Local Politics

Clinton: 'How generation' needed to solve world's ills

Posted January 26, 2009 4:02 a.m. EST
Updated March 9, 2009 5:12 p.m. EDT

— People worldwide need to take action to help solve the global problems of political and economic instability, inequality and environmental unsustainability, former President Bill Clinton said Monday.

"I don't think it's good enough anymore to define your citizenship by being a good, honest worker and a taxpayer and someone who votes," Clinton said in a speech at North Carolina State University's Reynolds Coliseum.

Unlike his upbeat appearances in North Carolina last year for his wife's presidential campaign, Clinton was serious and matter-of-fact during his 40-minute speech about the difficulties facing the state, the nation and the world.

He related a series of current problems:

  • The global recession has destroyed wealth equal to half of the world's gross production.
  • Terrorists continue to strike at targets but are difficult to retaliate against.
  • Most of the world's wealth and access to education and health care is concentrated among a minority of its people.
  • The benefits of development have to be balanced against the cost of global warming.

Because the world has become so interdependent in recent decades, small problems in one part of the globe often affect the U.S. and other countries, Clinton said. Such interdependence means that people's fortunes rise or fall together and that "divorce is not an option" because we all continue to share the globe, he said.

"We should be trying to create a world where we share the future," he said. "We share the benefits and the opportunities; we share the burdens and the responsibilities."

One of those responsibilities is to work to solve the world's problems, Clinton said, calling on people to become part of "the how generation."

"How do you go about taking the best of intentions and turning them into positive changes in people's lives?" he asked. "You've got to say, 'I want to be a person involved in the how.'"

Some people have started the process, he said, noting about 500,000 non-governmental organizations were started in the last decade to take on specific issues. But much more needs to be done, he said.

"We have a 'crisis of doing' in the world," he said. "We have all of these problems out there that people know are problems, that they can talk about till the cows come home, but nobody knows the how – how do you turn good intentions into real changes?"

Clinton's visit was part of the university's Millennium Seminar Series.

After the speech, he attended a lunch fundraiser for western North Carolina Congressman Heath Shuler.

Clinton and Shuler have been building a relationship since Clinton reached out to the former NFL quarterback as Democrats recruited him to run for Congress in the 2006 election.

In 2008, Shuler endorsed Clinton's wife, now Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, in her run for the White House after she won the primary in his district.