Clinton encourages optimism, creativity to solve global problems
Published: Sunday, November 6, 2011
Updated: Monday, November 7, 2011 08:11
Former U.S. President Bill Clinton last night challenged the Tufts community to consider how they can meet the challenges of an interconnected world during the 10th Issam M. Fares Lecture.
The 42nd president addressed a crowd of around 6,000 Tufts students, faculty, staff and guests during the lecture sponsored by the Fares Center for Eastern Mediterranean Studies.
Clinton, highlighting his experience combating the spread of HIV/AIDS through the Clinton Health Access Initiative, encouraged members of the audience to ask themselves how they can each work to solve pressing global problems like climate change and economic inequality.
Clinton, also the U.N. special envoy to Haiti, called the question of global interdependence the fundamental question of the 21st century.
"If we do live in an interconnected world where all the world's borders look more like nets than walls, are going to keep trying to fill in the nets to make them look like walls, or are we going to strive to build a world we can share?" he asked the audience.
He added that the responsibility of answering this question will fall to the students of today.
"The students here and your generation will have to make a decision, live with it, vote by it and work for it, about what kind of world you want, whether you really want the world of shared prosperity, shared opportunities, shared responsibilities and shared sense of community," he said.
"If you do want that kind of world you have to ask a simple question: how do I get it?" he added.
Clinton praised Tufts and The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy's commitment to global thinking, and thanked the community for contributing to making the world more peaceful, sustainable and equal in the 21st century.
He also warned the audience against the temptation of pessimism during times of national crisis.
"The most important thing we can do in this economic crisis is to shed our negative thinking and our pessimism about the future and get up every day and look forward to finding something we can do that will make a positive difference at home and around the world," he said.
"If you focus on the ‘how' question, you can always find something that is worth doing," he added.
"You shouldn't be pessimistic about the future, but you shouldn't be in denial either," he said.
Clinton, whose upcoming book, "Back to Work," focuses on America's current economic crisis, also spent a significant portion of his speech addressing current domestic issues. He called suggestions to reduce the deficit by cutting foreign aid "a terrible mistake," and argued for allowing increased immigration to the country.
He also stressed the need for healthy debate between ideologies, criticizing Washington partisans' refusal to cooperate over issues of national importance.
His argument that the country should spend less time waging expensive wars and more time making friends across the globe was met with a round of applause from the audience.
Clinton called Tea Party−like anti−government sentiment "nonsense."
"The biggest problem in the United States … is the anti−government ideology that has driven the right wing of our county for 30 years," he said.
"There is not a single successful country on earth … that does not have both a strong economy and a good government working together," he added.
Clinton concluded his address with an optimistic call to good sense.
"We are condemned to share the future. The world is interdependent. But we are not condemned to a bleak future," he said.
The lecture was followed by a brief question and answer session with University President Anthony Monaco, in which Clinton fielded pre−selected questions from the Tufts community.
When asked about how the government can eliminate growing domestic economic disparities, Clinton called for increased taxes to the wealthy as a matter of "citizen responsibility." He also stressed the need to create more jobs through improved education of the workforce.