President Bill Clinton addressed a crowd of 5,000 students and their families, faculty and staff, and community members in Sanford Field House Friday night as part of The Kerschner Family Series Global Leaders at Colgate.
Before a question-and-answer session led by Colgate President Jeffrey Herbst, Clinton explained that he would be responding through a framework “through which I view all these apparently disparate things that are going on in the world.”
He expounded on this framework, outlined by three clusters of problems he perceives in the world: inequality, instability, and unsustainability.
“One of the things I picked up, traveling around America, is how hard it is for people — especially if they’re having a hard time paying their bills and staying in their homes and holding on to their jobs and educating their children — to make sense of all the things that are happening,” he said.
Clinton spoke of his international work with his nongovernmental organization, the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI). As Herbst said in his introduction, CGI members have made 1,700 commitments valued at $57 billion, which has already affected more than 220 million people in 170 countries.
“One thing I’ve learned is intelligence and effort are evenly distributed, but structure and opportunities are not.”
From the longtime poverty and devastation in Haiti to the drug wars in Mexico to the financial crisis in the United States, Clinton explained how each country’s problems affects us all because of our interdependence.
“We can’t get away from each other and we can’t escape the consequences of our actions on others, around the corner or around the world.”
The most recent example he cited was the terrorist threat from Yemen that was announced by President Obama shortly before Friday’s event.
Speaking about climate change and CGI’s environmental work, Clinton said improved sustainability efforts are one solution for improving our economic situation.
“It’s the number one thing we can do to modernize the economy, to bring back manufacturing, to increase the employment base, to rebuild the middle class in America, and I have some evidence to support that,” he said, greeted by applause.
As he prepared to leave for a get-out-the-vote rally at Utica’s Stanley Theater, where he endorsed U.S. Rep. Michael Arcuri for re-election, Clinton closed by saying, “Whatever happens in this election, the parties will be more closely aligned. There will be more cooperation after this, and we have things to learn from each other.”
The Global Leaders series, sponsored by Colgate’s Parents’ and Grandparents’ Fund, allows the university to invite high-profile guests like Clinton to campus.
Former world chess champion-turned-politician Garry Kasparov delivered the most recent lecture in the series.
Other speakers have included Tony Blair, former prime minister of Great Britain; Colin Powell, former U.S. secretary of state; the Dalai Lama, spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism; and Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner, award-winning authors of Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything.