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When Claremont McKenna College President Pamela Gann, the evening's
mistress of ceremonies, introduced former President Bill Clinton to the
more than 2,500 spectators at Bridges Auditorium in April, his reply,
delivered in that familiar Southern drawl, drew both laughter and
perhaps the biggest applause of the night.
Campus Speech / President Bill Clinton
"Thank you, Madame President," Clinton said after taking to the
flag-draped stage. "I like the sound of that."
It was one of only a couple of sly references to the presidential
campaign of his wife, Sen. Hillary Clinton. For the rest of the evening,
focusing mainly on the effects of globalization, Clinton discussed a
number of hot-button issues ranging from global warming to national
security to humanitarian relief.
"One of the difficulties of being effective in political life as a
citizen is just trying to figure out all these things that are going on
and how they relate to one another," he said. "Every person needs to be
able to distinguish, in the day's events, between a trend line and a
headline-headlines are almost invariably more interesting in the moment,
but trend lines are almost invariably more important."
The former president suggested five questions for every American to
consider when thinking about the future. "The five questions are: What
is the fundamental nature of the 21st century world? Is it a good or a
bad thing? How would you like to change it? What steps are necessary to
change it? Who is supposed to take the steps?"
Using these five questions, he went on to offer a critique of the
current world system, its consequences and possible solutions to the
crises that have grown out of it.
"The fundamental nature of the 21st century world is its
interdependence," Clinton said. "We should go from the current state of
independence to a set of integrated communities, locally, nationally and
globally." Describing the issues of terrorism and rogue states, Clinton
called for diplomatic rather than military solutions to the emerging
problems of the globalized world.
"A security strategy is necessary, but it will never be sufficient in an
interdependent world," he said. "It's important to recognize that
building a world with more partners and fewer terrorists is always less
expensive in terms of money and blood than fighting." A staunch
supporter of emissions control initiatives, Clinton also discussed
in-depth the growing debate over climate change and energy usage. Using
scientific studies regarding what Clinton called "the end of recoverable
oil," he suggested solutions that are both environmentally necessary and
"We have a national security issue with energy, and a climate change
issue with energy," Clinton said. "We can make more jobs by reducing our
greenhouse gas emissions and going to a clean, independent energy
future-it also happens to be the economic answer."
Following his 45-minute address, the president fielded questions from
Claremont McKenna students representing a diverse cross-section of
racial and political backgrounds. The student questions ran the gamut of
political and cultural issues, ranging from the intersection of politics
and technology to environmental issues. It was his response to a
question about his role as a former president and potential presidential
spouse, however, that garnered the attention of the national media.
"I think that former presidents should just be available to serve their
country," Clinton said about his newfound political role. "People ask me
all the time what I would do if Hillary was elected president, and I
say-I tell the truth-I'll do whatever I'm asked to." "That's the deal I
have with the current president."
-Travis Kaya '10