Saturday evening’s Distinguished Carlson Lecture Series speech by former President Bill Clinton was a breath of fresh air for many of the attendees, most of whom were left-thinking. Clinton outlined five points relating to his goal of creating more integrated communities in a world where, in his opinion, “interdependence” rather than the more common term “globalization,” prevails. The lecture had a broad focus with a “how to fix the world as told by Bill Clinton” feel, but it was clear the president is still as passionate as ever about the issues important to him: health care, global cooperation, economics, clean energy, helping the poor and public activism.
Clinton’s criticisms of the George W. Bush administration were pointed but not cheap and were well-received. But amid the applause, Clinton urged his fans to “not use your disappointment (in election results) as an excuse for disempowerment.” This theme prevailed as Clinton urged citizens to take action. Clinton’s only fault was when he was asked if the United States is ready for a woman president. While it was clear he was trying to shy away from addressing his wife’s potential candidacy, he could have made a more forceful argument in favor of a females in lieu of jokes about the TV series “Commander in Chief” and steered clear of facetious comments referring to his wife’s knitting. Clinton’s willingness to apparently laugh it off certainly didn’t win him any points.
Arguably, Clinton’s most important point was that, in a world where it would be impossible to kill, jail or occupy all the United States’ enemies, it is critical we work toward more partnerships and relate to people as humans rather than governments. The United States will not always be, as Clinton said, “the only big dog on the block.”
The former president closed by returning to a concept that should make the United States an example all over the world: “The thing that makes me the most optimistic is the power of ordinary people to do public good.” Let’s follow Clinton’s lead.