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  • I'm going to talk

  • about some of my discoveries

  • around the world through my work.

  • These are not discoveries of planets

  • or new technologies

  • or science.

  • They're discoveries of people

  • and the way people are, and new leadership.

  • This is Benki.

  • Benki is a leader of the Ashaninka Nation.

  • His people live in Brazil

  • and in Peru.

  • Benki comes from a village

  • so remote up in the Amazon

  • that to get there, either you have to fly

  • and land on water,

  • or go by canoe for several days.

  • I met Benki three years ago in Sao Paulo

  • when I'd brought him and other leaders

  • from indigenous peoples

  • to meet with me and leaders from around the world,

  • because we wanted to learn from each other.

  • We wanted to share our stories with each other.

  • The Ashaninka people

  • are known throughout South America

  • for their dignity, their spirit

  • and their resistance,

  • starting with the Incas

  • and continuing through the 19th century

  • with the rubber tappers.

  • Today's biggest threat to the Ashaninka people

  • and to Benki

  • comes from illegal logging --

  • the people who come into the beautiful forest

  • and cut down ancient mahogany trees,

  • float them down the river to world markets.

  • Benki knew this.

  • He could see what was happening to his forest, to his environment,

  • because he was taken under his grandfather's wing

  • when he was only two years old

  • to begin to learn about the forest

  • and the way of life of his people.

  • His grandfather died when he was only 10.

  • And at that young age, 10 years old,

  • Benki became the paje of his community.

  • Now, in the Ashaninka tradition and culture,

  • the paje is the most important

  • person in the community.

  • This is the person who contains within him

  • all the knowledge, all the wisdom

  • of centuries and centuries of life,

  • and not just about his people,

  • but about everything that his people's survival depended on:

  • the trees, the birds,

  • the water, the soil, the forest.

  • So when he was only 10 and he became the paje,

  • he began to lead his people.

  • He began to talk to them

  • about the forest that they needed to protect,

  • the way of life they needed to nurture.

  • He explained to them

  • that it was not a question of survival of the fittest;

  • it was a question of understanding

  • what they needed to survive

  • and to protect that.

  • Eight years later,

  • when he was a young man of 18,

  • Benki left the forest for the first time.

  • He went 3,000 miles on an odyssey to Rio

  • to the Earth Summit

  • to tell the world what was happening

  • in his tiny, little corner.

  • And he went because he hoped the world would listen.

  • Some did, not everybody.

  • But if you can imagine this young man

  • with his headdress and his flowing robe,

  • learning a new language, Portuguese,

  • not to mention English,

  • going to Rio,

  • building a bridge

  • to reach out to people he'd never met before --

  • a pretty hostile world.

  • But he wasn't dismayed.

  • Benki came back to his village full of ideas --

  • new technologies, new research,

  • new ways of understanding what was going on.

  • Since that time,

  • he's continued to work with his people,

  • and not only the Ashaninka Nation,

  • but all the peoples of the Amazon and beyond.

  • He's built schools

  • to teach children to care for the forest.

  • Together, he's led the reforestation

  • of over 25 percent of the land

  • that had been destroyed by the loggers.

  • He's created a cooperative

  • to help people diversify their livelihoods.

  • And he's brought the internet and satellite technology

  • to the forest --

  • both so that people themselves

  • could monitor the deforestation,

  • but also that he could speak from the forest

  • to the rest of the world.

  • If you were to meet Benki

  • and ask him, "Why are you doing this?

  • Why are you putting yourself at risk?

  • Why are you making yourself vulnerable

  • to what is often a hostile world?"

  • he would tell you,

  • as he told me,

  • "I asked myself," he said,

  • "What did my grandparents and my great-grandparents do

  • to protect the forest for me?

  • And what am I doing?"

  • So when I think of that,

  • I wonder what our grandchildren

  • and our great-grandchildren,

  • when they ask themselves that question,

  • I wonder how they will answer.

  • For me, the world is veering

  • towards a future we don't much want

  • when we really think about it deep inside.

  • It's a future we don't know the details of,

  • but it's a future that has signs,

  • just like Benki saw the signs around him.

  • We know we are running out of what we need.

  • We're running out of fresh water.

  • We're running out of fossil fuels.

  • We're running out of land.

  • We know climate change is going to affect all of us.

  • We don't know how, but we know it will.

  • And we know that there will be more of us than ever before --

  • five times as many people in 40 years

  • than 60 years ago.

