It was during the season in which schools hold Field Day following the end of the fierce summer heat when I received an invitation to attend the first Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) Asia Meeting.

The crux of the e-mail message was, “CGI would like you to participate as a panelist to discuss higher education.”

For me, the CGI is the second most important global conference after the Davos meetings, so I immediately adjusted my schedule to participate in as much of the conference as possible.

Incidentally, I categorize the global conferences as follows:

For politicians and top business leaders:
– World Economic Forum (the Davos meetings)
– CGI (Clinton Global Initiative)

Mainly for business people:
– Forbes Global CEO Conference 
– BusinessWeek CEO Conference, etc.

For venture capital and the technology sector:
– The AVCJ Private Equity & Venture Forum 
– Super Return 
– ETRE (European Technology Roundtable Exhibition)
– Red Herring, etc.

For CEO and entrepreneur members:
– EO (Entrepreneurs’ Organization; formerly YEO) University
– YPO (Young Presidents’ Organization) University, etc.

I have been honored to speak at almost all these conferences. (I believe these activities more or less support fund-raising efforts around the world. Incidentally, 80–90% of GLOBIS’s funds come from overseas Investors.)

These conferences cover topics in a wide variety of areas such as venture capital, the entrepreneurial spirit, education, and organizational management. I feel like I’m discovering a new world with each different topic I discuss, so I constantly try to push my boundaries. At first, I was nervous prior to taking the stage, but these days I’ve come to really enjoy the intellectual stimulation it brings.

I tend to see myself as someone who is curious about everything; I simply can’t resist the temptation to peek into any unknown world I encounter. Just as I’m wondering about what this world is like, an opportunity appears, and I decide to take a look. Then, once I’ve satisfied my curiosity, I go on to the next interest.

Life for me up to now has basically been an ongoing cycle of curiosity and action, and I experience a different dimension of life with each cycle. I have learned how to act in accordance with TPO (Time, Place and Occasion), and have developed the courage not to feel intimidated even when leaping into an unknown area. Over time, this has helped me gain confidence.

I have recently become interested in the conference organized by former US President, Bill Clinton. As I had heard of its reputation from many people, I wanted to attend at least once. It is generally convened in New York City and scheduled to coincide with a United Nations General Assembly meeting. Despite repeated attempts to adjust my schedule in September, I’ve unfortunately been unable to resolve timing conflicts until now.

Even though I knew ahead of time that a CGI International meeting would be held in Asia for the first time, I could not make up my mind as to whether I’d be going because my schedule was beginning to fill up. Then, as I mentioned at the beginning of this entry, I received an invitation to participate as a panelist. There was no room for hesitation, and I shifted my schedule to participate in the CGI. I would have to join in on the second day, though, since I was slated to host a lunch meeting in Japan on the first day of the conference.

I left Haneda Airport at 8:30 pm and arrived at Hong Kong International Airport around midnight. I checked in at the hotel, and after checking and responding to e-mails, I went to bed at nearly 3 am local time.

The plenary session on the second day was scheduled from 8:30 am. I registered, arrived at the venue early and took a seat as close to the front as possible. However, the session was delayed and so I waited, and went through the previous day’s program. After a video greeting from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, the first day had opened with a panel discussion that included former US President, Bill Clinton, Philippine President, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and former Japanese Foreign Minister, Yoriko Kawaguchi. In the afternoon, Mr. Clinton held a discussion with Minister Mentor and Former Prime Minister of Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew.

It certainly seemed that if an invitation came from Mr. Clinton, anyone with any title would be willing to come, and my guess is it would be hard for anyone to turn him down.

The only other Japanese panelist was Yuriko Koike, who took part in a working session. I was evidently the only panelist from Japan who was not a politician. I found the name of Ohki Matsumoto from Monex, Inc. on the list of participants. I thought it was appropriate for Mr. Matsumoto to appear in the working session on finance. I would really like to see many more Japanese appear as panelists.

After a delay of about 30 minutes, former President Clinton finally appeared on stage. Events at this conference consistently started late, and I wasn’t impressed by this. Everything at a Davos meeting begins exactly on time, and I like that.

After a brief greeting, Mr. Clinton said he would announce “Four Commitments.” For the first commitment, he invited an educational NPO group from the Philippines to the stage and began reading the details of their commitment.

CGI meetings are intended to be more than merely opportunities for getting together and learning from each other. A major goal is to encourage individuals to declare their commitment to act toward making the world a better place. Priority areas for action included education, public health and the global environment. The conference was divided into plenary and working sessions, and working sessions were categorized into three clear themes. I was invited to be a panelist in a working session on education.

After former President Clinton shared all the commitments from various parties, he added his own thoughts, handed out Commitment Certificates and then posed for pictures with the group that had just declared its commitment. This cycle was repeated as each group was in turn called up to the stage.

This pattern of presenting four commitments before each main session continued throughout the meeting. Each group shared the details of its commitment as they were called forward, and their representatives looked proud.

The content of each commitment ranged from treating breast cancer in Thailand and expanding the number of surgeons in Vietnam and lowering suicide rates, to establishing a clean technology trade show in China, setting up a 1 billion global education fund and announcing donations from leading companies such as Adidas.

At CGI meetings, a culture that embodies the principles of “walk the talk” and “speak up or lose out” has been nurtured. Everyone was competing to write down commitments and be called upon to declare them. There was simply no place at a CGI gathering for the traditional Japanese value of working discreetly and quietly to benefit society in accordance with one’s personal beliefs. As I listened to the presentation of these commitments, I wondered whether some people might suspect others of grandstanding a little to boost their own reputations.

But this cynicism on my part probably reflects a level of immaturity as a human being. I guess it’s OK to declare these commitments for publicity if doing so leads to a better society.

To be continued.

Yoshito Hori
December 4, 2008
In flight, bound for Chubu International Airport