5 Inspiring Quotes from the 2015 Millennium Campus Conference

This past August, Her Campus earned the humbling opportunity of serving as a global media partner for the 7th Annual Millennium Campus Conference, hosted at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City. 

The Millennium Campus Conference (MCC) is the brainchild of the Millennium Campus Network (MCN)—a progressive, collaborative and innovative national non-profit with a commitment to supporting global development initiatives imagined by astonishing student leaders making change on their college campuses and throughout the global atmosphere. Each year, collegiettes (and collegents) convene to "learn, challenge, grow, and connect with a global community of changemakers." And in the midst of forums, workshops, campaign launches and networking, these student game-changers are granted the opportunity to gain wisdom and inspiration from the world's top voices for equality and international development. Already regretting the missed opportunity? Read on for a taste of the most inspiring words uttered at the conference's final keynote and VIP luncheon—words with a special focus on something any collegiette can appreciate: powerful women, and men empowering women.  

Vanessa Kerry, MD, MSc: Founder and CEO, Seed Global Health

"So do not lose that idealism, do not lose that optimism. Change will happen because you know it is possible and because you will demand nothing less."

Dr. Vanessa Kerry may be the daughter of current Secretary of State John Kerry, but to equate her only to her political roots would do her work an incredibly unjust disservice. At the sprightly age of 14, Kerry took a life-changing trip to Vietnam, where she witnessed devastating malnourishment, substandard housing and economic inequality—an experience that inspired her to become the game-changing physician she is today. Kerry founded Seed Global Health with the intention of providing health education, health services and overall manpower to countries with major healthcare shortages.  "At the heart of every mother who is dying every hour from a complication of pregnancy or childbirth in Tanzania is the need for people. People are at the heart of the health system," she stated. And so, by sending volunteers overseas to resource-limited regions, Seed Global Health capitalizes on the inherent power of people. 

In her keynote speech, Kerry spoke of our generation's empowering positivity and idealistic attention towards global change. And while Kerry serves as an especially important female role model for any collegiette pursuing a medical degree, her slice of advice can serve anyone. "You all provide encouragement that there is a rising generation determined to demand something different," she encouraged the MCC delegates, and we couldn't agree more. Kerry recognizes the power of our generation—and it's about time we did too.

Lakshmi Puri: Assistant Secretary-General, United Nations and Deputy Executive Director, UN Women 

"Be the active force for a new, just and gender equal and sustainable world order in every way, and lead from the front—yes, you can lead."

Lakshmi Puri knows exactly what it means to lead from the front. As a woman holding a top title for the United Nations, she embodies uncompromised strength and dedication. And as a major influence to the recently developed UN Women, she is an awe-inspiring expert on female empowerment who has accomplished incredibly progressive feats during her time with the UN. Taking charge on the implementation of Sustainable Development—a major focus of the United Nations, MCN and MCC—Puri proves that women can and do hold extraordinary influence in the political, governmental and leadership spheres.

In an interview with Her Campus, Puri described feminism as "the empowerment of women in the home, in the community, in society, in the economy and in politics and governance." "So feminism is both a personal belief system," she noted in regards to UN Women's work, "but we want to see that transformed into a larger global commitment, which is what the gender goal is about." Based on those statements, we can officially name Puri as an incredible force who truly walks the walk, putting a face to the feminist movement and personifying it relentlessly. 

Annie Griffiths: Photographer, National Geographic and Founder and Executive Director, Ripple Effect Images

"...women and girls are the best investment we can make in our shared future. It's just a fact. Any country that disenfranchises half of its population is going nowhere."

Annie Griffiths is a champion for female empowerment, famous for representing the success stories of talented, independent and creative women around the globe. As one of the first women to photograph for National Geographic, Griffiths provided game-changing perspective for the magazine. From her travels around the world, Griffiths soon developed a passion for changing the media's focus on devastation and their frequent portrayal of impoverished women as helpless, weak and hopeless. "...frankly, it is much easier to cover disaster than success," she noted in her keynote speech, and this is what inspired her to take charge and make change. Throughout her journeys, Griffiths was consistently inspired by the resiliency, innovation and overall vitality of women—and especially those facing circumstances in which many would lose hope. In light of her discoveries, Griffiths launched Ripple Effect Images, a team of photojournalists who document the lives of women and girls in developing countries (and especially those facing the drastic negative effects of climate change), as well as the work of aid programs designed to show these women their full potentional in educational, resourceful and empowering ways. 

"...women in the developing world are heroes and survivors, and that's how we should see them and that's how we should portray them, and they are more than their sexual vulnerability," stated Griffith in the same speech. We're thoroughly inspired by her attentiveness to female success, and especially in countries where female triumph is stereotypically and problematically unexpected. Griffiths gets real in this quote, and we couldn't appreciate it more. And with an incredibly unique eye for photography and utmost affection and skill, Griffiths portrays her message both powerfully and beautifully.

Terry Crews: Actor, Author and Former NFL Player

"And if you don't do what you, individually, are supposed to do, the world is going to miss what you have."

You may know funny man Terry Crews for his Old Spice stints, his various loveable characters on television and the big screen (Blended, anyone?), or as handsome host of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. Sports fans, on the other hand, may remember him from his former NFL career. A husband, a father and a college art major with a knack for painting, Crews has done it all. But this go-getter is more than a modern day renaissance man—he's a renowned feminist. 

At the conference keynote, Crews gave an emotional speech from the perspective of a man responsible for once falling prey to what he called "the cult of masculinity." Eventually recognizing that he had wronged those he loved by adopting stereotypial views of male superiority, he committed to restoration and set out to make ammends. His book, Manhood, discusses themes of male pride and what it means to rethink gender roles.

Crews holds irreplaceable value as a promoter of the feminist movement—in a society where men consistently feel pressure to conform to outdated and dangerous ideals of manliness, the voice of a sympathetic and relatable fellow male can powerfully dispel misinformation about the feminist movement, helping men to feel less intimidated and more empowered to evoke change.

And while feminism applies to everyone, his speech ended on an even more generalized, empowering note. "You are priceless," Crews heartfully whispered. And you know what? We instantly believed it. Collegiettes, you are priceless. 

Abigail Kelble: Director of Programs, Millenium Campus Network

"How are you all sidekicks?"

Our final quote selection may seem too simple, too mundane, to be inspiring. But a deeper dive into Abigail Kelble's VIP luncheon speech defies that notion—to be a sidekick may just be the most empowering thing you can aspire toward. 

MCN prides itself on its collaborative focus, adopting the slogan #sidekicksUNite to fully emphasize the power of numbers, the power of shared passions and the power of working together for the greater good. Kelble highlighted the need for "authentic partnerships," the need to "listen before [we] offer advice," and the need to remember that "we're not uniting as heroes to save the world." True leadership isn't about having all of the answers, or about individual successess and heroism. True change can only be make as sidekicks—individuals on equal ground with one another, determined to fight towards a better life for all, together. So in your daily endeavors—be it your participation in a service organization, your charitable commitment to Greek life, or whatever else you're involved in—remember to act through the lens of a sidekick. We know you'll be an extraordinary one. 

And now that you're adequately energized off of unsurpassed motivation, make a note to apply for next year's conference—as Terry Crews so passionately stated, we can't afford missing out on what you have to offer. Go get 'em, collegiettes!