"It's an opportunity for people to come together in dialogue to break down barriers [and] find common ground," Global Citizen's president, Todd Bernstein, said.
"I don't think there's any issue more important in Philadelphia than how people who are different come to understand each other," Paul Levy, president and CEO of the Center City District, said before the discussion.
Anderson touched on the phenomenon of Center City flash mobs in the discussion, saying that they exacerbate pre-existing stereotypes. He referred to prejudices as "fault lines" and said places like the Reading Terminal force everyone to practice civility.
Defense lawyer and activist Michael Coard said he attended the summit to hear the public discourse on race.
"I would hope we can all sing 'Kumbaya' and walk away holding hands, but that's not going to happen," Coard said. "But the beginning of this dialogue is the first essential step toward a solution."
The economy also played a role in the discussion. Anderson said that in hard times, a sense of competition can deepen prejudices related to race, ethnicity or other differences.
"People get very interested in protecting or defending what they sense they have at stake. They can feel threatened by a new group and feel race prejudice," he said. "I think Obama understands that."
He stressed that in tough economic times that may give way to prejudice, canopies become more important as antidotes to it.
"We've come a long way and have a long way to go," he said. "This place is a manifestation of the progress we've made."