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Posted by LINDSEY CLARK, Clinton School student – Last week, Clinton School students had the unique opportunity to meet with Muhammad Yunus, founder of the Grameen Bank. Yunus’ efforts in microcredit and poverty reduction earned him the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006.
Starting the bank in 1976 in Bangladesh, Yunus saw credit as a human right and sought to expand this right by offering small loans to start sustainable businesses. Today, the bank has helped 7.5 million people. Of those who have been a part of the program, 64 percent have been able to lift themselves out of poverty.
What is remarkable is that the bank gives loans based on trust, not collateral. This ideology goes against the practices of Western financial institutions but remarkably, 98 percent of the loans are repaid. The vast majority of the loans are given to women because their earnings are more likely going to directly support their families.
Banks modeling the Grameen Bank have spread to all parts of the world including Arkansas. Yunus came in 1986 at the request of then governor Bill Clinton to establish microcredit. What resulted was the Good Faith Fund which is still in existence today.
Places like Africa, where more than 400 million people live on less than a dollar a day, are in dire need of more institutions like the Grameen Bank. Africa lacks the business capital and investors to get the economy going. The World Bank’s 2008 report on Doing Business ranks countries on how easy it would be to establish a business. The report ranked Ghana and Kenya, among other African countries, at number 27, meaning investment is possible in Africa. Unfortunately, many investors and creditors are reluctant to invest in Africa because of rampant corruption and lack of credit. As a result, investment is more likely to come in the form of small, private enterprises and not large, global investment measures. “Africa’s prosperity and stability will not come from dependency on foreign aid but from sustained, productive private investment,” said Shirti Vadera, parliamentary under secretary of state for the UK’s Department of International Development. Yunus’ approach is one successful alternative to large amounts of foreign aid.
“All human beings have unlimited creative potential,” Yunus said. “Once that is unleashed, no one has to be a poor person.” People have the ideas within themselves to bring an end to poverty. We simply must give them the means. This is at the heart of the Grameen Bank. From Bangladesh, to Africa, to Arkansas, we should not be afraid to invest in small acts that can lead to so much.
Lindsey Clark is a first-year student at the Clinton School, working toward her Master of Public Service Degree.
Posted by DEAN SKIP RUTHERFORD – Noted author and award winning sportswriter Mitch Albom of Detroit was in Little Rock on Wednesday to speak at the first annual Clinton School scholarship fundraising luncheon. Albom is author of the most famous memoir of all time: Tuesdays with Morrie–a story about his Brandeis Unversity college professor, Morrie Schwartz, and Morrie’s battle with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease). Albom wrote the book to pay Morrie’s $120,000 medical bills, and when the publishing contract was signed three weeks before Morrie died, he was able to tell him that all his medical bills were covered. The book was on The New York Times bestseller list for 4 years, and this week, the 10th anniversary edition was released.
Albom’s remarks to the crowd of more than 600 were moving. Many people wept openly as he described Morrie’s courage and example in the face of death. He spoke powerfully for 45 minutes without using a note. It was in my opinion, the best speech ever made at the Clinton School.
Albom was introduced by Governor Mike Beebe and the two spent time at the table prior to the program talking sports. Beebe is a huge Detroit Tiger fan so the two had much in common. On other sports topics, Albom predicted the Boston Red Sox would win the baseball World Series and that Ohio State would beat Penn State in college football. Prior to the speech, he signed books and visited informally with the Clinton School students.
Eric Wilson, who coordinated the event for the Clinton School, did an incredible job.
Jim Harris of ArkansasSports360.com attended the speech and has written an excellent recap on his blog. Click here to read it.
Posted by DEAN SKIP RUTHERFORD – The Slate 60 Philanthropy Conference opened Sunday night. Governor Eliot Spitzer of New York and Robert F. Kennedy Jr. headlined the opening panel about “Philanthropy and the Environment.” Both were outstanding.
I had the opportunity to welcome the guests and introduce the Clinton School students who were in attendance. Our students had incredible experiences visiting with and having photographs made with Spitzer, Kennedy, Sherry Lansing, Michael J. Fox, Justin Rockefeller, Laurie Tisch, Micheal Milken, Jonathan Alter and Carlos Slim among many others. Tomorrow Charlotte Lewellen Wiliams, director of the Clinton School’s Center on Community Philanthropy, is on the program along with Former President Clinton, Former Treasury Secretary Bob Rubin, Fox and Slim.
In addition to the Clinton School and Clnton Foundation representatives, Arkansans represented inluded Jo Luck of Heifer International, Little Rock City Manager Bruce Moore, North Little Rock Mayor Pat Hays, Don Munro of Hot Springs, Brad and Anna Kay Williams of Little Rock and David and Jane Gearhart of Fayetteville.
Posted by DEAN SKIP RUTHERFORD – The Slate 60 philanthropy conference co-sponsored by Slate Magazine, the William J. Clinton Foundation and the Clinton School begins tonight with a reception and dinner. Clinton School students will be among those who will hear Governor Eliot Spitzer of New York and Robert F. Kennedy Jr., on Sunday night. Monday’s schedule includes former President Clinton and actor Michael J. Fox. The Slate Conference is by invitation only and it’s another great advantage of being a Clinton School student.
On Tuesday, October 23, Republican presidential candidate Alan Keyes will speak at 6 p.m. at the Clinton School. This event is open to the public (RSVP: firstname.lastname@example.org). Keyes served in the Reagan adminstration and ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate in 2004 against Barack Obama.
