January 24, 2020

A select group of Up to Us alumni were given the opportunity to attend the Clinton Foundation’s Domestic Policy Conference on Economic Inclusion and Growth in Little Rock, Arkansas this past November. In this blog series, hear from the inspiring individuals who attended the event. Our alumni always make us proud as they continue to take advantage of the incredible opportunities and motivational network within the Up to Us community. 

Why being Informed about Policy Matters by Hafez Karimi, Up to Us Alumni

Hafez Karimi with Michael Hancock.
Hafez Karimi with the mayor of Denver, Michael Hancock.

It was an honor meeting all the Mayors, executive secretaries, CEO’s, bankers and Bill and Hilary Clinton at the Clinton Economic Development Domestic Policy Summit. The main topic of discussion during the summit was CDFIs (Community Development Financial Investments). This program was implemented during Bill Clinton’s presidency and it was passed alongside the CRA (Community Reinvestment Act) in order to bring big CEO’s and bankers together to invest in small businesses and communities around the U.S. that desperately need the investments. 

During the summit, I was fortunate enough to be able to sit down with President Bill Clinton and ask him questions about whether he feels like leaving these investments up to the will of charity of CEO’s and bankers worry him, and whether he would feel like making the investments mandatory would have a more permanent positive effect considering that most of these investments are long term and high risk, which is very unlikely for most investment bankers to want to take on. He responded with a two-part answer explaining that 1) The banks need to be involved in the process to make sure that money is not invested in a poorly planned project and there is some form of prioritizing of investments and 2) The government cannot force anyone to invest into another person’s business or community constitutionally. I appreciated his blunt response. I wanted to reply by saying could it be constitutional if we taxed the banks and the CEO’s at a higher rate and used that money to do the same thing, but I did not want to challenge him on his own bill and seem ungrateful, so I thanked him for his time and he took a picture with me, signed my agenda, and started telling me stories about himself in high school.

Hafez Karimi with Hilary Clinton.
Hafez Karimi with former first lady, Hilary Clinton.

I managed to sit down with Hilary Clinton also for a bit and asked her a foreign policy question. I told her that I am from Iran and was wondering if she thinks it makes any sense to keep countries like Iran and Saudi Arabia in the U.N., especially Iran, who is on the women’s rights council, at the same time that they are not allowing women in my country to sing and dance, and whether she thinks removing countries like that would make the U.N. a more effective body. She responded by saying removing them from the U.N. would stop the dialog and could escalate into war and she does not think that is a good idea, but she listened to what I had to say about the oppression of women in Iran and the level of dictatorship and control that exists currently in the country and she tweeted about Iran two days later saying that there should be investigations and accountability for their actions. I was blown away by their openness and engagement in conversations that I had with them. I felt extremely empowered to continue asking questions and looking for solutions to make better economics, foreign, and domestic policies.