CGI Day 3 – Harnessing Human Potential, or The Bush Family Extravaganza

The original schedule for this program was Riz Khan of Al Jazeera English moderating

  • Laura Bush, Former First Lady of the United States
  • Jack Ma, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Alibaba Group
  • Shakira Mebarak, Founder, The Barefoot Foundation
  • Rajendra Pawar, Founder and Chairman, NIIT Group

but Shakira was unable to attend, and was replaced by

  • Jenna Bush Hager, and
  • Barbara Bush

Mr.Khan opens with a joke about a policeman who pulls a woman over who is driving very slowly, having confused the Route sign (10) with the speed limit.  “Why do your passengers look so scared?”  “Oh, we just came off Route 120.”

Mrs. Bush starts by talking about how great things are for women “since the fall of the Taliban.”  Mentions one who has opened about forty schools in Afghanistan in cooperation with the U.S.-Afghan Women’s Council.

Jenna Hager speaks of girls who “escaped early marriage.” She’s very enthusiastic, but appears to have problems dealing with being on-camera with a microphone.  (What she lacks in presence she tries to make up in enthusiasm.)  She speaks about the need for education to address the problem, referring to her experience as a teacher. (My impression from her presentation was that she is currently teaching; Wikipedia’s mileage appears to vary; anyone know?)

Barbara Bush—who does not have her younger sister’s problem—notes that she worked at a children’s hospital in South Africa, and that one of her jobs was basically “staying with the babies” so that the mothers—who otherwise would have lost their jobs—could go back to work.  The story in itself tells us about the impediments to harnessing human potential, but those who have attended for the past two days know these tales well enough, and probably would have preferred hearing from someone at the Barefoot Foundation who could get into more specifics.

Jack Ma of the Alibaba Group, a for-profit enabler of small businesses, declares that we are entering “the century of the small,” and that small businesses create not just jobs but hopes.  (Given the relative success of “small businesses,” he may have that backwards.)  Hope is his theme; sees good things occurring when now that the worldwide Solvency Crisis is over.

Rajendra Pawar starts with a discussion of how Bhutan (“the world’s youngest democracy”; two years) has for the past thirty-plus years concentrated on GNH (Gross National Happiness), not GDP. This includes constitutionally limiting the destruction of forest area in the country, educating the leadership in creating opportunities, and expanding connectivity and computing (leveraging solar energy) to make the society more horizontal.

A question comes in regarding the opportunities in alternative energy. (Also discussed yesterday by Governor Jennifer Granholm.)  Jack Ma notes that people recognize the issue and the benefits of alternate-energy: he has polled workers in coal-intensive China and never yet found a person who does not know someone who has or had cancer. “This has become a skills issue” in much of the world. (The U.S. currently exports slightly over $1 billion worth of solar panels each year;; China produced almost twice as much revenue from solar panels two years previously.)

Khan asks Laura Bush (“I’m asking you, not your daughters”) whether there is a generational complaint.  Ms. Bush notes that her daughters and their friends are all enthusiastic about working with and helping the world.

Khan ends, as he began, with a joke.  I will spare people it, since it wasn’t even as funny as the one with which he opened.