On Wednesday, October 24, at 11:30 a.m. noted author and sportswriter Mitch Albom will speak at the first annual Clinton School Scholarship Luncheon being held in the Wally Allen Ballroom of the Statehouse Convention Center. Albom is the author of Tuesdays With Morrie which was on The New York Times bestseller list for four years. Tickets are $100 and all proceeds go to student scholarships. For more informaton contact Eric Wilson at email@example.com
On Thursday, October 25 at noon, Federal Judge Brett Kavanaugh of the District of Columbia U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will speak at the Clinton School. Judge Kavanaugh, appointed by President George Bush and confirmed by the Senate in May 2006 is often mentioned as a potential Supreme Court nominee. The D.C. circuit, which some say is the second most powerful court in the country, already has four of its alumni on the Supreme Court: Chief Justice John Roberts, Justices Antonio Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Ruth Bader Ginsberg. Judge Kavanaugh’s presentation is open to the public (RSVP: firstname.lastname@example.org)
We will be releasing our November speaker schedule in just a few days.
Posted by DEAN SKIP RUTHERFORD – Donna Shalala, President of the University of Miami and former Secretary of Health and Human Services, was here today speaking at the Clinton School. Among the many stories she shared, the Secretary said the chair she used in the White House Cabinet Room is being put to good use. When members like Shalala leave the President’s cabinet, they can purchase the chair they sat in during the meetings. Most all do. She keeps her chair in her office at UM and invites students the school is recruiting to sit in it–noting this unplanned secret weapon is particularly effective with the football players.
You can see a replica of the White House Cabinet Room in the Clinton Presidential Library–including a chair where the Secretary of Health the Human Services sat–just like the one in Secretary Shalala’s office in Miami.
Posted by DEAN SKIP RUTHERFORD – Longtime Arkansas Gazette and later Arkansas Democrat-Gazette columnist Richard Allin died this week. Richard’s “Our Town” column was one of the most well read and popular newspaper features. I read him regularly–even as he criticized the selection of the site of the Clinton Presidential Center and the Clinton School. He called the old warehouse district east of Interstate 30 where the Library and the School are now located “Murky Bottoms.” At the time I didn’t think it was too funny, but over time (and after several conversations with Richard), I took it in stride.
After all, when the site was selected, though it had enormous potential, it wasn’t very attractive. However, it’s amazing what $165 million in private investment will do–making the Clinton Presidential Center, the Clinton School and the Clinton Presidential Park economic development, educational and tourism anchors for Central Arkansas. Still, when I give site tours, I smile and tell the story of “Murky Bottoms,” which I realize, after objectively reflecting on the project, wasn’t too far off the mark.
We extend our sympathy to his wife Carol, whose bookstore in the Main Street Mall was ahead of its time, ahead of downtown revitalization and was one of my favorites. Richard will be missed.
Posted by BEN BEAUMONT – In his talk this afternoon at the Clinton School, National Public Radio President Kevin Klose said Americans today are paying more attention to current events than they were 10 years ago. Look no further than NPR’s listener numbers for proof – 13 million people were tuning in to NPR per week in 1999 when Klose became president, compared to 27 million today. Klose pointed to several major events over the last seven years that have caused this shift in American thought: the 2000 presidential election decided by the U.S. Supreme Court, the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001; the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; and Hurricane Katrina.
Like Klose, we would argue that these numbers point to a larger shift in the attitudes of Americans toward public service as a whole. Because of these major world events, young Americans are turning back toward public service as a means to make a difference. Five million of 12 million college undergraduates volunteered in some fashion in 2006. Peace Corp applications are up 20 percent since 2000, and AmeriCorps numbers have jumped more than 50 percent since 2004, according to USA Today. And at the Clinton School, students of all backgrounds are completing the nation’s first master’s degree in public service, learning concepts in the classroom and techniques in the field to facilitate social change.
NPR practices public service in its purest form. It ignores ratings and bottom-line figures to bring the news of the world to its listeners. We thank Kevin Klose, a true public servant, for visiting the Clinton School.
Posted by DEAN SKIP RUTHERFORD – This morning from 6:30 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. I will be on KUAR/KLRE public radio raising money for the local National Public Radio (NPR) affiliate. Virgil Miller of Metropolitan Bank and I do this every year because we enjoy and appreciate the quality programming that NPR provides. If you want to help support public radio in Arkansas, call in a pledge to 501-569-8485. You can call this number anytime–even if we’re not on the air and make a contirbution.
And, if you really are an NPR junkie, come to the Clinton School on Tuesday, October 16 at noon for a brown bag luncheon featuring Kevin Klose, NPR’s CEO who will be in Arkansas. Hosting Kevin at the Clinton School is a special treat for us. One of our students, Dr. Gary Wheeler, served as chair of the local board. For reservations, email email@example.com or call Nikolai Dipippa at 501-681-5239
Posted by DEAN SKIP RUTHERFORD – Former Vice President Al Gore joined a select group of Americans last week when he won the Nobel Peace Prize for his work on the environment and climate change. The documentary “An Inconvenient Truth” about his work in these areas had previously won an Academy Award. Other Americans who have won the Nobel Peace Prize include: Theodore Roosevelt (1906); Woodrow Wilson (1919); Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (1964); Henry Kissinger (1973); and Jimmy Carter (2002). Congratulations Mr. Vice President on this well deserved tribute.
Speaking of the Nobel Peace Prize, on Wednesday, October 17, Judith Stiehm, author of “Champions for Peace: Women Winners of the Nobel Peace Prize” will speak at 6 p.m. at the Clinton School and then sign copies of her book. Reservations can be made by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling Nikolai DiPippa (501-683-5239).