Listening to Bill Clinton

At the World Economic Forum annual meeting in early 2000, then-President Bill Clinton gave a speech of clarity and common sense — embracing globalization but warning that globalization had to occur with less secrecy and more inclusion of the have-nots. Many of the Americans at the meeting wondered in sadness where this president had been for eight years, and why he’d squandered what should have been a great presidency with lies, sleaze and — worst of all — the unwillingness to take real risks in service of larger goals.

That memory has returned twice in the past few weeks, after reading transcripts of two powerful speeches by a man whose lost opportunities will surely haunt him for the rest of his days.

Optimism in the face of deep problems shines through both speeches. But both make the absolutely crucial point that winning the war against Al Quaeda, while essential, is not enough. We in the developed world must bring our wealth to bear on the problems of those who languish or suffer in poverty and hopelessness elsewhere.

Here are the transcripts:

  • Clinton’s address at Georgetown University on Nov. 7.
  • An address entitled The Struggle for the Soul of the 21st Century, given for Britain’s annual Dimbleby Lecture last week.

    See also:

  • Lance Knobel: Deja Vu. It’s sad, whatever you may have thought of Clinton’s presidency, to see how rapidly ex-political leaders become superfluous, even when they are young and intelligent. Of American presidents, only Jimmy Carter
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