Where it all started is little fuzzy, but where it ended was crystal clear: at a press conference with former President Bill Clinton as he spoke about sustainability.
“It” was an invitation for Shoreline Community College President Lee Lambert to participate in the Clinton Global Initiative University (CGIU), April 16-18, 2010, at the University of Miami. The program is an outgrowth of the Clinton Global Initiative, which brings together world leaders to take action on global challenges. In 2007, Clinton launched the Clinton Global Initiative University to engage the next generation of leaders on college campuses around the world.
“I’m not really sure how my name got on the list. They invited a number of college presidents to join hundreds of students for the event,” Lambert said following the three-day CGIU event. In fact, there were nearly 1,500 total attendees.
Part of both CGI and CGIU involve soliciting commitments from the participants to specific action plans. For this year’s CGIU, there were five focus areas: Education, Environment & Climate Change, Peace & Human Rights, Poverty Alleviation, and Public Health.
“After the invitation came the request for Shoreline’s commitment,” Lambert said. “While we have a number of initiatives that are worthy, time was short and I decided to go with our community solar project.” That project is a public/private partnership that will put 75 kilowatts of electricity generating solar modules on the roof of Shoreline’s student union building known as the PUB.
From that point on, things just got better and better.
“We heard that our commitment would be featured on stage, so I was excited about that,” Lambert said. Then, Lambert was approached to participate on a panel for the Environment & Climate Change Working Session. “Apparently, the president of Cornell couldn’t make it,” Lambert said. As it turned out, the session titled "Sustainable Transportation: One Step to Building Sustainable Communities" was a perfect fit.
“It’s exactly what we’re talking about at Shoreline, with our automotive and clean-energy programs, one energy source to power the home and transportation,” Lambert said. “The room was packed.”
Joining Lambert at that session were Philippe Cousteau, founder of EarthEcho International and grandson of legendary explorer Jacques Cousteau; Ragini Kapadia, Program Analyst for Center for Green Jobs at Working for America Institute of the AFL-CIO; John Renne, Early Research Professor of Planning and Urban Studies at the University of New Orleans; Matthew Roth, Deputy Editor of Streetsblog San Francisco; and Susan Szenasy, editor-in-chief of Metropolis Magazine.
“My point was that we need a balanced solution to energy and transportation,” Lambert said. “That seemed to be a message all the panelists could agreed with.”
Later that day came another invitation. “They asked if I could be in a press conference with President Clinton,” Lambert said. “As it turned out, I was there with some students to stand with Clinton as he made his comments. He mentioned Shoreline’s project as an example of how people, not governments, are out there moving forward, making things happen.”
While he didn’t speak during the press conference, Lambert said he did get a chance to shake Clinton’s hand and remind him of the 1995 visit to Shoreline with the “other Bill,” Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates. “He said he remembered the visit very well and would like to come back,” Lambert said. “That’s an offer we’ll take him up on.”