Pomona College Magazine
Volume 41. No. 2.
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Five Questions
Campus Speech / President Bill Clinton

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.

"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 economically beneficial.

"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
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