The campus of St. Xavier's College in Mumbai (formerly Bombay) was buzzing in anticipation of Secretary Clinton's town hall style meeting. The historic Gothic heritage building was filled with the beaming faces of young volunteer teachers from NGOs Teach for India as well as Teach India.
As the Secretary entered the room, television cameramen and print media photographers jostled for position while the audience members craned their necks for a better view. After all, it's not every day that the U.S. Secretary of State joins in conversation with Bollywood. But today, Secretary Clinton was joined by Aamir Khan, one of India's most famous, critically acclaimed, and socially conscious actors and directors. The conversation was steered by Arnab Goswami, Editor-in-Chief of Times Now, a top Indian news channel.
Mr. Khan and Mr. Goswami warmly greeted the Secretary, and she reciprocated. She then turned to the gathering of approximately 75 young educators, who were clearly bristling with excitement at the chance to interact directly with public figures they hold in such high esteem.
Secretary Clinton connected with them, underlining the importance of education in the world's largest, and the world's oldest, democracies. She and Mr. Khan agreed that classroom education is less effective when focused merely on rote memorization or tests. Secretary Clinton noted that cooperation and collaboration are just as important as competition among countries as well as people.
Teach India, the community service initiative of the Times Media Group, has seen a flood of applications since launching in 2008. Aamir Khan is the brand ambassador for both Teach India and Teach for India, and strongly supports them both. The tone of the conversation between Secretary Clinton and Aamir Khan was friendly and relaxed. I felt like I was looking into someone's living room. It may have been the monsoon season in Mumbai, but that did nothing to dampen the mood inside the historic hall at St. Xavier's.
When moderator Arnab Goswami asked for questions from the audience, and I could feel the eagerness in the room. The volunteers' questions ranged widely, from English as a second language to children's rights.
The event ended far too quickly in the eyes of the audience. This exchange of thoughts and opinions, with two of their role models, is a highlight they will never forget.