Rachel Smidt, a master of public health candidate at the Brown School, remembers vividly one of her first days as a graduate student at Washington University in St. Louis.
“Amanda Moore McBride was speaking to our class at orientation,” Smidt says, “and she was telling us, ‘It’s true: A single person can change the world.’
“And now, we have this incredible opportunity.”
The opportunity is the Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U), and McBride, PhD, associate dean of the Brown School, helped spearhead the April 5–7 effort as director of the Gephardt Institute for Public Service.
Smidt, who was a participant in CGI U, says McBride’s enthusiasm for sparking change was a moment that stuck with her.
What’s more, McBride remembers the moment – and the person – who made her believe a single person could change the world: President Bill Clinton.
As McBride tells it, she was a senior at Hendrix College in Conway, Ark., in November 1992, when she and a few of her friends drove into Little Rock to see their governor make his first public speech after his election as president.
“We had to park miles away and we walked to the governor’s mansion,” says McBride, who grew up in Batesville, Ark. “The lawn was packed, but one of my buddies helped me up onto a fence so I could get a glimpse of the President-elect.
“It was so exciting – and inspiring. Bill Clinton’s entire campaign message was about opportunity and change.
“Listening to his speech that day was a touchstone moment that has stayed with me my whole life,” she says. “That’s the day I decided to commit my life to social change.”
Twenty one years later, McBride, an accomplished and acclaimed researcher, emceed the Gephardt Institute’s annual Faces of Hope event March 27, which this year served as the kickoff to CGI U.
“This will be a touchstone moment for you for the rest of your lives,” McBride told Smidt and the other students gathered at the event.
Clinton, himself inspired as a young man by President John F. Kennedy, inspired a career of service in McBride and now McBride is inspiring a new cohort of young people through the Brown School and events like CGI U.
A torch being passed, from generation to generation.
Leslie McCarthy is senior news director in the Office of Public Affairs.
For more information on Washington University’s hosting CGI U, look for the upcoming June issue of Washington Magazine.