Experiencing the Clinton Global Initiative: Committed to Sustainable Change

10/01/2013 05:04 pm ET Updated Jan 23, 2014

We have all attended conferences knowing that 10% will be substantive and 90% will be superfluous. CGI is not that conference. The substance of the program is unparalleled. Each of the main speakers is a well-developed leader in an area of global change and is strategically selected to provoke ideas and facilitate thoughtful exchange. And, as a result, this meeting left many of us realizing that sustainable change ABSOLUTELY requires total commitment and dedication. Not only do we all need to be better global citizens, but we must constantly recruit others to join us on the journey.

It is extremely hard to narrow down my favorite moment from the week, but one evening that did stand above the others was the Clinton Global Citizen Awards presentation. The award recipients being recognized this year covered a broad range of humanitarian and heroic commitments, inspiring all of us fortunate enough to be in the audience to intensify our efforts and to bring about the meaningful and sustainable change required to deliver a better world.

The sheer amount and diversity of innovation was also very inspiring. To see such meaningful advances in solar technology, sustainable farming, nutrition, social finance, creative policy reform, waste removal and education was truly enlightening and a reminder to me that we must constantly force ourselves to think globally even when our daily tasks encourage us to be more narrowly focused.

Women's health and women's rights have been the focus of my work for almost two decades. So I was most inspired by the acknowledgment that women and girls are the critical success factor in all communities across the globe and that we must do everything in our power to support, respect and escalate them into leadership roles.

Malala Yousafzai, the 16-year-old education activist from Pakistan, was one of seven people honored at the Global Citizen Awards ceremony. As many of you will recall, Malala was shot in the head last year by the Taliban for speaking out about the need to educate girls. To see a young woman so dedicated to creating a new world for the next generation and so inspiring to those who will follow in her footsteps, was extraordinary.

It is people like Malala, everyday citizens of the world, using their courage, their voice and their passion that are making the difference for all of us. If girls like Malala are the future, then we cannot fail. It will no longer be acceptable for us to stand aside. We will be forced - we will all be forced I assure you - to succumb to the power and the momentum of bold leaders with new ideas - ideas that will bring about the change so desperately needed in the world today. We will have no choice but to act, to stand tall and brave like Malala.