No matter how much work is put into planning, and how many hours are spent running around in high heels on the week of, I know I always leave the Summit full of inspiration and the feeling that every day there are millions of us pushing for social good. Below are a few of my all-time favorite moments, in no particular order:
- 2012: 8-year-old JD Malkin, recently named Save the Children’s newest Youth Ambassador, brings down the house with his version of the song “Feel Again” by One Republic—the entire audience instantly gets chills, and returns the favor with a standing ovation.
- 2011: Arch-Bishop Desmond Tutu is on stage shooting the breeze with Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland, about the world’s biggest challenges, including child marriage and what each of us can do to help girls all over the world be girls, instead of brides. His words are poignant, as always, but even more inspiring is his uplifting and infectious giggling, which echoes throughout the auditorium—making these heavy issues seem a little bit lighter, and like things we can tackle by working together. He ended with a shout out: “What I want to say, especially to young people, I just want to pay tribute to you and to say: go on going on.”
- 2011: Just when you think it can’t get any better, it does. Award-winning actor, human rights activist, and longtime friend of Arch Bishop Tutu, Richard Gere makes a surprise appearance and sneaks up behind Tutu on stage to give him a huge hug. Tutu is elated and the audience is cooing. Gere then stays on stage for a one-on-one conversation in which he declares: “There isn’t a creature on earth that doesn’t respond to love, kindness, and compassion.” That one sentence made me feel like I had just walked out of a yoga class.
- 2012: Dr. Jane Goodall, world-renowned anthropologist and humanitarian, joins musical performers The Apple Juice Kid and Pierce Freelon to improvise the world’s coolest song: Dr. Goodall steps up to the mic and imitates the call of a chimpanzee, which Apple Juice Kid then turns into a beat, over which Pierce starts rapping…in Swahili. Only at the Social Good Summit.
- 2010: MTV’s CEO Judy McGrath is on stage talking about the power of social media and social movements when Elizabeth Gore, VP of Global Partnerships at the UN Foundation, asks her to tell us one thing we didn’t know. Judy responds with two words that make the audience gasp, laugh, and think: “Snookie volunteers.”
- 2012: A man in lemon-yellow jacket from RecordSetter.com presents the organizers of the Social Good Summit with a proclamation for hosting the “Largest Conversation About A Single Topic In One Day.” This year’s summit was the largest ever, with segments in Nairobi and Beijing and more than 200 simultaneous meet-ups in more than 100 countries. It suddenly hits me that we’re actually doing it—we’re actually getting millions of people to talk about what they can do build healthier, happier communities down the street and across the world. And this is just the beginning…
I don’t know how we can make it any better, but I’m sure we’ll find a way. Look forward to seeing you next year!
Did you miss any part of the Social Good Summit, or one of your favorite speakers? You can watch the full on-stage sessions here and back-stage interviews here. If you have any ideas for what you’d like to see in next year’s Social Good Summit, tell us in the comments section.
Negin Janati is a Communications Officer for the United Nations Foundation.