April 5, 2000, President Clinton convened a group “of 130 of the nation’s
best economic minds” for a daylong summit at the White House. Designed
with political purpose in mind, it was, nonetheless, an opportunity for
the President to do what he loves most of all—indulge in policy debate.
He did, indeed, hold his own with some of the very best.
the first speaker of the day, Abby
Joseph Cohen used the opportunity to set the framework—outlining
her view that education is the greatest challenge in realizing the promise
of the new economy.
to calm the market, which had undergone wild gyrations on the previous
Greenspan took a (cautiously) bullish stance, predicting that
newly emergent infrastructure technology will continue to fuel productivity
growth. However, he emphasized that government had to play its role by
fostering wise monetary, fiscal, trade, and education policies.
President Clinton asked Amartya
Sen (the 1998 winner of the Nobel Prize in economics) what he
would do if he had $2-3 billion to spend on closing the global divide,
he responded without hesitation, “The same thing that I did with my Nobel
prize money—spend it to educate girls in developing nations. It’s the
single most important thing we can do.”
between Bill Gates and Bill Clinton, Mirai
Chattererjee (the secretary of the Self-Employed Women’s Association
of India) gave the audience goose bumps when she said, “My being here
today is testimony to what can happen when some of the poorest women on
Gates impressed the crowd just by being there, given the beating
he is taking from another arm of the U.S. government. His discussion of
the work of his foundation and its primary focus on ensuring that all
the world’s children receive vaccinations was moving. President Clinton
asked how the Office of the President could encourage others to follow
his lead. And Bill Gates, smart as he is, responded, “I don’t know.”
Clinton asserted (more than once) that “Every problem in the American
education system has been solved somewhere. The problem is that we haven’t
figured out how to replicate it.”
Lunch, served in the State Dining Room, was spectacular.
Alas, this reporter had to severely limit intake...An afternoon nap in
the midst of this crowd would have been in extremely poor form.
Bassi, reporting for LiNE Zine