Over the weekend, the Clinton Global Initiative, an initiative of the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation, held its annual meeting—a gathering of leaders in business and government, global leaders and individuals who come together to address some of the greatest challenges faced by communities and to build a better future for people the world over.
The foundation’s annual meeting, however, received little attention from the media—instead, news outlets and national political reporters pursued stories about Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonFederal judge changes his mind about stepping down, eliminating vacancy for Biden to fill Joe Biden's gamble with history Can America prevent a global warming cold war? MORE preparing to hit the campaign trail and a right-wing conspiracy to undercut Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonRepublicans seem set to win the midterms — unless they defeat themselves Poll: Democracy is under attack, and more violence may be the future Popping the progressive bubble MORE’s presidential bid. This is characteristic of the coverage the Clinton Foundation has received in recent months. Some in the media and in political circles, for example, have questioned why the Clinton Foundation would accept foreign donations. The illogical conclusion, to which many have subscribed, is that foreign governments were somehow buying influence while Hillary Clinton was in the State Department, which is simply not true. The logical, simple truth is that because this public charity operates around the world, it makes sense that its donors come from around the world. And, partnering with people and organizations around the world gets life-changing results.
In fairness to the media, when a public charity bears the name of a former president and a current presidential candidate, it must guard against potential conflicts of interest and act transparently, but that’s exactly what the Clinton Foundation does. What often goes unreported in the news is how the Clinton Foundation voluntarily discloses its donors, shares financial documents, and posts all tax forms publicly via its website. And, when Secretary Clinton was at the State Department, the Clinton Foundation put in place clear accountability measures to ensure there were no conflicts of interest by foreign donors. Moving forward, the Foundation has put in place even stricter policies, only allowing a select list of foreign countries that previously supported the Foundation to continue giving during the 2016 campaign.
The numbers and figures that often go unreported put the life-changing work of the Clinton Foundation in a context that matters. Today, for example, almost 10 million people in more than 70 countries have access to life-saving medicines through the Clinton Health Access Initiative(CHAI). In the U.S. 17 million children in more than 29,000 schools now have healthier food and more physical activity options. And through the Clinton Global Initiative, partners have made nearly 3,200 Commitments to Action that have improved the lives of over 430 million people in more than 180 countries.
Because of its commitment to put resources to work, the impact of the Clinton Foundation extends far beyond lifesaving HIV treatments. In Ethiopia alone, where I lived for three years and started the Foundation’s country program, the Clinton Health Access Initiative has worked to prevent mother-to-child transmission to prevent new HIV infections and offer treatment for children. Today in Ethiopia, Clinton Foundation staff continue to work closely with the Ministry of Health on initiatives including a maternal and child health program to reduce mortality at birth, and the CHAI Vaccines program that prevents more than 50,000 deaths among children each year in partnering countries.
Despite the efficacy of the Clinton Foundation, some have questioned why people give time and resources to support this work. They imply there must be an ulterior motive behind charitable giving and that it’s somehow unthinkable to support charitable work in underserved communities. How cynical must we be, to see positive change in places like Ethiopia, but question the motives of those who give to support it?
The work of the Clinton Foundation stands on its own. We shouldn’t let global good become subject of failed reporting or a casualty of political rhetoric. Organizations like the Clinton Foundation can do good precisely because of the generosity of donors. As it improves lives in the United States and around the world, the Clinton Foundation provides a great model of public leadership.
It’s the kind of leadership that inspires people to get involved and to give. It’s the kind of leadership that can bring us together to meet critical needs. If, as scholars suggest, meaningful service is key to a great post-presidential career, then this is the kind of leadership for which President Clinton can be highly regarded. And it is exactly the kind of leadership we should hope for from the next president of the United States.
Huffman spent five years in Africa and Asia working for the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI), where he served as the country director for Ethiopia.