During his Spring Convocation remarks, Former President Bill Clinton asked the audience five questions – the five questions that he asserts every person must be able to answer. He then gave his own answers to the questions, urging everyone to formulate their personal answers, as well. Below are the questions he asked, and a summary of each answer.
1. What is the fundamental characteristic of the 21st century world?
In one word, Clinton said the characteristic is not globalization, but what he calls interdependence.
2. Is it a good or bad thing?
Both, he 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 interdependent world is unequal, unstable and unsustainable. With respect to the last point, the former president cited climate change and the depletion of critical resources, such as water, oil, natural and others.
3. How can we combat the negatives?
There must be a sense of shared responsibility, opportunity and belonging in the world to counter the negative aspects of interdependence, Clinton said. Regarding a sense of belonging, he mentioned the men who committed the London transit bombings in 2005. What is interesting about this instance, Clinton said, is that they were born and lived in England–not foreign terrorists. He also said that one does not have to give up one’s heritage, religious views and other characteristics to belong. “The humanity I have with you is even more important than the differences.”
4. What steps are necessary to do this?
Clinton said having a good security policy is needed, but also more. “Security alone is never enough in an interdependent world,” he said, adding that one can not jail, kill or occupy all of one’s enemies. As is such, Clinton such one must have more partners than enemies.
5. Who is supposed to do all this?
“We all have to do something,” Clinton said, noting that government is important but private citizens can also wield a great deal of power. After leaving office, “I realized there were things I could do as a citizen that I couldn’t do as president.” For instance, there is much more targeted and specific work he can do, such as negotiating lower prices for drugs to be sold in the Bahamas, South Africa and India.
Clinton told the student that they did not have to agree with his answers, but, that they have to be able to answer these questions own their own. “If you can answer these questions, than it will help you deal with every problem, challenge you face.” Before moving on to the question and answer session, he concluded his remarks by telling the students they must be both a good private and good public citizen in an interdependent world.