Clinton discusses shared humanity
Though some AU students may take issue with being called a “wonk,” former President Bill Clinton finds it flattering.
“I loved when people made fun of me for being wonkish because I figured that people wanted a President who actually knew something,” Clinton said.
Clinton received AU’s first “Wonk of the Year” award Jan. 27 in an event sponsored by the Kennedy Political Union and the Graduate Leadership Council.
AU President Neil Kerwin and KPU Director Alex Kreger introduced Clinton, who previously spoke at AU in 1993 and 1997.
“[Clinton] has worked tirelessly in every corner of the planet to improve the lives of those in need,” Kerwin said to a the sold-out audience in Bender Arena.
Clinton addressed potential solutions to some of the world’s current economic and social struggles.
“If you want a world of shared opportunities and shared responsibility, you just can’t have as much inequality as we do now,” Clinton said. “It’s not healthy to have that much inequality.”
He credited increased global interdependence due to scientific advances as one of the most important factors in shaping the course of the human history, including increased inequality.
To help change that climate, Clinton told students to “Tap your inner wonk,” and suggested that students ask themselves, “What kind of world do you want to live in? You should always have an answer to that.”
Following the end of his presidency in 2001, Clinton developed a number of activist groups, including his Clinton Global Initiative, a series of annual summits with world leaders to discuss topics such as the environment and healthcare.
Clinton said the accomplishments of CGI, which include commitments valued at $69.2 billion, have been among his greatest achievements since leaving office.
“It’s my attempt to do what I told you to do in my speech,” Clinton said. “You need to pick an issue and bring it to the people. That’s what I tried to do.”
Clinton also discussed the economy and said the three most important factors for moving out of a recession are tax increases for the wealthy, an increased revenue and economic growth.
However, changes to the tax code shouldn’t be passed until employment reaches a better level in order to maintain economic stability, he said.
Clinton said the genetic differences between one person and another, such as skin color or height, are small when compared with the similarities.
“We are all at least 99.5 percent the same,” Clinton said. “And all of us spend that 99.5 percent that we have in common thinking about that 0.5 percent that’s different.”
As the arena grew quiet for Clinton’s final words, he echoed his theme of empathy and the shared experience.
“I grew up learning that everyone had a story and was inherently interesting,” Clinton said. “Empathy is nothing more than imagining how the world is received by someone who is not you.”
A previous version of this article said Clinton spoke Jan. 28. He spoke Jan. 27.