at 17:20 I went there and saw a group of 5. We stood together to hopefully get to be first into the room. The Americans have a natural skill in lining up … so eventually we found ourselves heading a line of a km!! )
At 18:30, the Event started- I was soooo excited about being part of such a huge event!!! It was really inspiring — Clinton’s speech and the panel he held with Jack Dorsey, the Twitter founder; inventor and writer William Kamkwamba; Zainab Salbi, Writer and Founder of Women for Women International, and Kenneth Cole.
Clinton has amazing charisma!! One sentence has been engraved in my heart: “The saddest people in my class are not those people who failed, even failed repeatedly, the saddest people are those who did not chase their dreams”.
We had a group photo and I stood right next to Bill and Chelsea Clinton. At first her bodyguard didn’t let me get close to her, but I said, “Chelsea, Chelsea I came from Israel!!” Then she said, “who is from Israel?” I pointed, and her bodyguard let me get closer!! I got my name tag signed by Bill, and a picture with Chelsea!
April 6 — I went to the skills session, and sat next to an Arab student. His commitment is to take poetry made in Hebron and sell it in the US in order to widen the income of his country.
I did lots of great networking, and heard many amazing commitments. One example I really liked was a football that charges a battery while the kids are playing. In that way, in a 3-hour game, a village in South Africa has electricity for 3 hours at night!!
The CLOSING PLENARY SESSION was hosted by Stephen Colbert. It was a great show! In the evening, Elad and his family invited us to Mimona celebrations (to mark the end of Passover) in the Jewish community. It was a great evening!
CGIU hosted a morning of community service at Gateway STEM High School to give back to the community: renovating an African-American school in the city. For 3 hours we volunteered painting walls, cleaning classrooms, gardening, planting. We had to take out the entire weeds around the school, turn up the dirt and plant new plants.
After 1 hour of working, while I was taking a huge weed bag to the corner, President Clinton came to our group and saw me taking this bag all alone. He stopped and told the guys “help her” but I smiled and responded, “it is ok! Israel Army,” I said proudly. He waited till I put the bag down, shook my hand, gave me a hug and asked me where I am from and what was my job in the army. All the media were around us, so I got on my toes to get to his ear and whispered: “Intelligence” …
It was so amazing to meet one of America’s presidents.
I am so happy to have been a part of CGIU and hope that its legacy of innovation and inspiration will continue here at the Technion. It was extremely humbling for me to be included amongst such a great group of young people, but what’s really going to define us is how we turn our ideas into reality. I will end with an inspiring phrase to remind us of our potential: “If you think you’re too small to have an impact, try going to bed with a mosquito.” — Anita Roddick (1942-2007)