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  • I've been spending a lot of time

  • traveling around the world these days,

  • talking to groups of students and professionals,

  • and everywhere I'm finding that I hear similar themes.

  • On the one hand, people say,

  • "The time for change is now."

  • They want to be part of it.

  • They talk about wanting lives of purpose and greater meaning.

  • But on the other hand,

  • I hear people talking about fear,

  • a sense of risk-aversion.

  • They say, "I really want to follow a life of purpose,

  • but I don't know where to start.

  • I don't want to disappoint my family or friends."

  • I work in global poverty.

  • And they say, "I want to work in global poverty,

  • but what will it mean about my career?

  • Will I be marginalized?

  • Will I not make enough money?

  • Will I never get married or have children?"

  • And as a woman who didn't get married until I was a lot older --

  • and I'm glad I waited --

  • (Laughter)

  • -- and has no children,

  • I look at these young people

  • and I say, "Your job is not to be perfect.

  • Your job is only to be human.

  • And nothing important happens in life

  • without a cost."

  • These conversations really reflect what's happening

  • at the national and international level.

  • Our leaders and ourselves

  • want everything,

  • but we don't talk about the costs.

  • We don't talk about the sacrifice.

  • One of my favorite quotes from literature

  • was written by Tillie Olsen,

  • the great American writer from the South.

  • In a short story called "Oh Yes,"

  • she talks about a white woman in the 1950s

  • who has a daughter

  • who befriends a little African American girl,

  • and she looks at her child with a sense of pride,

  • but she also wonders,

  • what price will she pay?

  • "Better immersion

  • than to live untouched."

  • But the real question is,

  • what is the cost of not daring?

  • What is the cost of not trying?

  • I've been so privileged in my life

  • to know extraordinary leaders

  • who have chosen to live lives of immersion.

  • One woman I knew who was a fellow

  • at a program that I ran at the Rockefeller Foundation

  • was named Ingrid Washinawatok.

  • She was a leader of the Menominee tribe,

  • a Native American peoples.

  • And when we would gather as fellows,

  • she would push us to think about

  • how the elders in Native American culture

  • make decisions.

  • And she said they would literally visualize

  • the faces of children

  • for seven generations into the future,

  • looking at them from the Earth,

  • and they would look at them, holding them as stewards

  • for that future.

  • Ingrid understood that we are connected to each other,

  • not only as human beings,

  • but to every living thing on the planet.

  • And tragically, in 1999,

  • when she was in Colombia

  • working with the U'wa people,

  • focused on preserving their culture and language,

  • she and two colleagues were abducted

  • and tortured and killed by the FARC.

  • And whenever we would gather the fellows after that,

  • we would leave a chair empty for her spirit.

  • And more than a decade later,

  • when I talk to NGO fellows,

  • whether in Trenton, New Jersey or the office of the White House,

  • and we talk about Ingrid,

  • they all say that they're trying to integrate her wisdom

  • and her spirit

  • and really build on the unfulfilled work

  • of her life's mission.

  • And when we think about legacy,

  • I can think of no more powerful one,

  • despite how short her life was.

  • And I've been touched by Cambodian women --

  • beautiful women,

  • women who held the tradition of the classical dance in Cambodia.

  • And I met them in the early '90s.

  • In the 1970s, under the Pol Pot regime,

  • the Khmer Rouge killed over a million people,

  • and they focused and targeted the elites and the intellectuals,

  • the artists, the dancers.

  • And at the end of the war,

  • there were only 30 of these classical dancers still living.

  • And the women, who I was so privileged to meet

  • when there were three survivors,

  • told these stories about lying in their cots

  • in the refugee camps.

  • They said they would try so hard

  • to remember the fragments of the dance,

  • hoping that others were alive and doing the same.

  • And one woman stood there with this perfect carriage,

  • her hands at her side,

  • and she talked about

  • the reunion of the 30 after the war

  • and how extraordinary it was.

  • And these big tears fell down her face,

  • but she never lifted her hands to move them.

  • And the women decided that they would train

  • not the next generation of girls, because they had grown too old already,

  • but the next generation.

  • And I sat there in the studio

  • watching these women clapping their hands --

  • beautiful rhythms --

  • as these little fairy pixies

  • were dancing around them,

  • wearing these beautiful silk colors.

  • And I thought, after all this atrocity,

  • this is how human beings really pray.

  • Because they're focused on honoring

  • what is most beautiful about our past

  • and building it into

  • the promise of our future.

