Bertelsmann Foundation Opens 100 Days Conference in Washington, DC
UNICEF Executive Director Ann Veneman addresses reception audience
WASHINGTON, DC (April 23, 2009) - The Bertelsmann Foundation conference, "The First 100 Days. Opportunities in Crisis: Empowering society in times of economic turmoil," kicked off Wednesday evening, April 22, with a well-attended reception in Washington, DC's National Portrait Gallery. More than 400 guests assembled for a welcome from Gunter Thielen, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the Bertelsmann Stiftung, who noted that all sectors of society have a role to play in overcoming the global economic crisis. He called on the representatives of politics, business, the media and academia to think innovatively and practically about solutions to the crisis that would also lay the foundation for a more secure and sustainable future.
The Bertelsmann Foundation, he said, was playing its part by bringing Americans and Europeans together to learn from one another, to learn how other societies face the crisis and to work together on common approaches. "I see trans-Atlantic agreement on overcoming the crisis as key to laying the foundation for a better future." Mr. Thielen added that these currently challenging times "will motivate us to put more effort into greener technologies... [and] reform our labor forces, our education systems and our health care systems."
The evening's Guest of Honor, UNICEF Executive Director and former US Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman, spoke about the world's most vulnerable victims of the global economic crisis - the populations of developing countries, especially the children. She pointed out that most people in developing countries must eke out a living on two dollars a day or less. And the current economic crisis has worsened their situation. She asked conference participants to remember that the crisis takes a real human toll. Secretary Veneman said the "crisis is multidimensional and has a very human dimension."
Reception guests included high-ranking American and European representatives from politics, business and investment including philanthropist George Soros, former Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel and former Vermont governor and US presidential candidate Howard Dean.
The reception offered guests an opportunity to network with conference participants to start a dialogue with one another about the impact of the crisis. The event launched the effort by the Bertelsmann Foundation to bring people worldwide together to develop innovative and practical solutions to this serious global problem.
The National Portrait Gallery, which re-opened last year after extensive renovation, is a landmark in the US capital and part of the world-renowned Smithsonian Institution.
"The First 100 Days" conference is being held with the support of the Financial Times, the Bertelsmann Foundation's media partner for this event. The conference takes place Thursday, 23 April, at the Newseum in Washington, DC.