Posts Tagged ‘New York City’

-Blog post by Reed Sandridge of Washington, D.C.

When you put people first and politics second, you can get things done.” -President Bill Clinton at CGI 2011

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton speaks during the 2011 Clinton Global Initiative in New York on September 22, 2011. (Reuters Photo/Eduardo Munoz)

Even after having worked in his organization for 18 months, the hair on the back of my neck still stands up when I am in the presence of our 42nd president Bill Clinton. The 65-year-old statesman is one of our greatest political thinkers.

I can’t think of a better place to volunteer than at the Clinton Global Initiative, an action oriented meeting of some of the most influential people and organizations in the world. It’s hard to grasp unless you have been there, but I will try to give you an idea.

On my way to my first assignment there, I passed Bishop Desmond Tutu, who by the way has one of the most intoxicating laughs I have ever heard. He was leaving his session where he and fellow Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi of Myanmar talked with Charlie Rose about human rights, democratic governance and ethnic reconciliation. On the escalator up to the next floor I turned around to see Procter & Gamble’s CEO Bob McDonald standing behind me.

I arrived at the session I was assigned to volunteer at which was titled “Securing Global Nutrition.” Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times led a panel discussion which featured the head of USAID, the president of WWF International, the CEO of Britannia Industries and one of the leading agronomists in the world. They were gathered to discuss how to tackle the nutritional challenges we face, primarily in the developing world.

Later I headed to a session on Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) where I was tasked with taking the official notes of the meeting. About 30 people were gathered – including two princesses from Jordan, the actress Fran Drescher and executives from the American Cancer Society and PepsiCo.


Photo: Reed Sandridge

Before it was all over I saw President Obama speak about service and the economy, watched Chelsea Clinton moderate a panel on leveraging technology to help women and girls in developing countries, saw actresses Heather Graham and Geena Davis and chatted with Michael Jordan’s mother – who’s a sweetheart by the way.  And just when I thought I had seen all that I was going to see, Ted Turner popped his head into the lobby bar of the Sheraton at the end of the day.

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Blog post by Reed Sandridge of Washington, DC


Students at Let's Get Ready's Career Day in New York City (photo: Reed Sandridge)

Although his eyes seemed to dance around the room, I would later learn that Antoine was indeed paying attention.  Seated at a small table on the third floor of Robert F. Wagner Middle School on New York’s East Side, the soon to be high school junior’s mind was aldreay dreaming of places far beyond the walls of room 302 this past Saturday.

Antoine was attending Let’s Get Ready’s Career Day.  It’s a day that gives a diverse mix of high school students the opportunity to learn about a variety of careers from about 50 professionals who volunteered their time to share their knowledge with more than 250 young people who attended.  Founded in the summer of 1998 by Jeannie Lang Rosenthal, an undergrad at Harvard, Let’s Get Ready is a nonprofit organization serving communities in and around New York City and Boston whose mission is to expand college access for motivated, low-income high school students by providing free SAT preparation and college admission counseling.

“You think that one day I could have a job like you,” the young man from west Bronx asked me after I finished my presentation.

“Absolutely.  How are your grades?”

“Okay, I guess.”

“What’s that mean?” I asked him trying to get a sense of how he was doing in school.

“Well, last year I did real good: an A and mostly B’s.”


Students took a personality assessment to help determine possible careers to explore. (photo: Reed Sandridge)

The 16-year-old, whose real name I changed to Antoine for this article, is one of 3.1 million young people this year who will be faced with the decision of whether or not to attend college after high school.  If you evaluate his situation based solely on drive, there is no doubt in my mind that he will go on to college.  He’s thirsty to know more and asked several excellent questions during the seminar.

I co-led a variety of sessions focused on helping the students understand their career interests through a personality assessment, interactive sessions about college, and tips on how to build and maintain a professional network so that they can land a job after college.  Originally I was only to be a speaker at the half day workshop, however, when their photographer wasn’t able to make it, I offered to stand in and try to capture some visual images of the day as well.  Click here to see the images I captured from Career Day.

The thermometer nearly broke the century mark that afternoon and there was no air-conditioning in the room that I was assigned to.  Exhausted and covered with sweat, I wrapped up my session and headed to the closing session in the main auditorium.  I got the chance to meet and exchange business cards (Let’s Get Ready supplied the students with cards that they filled out to serve as business cards for the day) with dozens of tomorrow’s leaders.

