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Song, Laughter and Art at the Skoll World Forum Closing Plenary

April 18, 2015

By Sally Kassab - Skoll Foundation

We sang. We saw images of war. We saw beautiful art that inspired a little boy who eventually became president of a large foundation. We heard a musician from Mozambique play his guitar and sing songs of social change. We laughed with the “Egyptian Jon Stewart.”

Every single speaker and artist got a standing ovation, and it’s no wonder. Our souls were moved. Our hearts were moved.

The evening opened with Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship Chairman Stephan Chambers saying, “I didn’t warn you that there would be anger, inspiration, modesty, strong-minded, robust, combative, positive disagreement and grace and ambition. Thank you for bringing those things here this week.” He announced the Sing for Hope piano that people wrote on (literally!) during the Forum, which will have a permanent home at Oxford University’s Said Business School, where the Forum is held.

Egyptian Political Satirist Bassem Youssef announced that he’s building a platform with YouTube, to “give the new generation what we thought we lost. We want to give them hope. A few years from now, we will not be controlled by the same people who gave us the Arab Spring. Before this decade is over, we will have independent media.”


Monica Yunus and Camille Zamora, opera singers and co-founders of Sing for Hope, walked out on stage singingvocalese. Then, they talked to us, showed a stunning video of the impact their work has had on New York, and asked the audience to sing. Each said said, “Aaaaaaahhhhhh” in a different tone, and, according to my conversation with Yunus and Zamora afterward, we sounded great!


Ford Foundation CEO Darren Walker showed us how art magazines he looked at as a child changed the course of his life: “I am certain I would not be standing before you today if not for my exposure to the arts,” he said.

Walker also said, ”Jeff Skoll: Congratulations to you for this Forum…for your courage, your humility and your audacity. Sally Osberg: “You are indefatigable. It is your ability to think…which makes you one of the most respected and admired CEOs in all of philanthropy.”

Documentary photographer Susan Meiselas showed us how powerful photographs can change history. She said documentary photography can be “long and thankless, but it’s important that you persevere.”

Skoll Awardee Ned Breslin talked with singer and guitar player Feliciano dos Santos of the Massukos band—then the band caused us to dance. A short film showed video and photographs of the past week, reminding everyone of the best moments from the Forum.

And Chambers sent us home. “Each year, I think we have reached peak Skoll. Each year, I think we can’t get more motivated, balanced, angry and inspired, and each year I am wrong. You astound me. You astound me with your creativity, and I am humbled. Thank you.”


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