  • We are running out of what we need.

  • And we also know

  • that the world has changed in other ways,

  • that since 1960

  • there are one-third as many new countries

  • that exist as independent entities on the planet.

  • Egos, systems of government --

  • figuring it out --

  • massive change.

  • And in addition to that,

  • we know that five other really big countries

  • are going to have a say in the future,

  • a say we haven't even really started to hear yet --

  • China, India,

  • Russia, South Africa

  • and Benki's own Brazil,

  • where Benki got his civil rights

  • only in the 1988 constitution.

  • But you know all that.

  • You know more than Benki knew when he left his forest

  • and went 3,000 miles.

  • You also know

  • that we can't just keep doing what we've always done,

  • because we'll get the results

  • we've always gotten.

  • And this reminds me of something I understand

  • Lord Salisbury said to Queen Victoria over a hundred years ago,

  • when she was pressing him, "Please change."

  • He said, "Change?

  • Why change?

  • Things are bad enough as they are."

  • We have to change.

  • It's imperative to me, when I look around the world,

  • that we need to change ourselves.

  • We need new models of what it means to be a leader.

  • We need new models

  • of being a leader and a human in the world.

  • I started life as a banker.

  • Now I don't admit to that

  • to anybody but my very close friends.

  • But for the past eight years,

  • I've done something completely different.

  • My work has taken me around the world,

  • where I've had the real privilege

  • of meeting people like Benki

  • and many others who are making change happen

  • in their communities --

  • people who see the world differently,

  • who are asking different questions,

  • who have different answers,

  • who understand the filters that they wear

  • when they go out into the world.

  • This is Sanghamitra.

  • Sanghamitra comes from Bangalore.

  • I met Sanghamitra eight years ago

  • when I was in Bangalore

  • organizing a workshop with leaders of different NGO's

  • working in some of the hardest aspects of society.

  • Sanghamitra didn't start life

  • as a leader of an NGO,

  • she started her career as university professor,

  • teaching English literature.

  • But she realized that she was much too detached from the world doing that.

  • She loved it, but she was too detached.

  • And so in 1993,

  • a long time ago,

  • she decided to start a new organization

  • called Samraksha

  • focused on one of the hardest areas,

  • one of the hardest issues in India --

  • anywhere in the world at the time --

  • HIV/AIDS.

  • Since that time, Samraksha has grown

  • from strength to strength

  • and is now one of the leading health NGO's in India.

  • But if you just think about the state of the world

  • and knowledge of HIV/AIDS

  • in 1993 --

  • in India at that time it was skyrocketing

  • and nobody understood why,

  • and everyone was actually very, very afraid.

  • Today there are still three million

  • HIV-positive people in India.

  • That's the second largest population in the world.

  • When I asked Sanghamitra,

  • "How did you get from English literature

  • to HIV/AIDS?"

  • not an obvious path,

  • she said to me,

  • "It's all connected.

  • Literature makes one sensitive,

  • sensitive to people,

  • to their dreams and to their ideas."

  • Since that time, under her leadership,

  • Samraksha has been a pioneer

  • in all fields related

  • to HIV/AIDS.

  • They have respite homes, the first,

  • the first care centers,

  • the first counseling services --

  • and not just in urban, 7-million-population Bangalore,

  • but in the hardest to reach villages

  • in the state of Karnataka.

  • Even that wasn't enough.

  • She wanted to change policy at the government level.

  • 10 of their programs that she pioneered

  • are now government policy and funded by the government.

  • They take care of 20,000-odd people today

  • in over 1,000 villages around Karnataka.

  • She works with people like Murali Krishna.

  • Murali Krishna comes from one of those villages.

  • He lost his wife to AIDS a couple of years ago,

  • and he's HIV-positive.

  • But he saw the work, the care,

  • the compassion

  • that Sanghamitra and her team brought to the village,

  • and he wanted to be part of it.

  • He's a Leaders' Quest fellow, and that helps him with his work.

  • They've pioneered a different approach to villages.

  • Instead of handing out information in pamphlets,

  • as is so often the case,

  • they bring theater troupes,

  • songs, music, dance.

  • And they sit around,

  • and they talk about dreams.

  • Sanghamitra told me just last week --

  • she had just come back from two weeks in the villages,

  • and she had a real breakthrough.

  • They were sitting in a circle, talking about the dreams for the village.

  • And the young women in the village