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President Bill Clinton offers wide-ranging address

By Aleta Mayne on October 29, 2010

video iconPresident 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.


• Several Colgate students submitted questions for President Clinton. Kendall Dolbec ’11 asked Clinton what career advice he had for Colgate’s graduating class, given the current global economy.

Encouraging them to search their hearts for what makes them feel happiest and most fulfilled, Clinton said, “Then I would say, can I do that now? If the answer is no because of the economic circumstances, then I would find something I could do that was useful and that I’d learn something from for a couple of years.”

Advising students not to make a long-term decision based on economic standing, he said, “You’ve got to believe your country’s coming back — I do. You never bet against America.”


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“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.


  • Liz Nay said:

    I thought Clinton went out of his way to avoid getting into the blame-game of politics as it is sensationalized nowadays. He is of politics, certainly, yet works at actually trying to solve problems and deal with issues for the betterment of all. How about stopping the finger pointing and looking, each of us, at how we can make this world better. Great speaker choice – thank you Colgate and the Global Leaders series!

  • Jerry Busch said:

    President Clinton campaigned on a platform to balance the budget by cutting military spending by 30%. The budget he drafted and sent to Congress did exactly that — cut military spending by a third of a trillion dollars. (It also, I recall, did not include any major tax cuts for the wealthy). The Republican Congress, to its credit, approved Clinton’s “peace dividend.”
    Bush, by contrast, pushed through windfall capital-gains and income tax cuts for the wealthy at the same time that he was promulgating two wars — a budgetary strategy that was without precedent in American history and that lead to a deficit that was bigger than all previous budget deficits combined. Like Reagan, Busch gave the lie to the notion that Republicans balance budgets. Bush topped it off by failing to address the banking excesses that crashed the economy all together.
    It was Bush, not Clinton, who almost destroyed this country, and Obama who put us back on firm footing. As to what makes this country great: raising $57 billion dollars to address “inequality, instability, and unsustainability” around the globe is in the finest tradition of American humanity and citizenship.

  • Stephen Solomon '76, MAT '78 said:

    As I am distracted by the preceding comment, I would like to pose a simple question…
    Where is the analysis, thoughtful or otherwise, that belies the assertions delivered to the “kids and adults” of the site’s readership?
    And how about a follow-on question, Dear Poster: Given that those who attended the Clinton lecture enjoyed the occasion (as shown below), what aspect of the lecture would you like to address or illuminate?
    In the meantime I too would like to commend the organizers for their efforts in bringing to Colgate such an outstanding program!

  • Harvard Undergrad said:

    It’s a shame how much credit this man is getting for doing absolutely nothing to make this country great.
    Remember kids and adults, it was the Republican controlled congress that got us out of the recession in the early 1990s and gave us a surplus.
    Clinton was an insane leftist that almost destroyed this country, but was stopped and eventually moved to the center once Republicans were voted in.

  • Sarah Bell said:

    Congratulations to the Special Events office for another outstanding job. I feel privileged as a parent to have been able to attend Clinton’s speech, as well as Tony Blair’s and Colin Powell’s. What phenomenal influences for our students!

  • Tim O'Keeffe said:

    Hi Phyllis. We are not able to provide a full video of the event but we will post a video clip of highlights early this week.

  • Phyllis La Vine said:

    Wonderful event. Will a video be available for purchase?