Few speakers could follow former Vice President Al Gore’s presentation of “An Inconvenient Truth” Wednesday evening.
That is, of course, unless his old boss showed up.
And he did.
The long-awaited event took place Thursday afternoon at the BankUnited Center with Bill Clinton, the 42nd president of the United States, appearing as the Spring 2007 Convocation speaker. In his first appearance at the University of Miami, Clinton discussed a range of global and domestic issues.
UM Media Relations reported that the facility was filled at maximum capacity with roughly 7,000 attendees, mostly students. Approximately 6,400 saw Gore the night before.
University President Donna E. Shalala invited both Clinton and Gore to speak at back-to-back events Wednesday and Thursday. At a dinner in Mahoney Residential College last Thursday, Shalala said that Stuart Miller, the president and CEO of Lennar Corp., paid all the costs associated with both appearances.
During his speech, a variation of one he has given since after Sept. 11, 2001, Clinton asked and answered five questions. He added that every citizen should be able to ask and answer them as well.
The first dealt with the fundamental characteristic of the 21st century, to which he answered, in one word, interdependence.
This is both a good and bad thing, Clinton said.
“The interdependent world has been good to you,” he told the students, explaining that 35 years ago the crowd he would have looked out to would not have been so diverse.
Contrastingly, Clinton said this is also an unequal, unstable and unsustainable world.
To combat these issues, he said there must be a sense of shared responsibility, opportunity and belonging.
When he concluded his remarks, many students seemed surprised at how short it was-something Clinton said he would do before beginning to allow for more questions.
During the question and answer session, Shalala posed six questions, five of which were submitted by UM students. The last one, from her, asked him to discuss the importance of voting, prefaced by mentioning the “Get Out the Vote” campaign on campus.
Clinton first noted that the 18 to 24 age demographic, though turnout has increased in the last two elections, is still the most underrepresented group.
“It’s ironic because you have the most at stake,” he said, later referencing the 2000 presidential election, “No serious person now can assert that elections don’t have consequences.”
Immediately following the speech, Clinton greeted various officials and then walked over to the barricade in front of the stage to greet students.
Hundreds swarmed the cordon to shake hands and take pictures of the former president.
Greg Linch may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.