It was inspiring to talk with them and hear their dreams.

“I want to be a pediatric oncologist.”

“I want to be a social worker.”

“I want to work in television.”

“I want to start my own organization to help underprivileged kids.”

“I want your job!”


photo: Reed Sandridge

After the event was over I stayed and spoke with several young people who patiently waited to introduce themselves to me.  I hope they all keep in touch, I will be checking in on them periodically too to see how things are going.  When the last student had left, I grabbed my bags and headed for the front doors.  Now dim and voiceless in the school, the heavy metal doors rumbled as they gave way to a sun-drenched sidewalk filled with the sounds of the Big Apple.

The success of Let’s Get Ready depends greatly on volunteers and donations.  If you would like to support this organization and help prepare our next generation of leaders, please visit their website and get involved!

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DC has been buzzing with tourists.  The Smithsonian and Zoo Metro stations are overflowing.  I decided to camp outside the Woodley Park/National Zoo Metro station.  It wasn’t long before I saw a woman studying the neighborhood map posted outside the station.  I walked up to her and asked if she needed help finding something.  In a clear British accent she politely declined my help. It would have been nice to include another British recipient in the Year of Giving.  You might recall that Joe from Day 62 was also from England.

Barbara, who hails from London, appeared quite confused by what I was doing.  She struggled on whether or not to accept the $10.  In the end she said that she really didn’t need the added stress of deciding what to do with the money.  I thought the response was kind of odd, but I try not to judge.

So there I was…waiting to find someone else.  A woman on her cell phone wearing a colorful scarf and orange heels caught my eye.  I waited for her to finish her call and approached her.  I wish I had my video rolling to capture her disbelief of what I was doing, but you will have to take my word for it.  We moved out of the main flow of traffic and I explained to Katy what I was doing.  In the end, she agreed to accept the $10.

Katy at the Woodley Park/Zoo Metro entrance (Photo: Reed)

Katy was one of the most interesting people I’ve met throughout the Year of Giving.  She said that she was fascinated by what I was doing.  She immediately asked if she could buy me a drink with the money.  I explained that I could not receive anything in exchange for my gift of $10, but agreed to sit down and have a drink with her.  We crossed the street and sat outside at a small, quaint café.

I ordered a glass of Chardonnay.  This was Easter Sunday and she said that she had been with friends drinking wine and feasting on lamb earlier in the day and perhaps a cup of coffee would be best.  Our drinks came and the coffee turned out to be lousy.  She didn’t complain to the staff or anything, she just pushed it aside and continued with our conversation.  I probably would have sent it back.

Katy is a documentary filmmaker who lives in New York City.  She is in DC visiting friends.  She tells me of a friend who lives in Silver Spring and another that just had a baby boy, Gavin, who she got to meet for the first time.

This experience reminded Katy of an NPR show called Uncommon Economic Indicators hosted by Brian Lehrer.  I had not heard of this show which is hosted in NYC on NPR’s WNYC station. I since found it online and have listened to it. Lehrer asks his listeners to call in and share their views on micro-elements of their lives that might give insight into the greater economic situation.  For example, do “traffic jams” at the microwave in the office indicate that more people are making their meals at home and bringing them to work to avoid the higher cost of eating at local lunch eateries.

In the middle of our conversation, Katy abruptly changed the subject and said, “I know exactly what I am going to do with the $10.”  Nobody has done what she did with the money.  You will not believe it!  Check it out.

What do you think about her decision?  I often say that it is not about the $10…that it in and of itself is almost always meaningless.  If I really believe that then her decision only supports that theory. That said, I couldn’t help but think that somebody someplace might have benefited from that money.  That’s not really fair of me to think though since I give the money randomly every day.  Often times I give the money to individuals who do not need it and who use it on a capricious cup of coffee.  I expect that several people will comment on how they are not happy with Katy’s decision and her reasoning, however, perhaps the only real criticism that could be made is that the $10 left the economy and now has no ability to morph into other things to keep the cogwheels of our economy turning.  I would love to hear the philosophic and economic views that you have on this.

Katy was a very thoughtful and interesting person. I insisted on paying for the coffee and glass of wine and we went our separate ways.  She was actually late to meet a friend but took the time to sit down and speak with me.  That meant a lot.  As she left, she said I had an open invitation for a drink in NYC anytime!

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