Last night, TIME's managing editor, Rick Stengel, hosted a panel discussion between four TIME 100 honorees from years past: pastor and Love Wins author Rob Bell; the co-founder of the American Society for Muslim Advancement, Daisy Khan; the founder of StudentsFirst, Michelle Rhee; and the co-founder of Water.org, Gary White. They have four very different areas of expertise religion, social awareness, education and water but they share one thing: passion.
Stengel: What are you passionate about?
Rhee: We spend twice the amount of money per child as we did a decade ago, and yet by all measures we are at best holding steady and in some respects we are declining. This year, students' SAT scores were the lowest in the history of the test. In fact, if you give me the ZIP code and a child's race, I can tell you pretty accurately what that child's academic achievement is going to be. Think about that. We are still still living in a country where what you can achieve is determined by where you live and the color of your skin. That is the most un-American thing imaginable. Until now education reform has been in the hands of politicians, pundits and policymakers. It's time to take the movement to the people.
White: There are a billion people in this world who don't have access to a safe drink of water. More people have access to a cell phone than have access to a toilet. It's time to bring our two worlds together. There's never going to be enough charity in the world to solve a problem this big. We need lasting, sustainable solutions.
Khan: I'm passionate about a lot of things, but tonight I'd like to talk about women in Islam. My husband is an imam so I used to do a lot of speaking engagements on his behalf. It doesn't matter if I visit a think tank or a neighborhood organization, I'm always asked ... why women are treated so poorly. "Why are there honor killings?" I'd get asked. That isn't Islam, that is a cultural practice. You have to separate Islam from cultural practice.
Bell: I'm inspired by the fact that everyday average people like us can do things to change the world. Lots of people live with a quiet despair they see something happening but they don't know how to change it.
Some people view life as a destination as in, "We have the right answers, we are in the right club" but that's not right. It's a journey. If I'm taking a journey, I'm learning along the way. There is a built-in humility to that.
Michelle, you're a big proponent of tough love for children. But you get a lot of push back on that.
Rhee: We're so busy trying to make kids feel good about themselves that we've forgotten how to actually make them good at something. For example, I have two daughters who are ages 12 and 9. They play soccer. They suck. But if you went into their bedrooms, you'd see trophies and medals all over the place. I tell my kids all the time, "You are not so good at soccer. If you want to be good, you're going to have to practice for 90 minutes each day. You're going to have to run sprints. And even then you're not guaranteed that you're going to be good." I get told all the time, "Oh, you're a tiger mom!" But you're not doing your kids any favors by telling them they're good when they're not.