  • And what these women understood

  • is sometimes the most important things that we do

  • and that we spend our time on

  • are those things that we cannot measure.

  • I also have been touched

  • by the dark side of power and leadership.

  • And I have learned that power,

  • particularly in its absolute form,

  • is an equal opportunity provider.

  • In 1986, I moved to Rwanda,

  • and I worked with a very small group of Rwandan women

  • to start that country's first microfinance bank.

  • And one of the women was Agnes --

  • there on your extreme left --

  • she was one of the first three

  • women parliamentarians in Rwanda,

  • and her legacy should have been

  • to be one of the mothers of Rwanda.

  • We built this institution based on social justice,

  • gender equity,

  • this idea of empowering women.

  • But Agnes cared more about the trappings of power

  • than she did principle at the end.

  • And though she had been part of building a liberal party,

  • a political party

  • that was focused on diversity and tolerance,

  • about three months before the genocide, she switched parties

  • and joined the extremist party, Hutu Power,

  • and she became the Minister of Justice

  • under the genocide regime

  • and was known for inciting men to kill faster

  • and stop behaving like women.

  • She was convicted

  • of category one crimes of genocide.

  • And I would visit her in the prisons,

  • sitting side-by-side, knees touching,

  • and I would have to admit to myself

  • that monsters exist in all of us,

  • but that maybe it's not monsters so much,

  • but the broken parts of ourselves,

  • sadnesses, secret shame,

  • and that ultimately it's easy for demagogues

  • to prey on those parts,

  • those fragments, if you will,

  • and to make us look at other beings, human beings,

  • as lesser than ourselves --

  • and in the extreme, to do terrible things.

  • And there is no group

  • more vulnerable to those kinds of manipulations

  • than young men.

  • I've heard it said that the most dangerous animal on the planet

  • is the adolescent male.

  • And so in a gathering

  • where we're focused on women,

  • while it is so critical that we invest in our girls

  • and we even the playing field

  • and we find ways to honor them,

  • we have to remember that the girls and the women

  • are most isolated and violated

  • and victimized and made invisible

  • in those very societies

  • where our men and our boys

  • feel disempowered,

  • unable to provide.

  • And that, when they sit on those street corners

  • and all they can think of in the future

  • is no job, no education,

  • no possibility,

  • well then it's easy to understand

  • how the greatest source of status

  • can come from a uniform

  • and a gun.

  • Sometimes very small investments

  • can release enormous, infinite potential

  • that exists in all of us.

  • One of the Acumen Fund fellows at my organization,

  • Suraj Sudhakar,

  • has what we call moral imagination --

  • the ability to put yourself in another person's shoes

  • and lead from that perspective.

  • And he's been working with this young group of men

  • who come from the largest slum in the world, Kibera.

  • And they're incredible guys.

  • And together they started a book club

  • for a hundred people in the slums,

  • and they're reading many TED authors and liking it.

  • And then they created a business plan competition.

  • Then they decided that they would do TEDx's.

  • And I have learned so much

  • from Chris and Kevin

  • and Alex and Herbert

  • and all of these young men.

  • Alex, in some ways, said it best.

  • He said, "We used to feel like nobodies,

  • but now we feel like somebodies."

  • And I think we have it all wrong

  • when we think that income is the link.

  • What we really yearn for as human beings

  • is to be visible to each other.

  • And the reason these young guys

  • told me that they're doing these TEDx's

  • is because they were sick and tired

  • of the only workshops coming to the slums

  • being those workshops focused on HIV,

  • or at best, microfinance.

  • And they wanted to celebrate

  • what's beautiful about Kibera and Mathare --

  • the photojournalists and the creatives,

  • the graffiti artists, the teachers and the entrepreneurs.

  • And they're doing it.

  • And my hat's off to you in Kibera.

  • My own work focuses

  • on making philanthropy more effective

  • and capitalism more inclusive.

  • At Acumen Fund, we take philanthropic resources

  • and we invest what we call patient capital --

  • money that will invest in entrepreneurs who see the poor

  • not as passive recipients of charity,

  • but as full-bodied agents of change

  • who want to solve their own problems

  • and make their own decisions.

  • We leave our money for 10 to 15 years,

  • and when we get it back, we invest in other innovations

  • that focus on change.

  • I know it works.

  • We've invested more than 50 million dollars in 50 companies,

  • and those companies have brought another 200 million dollars

  • into these forgotten markets.

  • This year alone, they've delivered 40 million services

  • like maternal health care and housing,

  • emergency services, solar energy,

  • so that people can have more dignity

  • in solving their problems.