Finding bits of inspiration

March 19, 2009, 8:57 PM UTC

We’re all looking for inspiration these days, aren’t we? Not to be Pollyannish, but I’m jazzed following a dinner that I attended last evening. It was organized by Joan Amble, the EVP and corporate comptroller of American Express , and Skadden Arps partner Martha McGarry. These two women convened two dozen women who participate in Fortune‘s Most Powerful Women Summit. Terri Dial, the CEO of Citigroup’s U.S. Consumer Bank, was there. So were Xerox president Ursula Burns, Frontier Communications CEO Maggie Wilderotter and her sister Denise Morrison, the Campbell Soup SVP in charge of North American soup, sauces and beverages.

The purpose of the dinner was simply to get to know one another, but the conversation turned to using the subject of using platforms of power to do good in these terribly difficult times. These women really want to mentor the next generation–so critical now since business is out of favor, particularly among young people. Fortune already sponsors two mentoring programs–one focusing on science and math with Exxon Mobil (XOM) and another with the State Department. Each May, Fortune and the U.S. State Department bring rising-star business women from developing countries around the globe to shadow participants of our MPWomen Summit. I’m unsure of Fortune‘s role in yet another mentoring program. But personally, I’m game to do all I can to help.

Then, this morning I had breakfast with two guys who are using their platforms of power to do good. One is Mike Hoffman, a West Point grad who heads Changing our World, a philanthropic advisory firm owned by communications giant Omnicom . The other is Frederic de Narp, the CEO of Cartier North America. De Narp is a dashing 40-year-old Frenchman who quit Cartier in his 20s to move to Haiti and Cambodia to help orphans. He and his then-new wife thought they might do humanitarian work for the rest of their lives. But de Narp rejoined Cartier eight months later and has since used that power base to lead a variety of philanthropic efforts. More on de Narp (a father of six!) and those ventures later.

At breakfast, we also talked about the economy, of course—and the picture isn’t altogether grim. De Narp said that Cartier North America’s sales of wedding and engagement rings are up in units vs. last year–though not in revenues since customers are pinching dollars. “It’s cold outside and people are looking for warmth inside,” says de Narp, by way of explaining why relationship-building, at least from his purview, is on the rise.

Indeed! I’m heading out early to go see my dad in Pennsylvania. He turns 88 today–a healthy 88. Inspiring!