- Special Reports
Transcript of ‘Global Challenges’
Transcript of 'Global Challenges'
President Richard Levin:
Well, great to see all of you, an enthusiastic crowd. For three centuries, Yale has educated citizens for public service, first for the Connecticut colony, then for the nation, and now for the wider world. Nothing could better symbolize our continuing commitment to that task than the two men you're about to hear from this afternoon. For its my distinct pleasure to introduce you to one Yale graduate, the former President of Mexico, who will in turn introduce another Yale graduate. This is a proud moment for Yale, and one that I am sure you will savor and remember. Ernesto Zedillo earned his Ph.D. here in economics and went on to a distinguished career in the Mexican government. He was
elected President in 1994, and during his tenure, he courageously extended the scope of Mexico's democracy. A year ago, he returned to Yale as Director of the Center for the Study of Globalization. I'm very pleased to introduce to you, for only a brief word, my distinguished friend and colleague, Ernesto Zedillo.
President Ernesto Zedillo:
Thank you very much, President Levin, for your kind words. I hope they are not in lieu of a portion of my salary. Ladies and gentlemen, essential to the Center for the Study of Globalization's mission is to host intellectual and political leaders who have made significant contributions to both overcome the challenges and to seize the opportunities presented by globalization. In the pursuit of this endeavor, today, we are honored to welcome a leader who not only had the vision and skill to preside over one of the longest economic expansions of his nation, but who also was attentive, committed and bold in his support of prosperity and stability in many other parts of the world, including my beloved country. Undoubtedly, he did this for the ethical motives that have historically animated his great country, but also because he has always been clear about the fact that in our contemporary global village, it is in the self-interest of the well-off countries, even the most powerful, to help others to fight poverty, disease, injustice, and insecurity. Our guest today has acted in consistency with this vision not only during his eight years in office, but has relentlessly continued to do so as a private citizen. He has not hesitated to put his time and energy, his heart and mind, into various endeavors to help the weak and the destitute where it is most needed. For this and many other excellent reasons, it is my pride to welcome, in the very good company of President Levin and all of you, a distinguished graduate of the Law School Class of '73, the 42nd President of the United States of America, my dear friend, Bill Clinton.
President William J. Clinton:
Thank you very much!
You don't want to overdo that. You know I might start thinking I'm president again. But I am very grateful, I'm very grateful for the size of this crowd, for the warmth of your welcome and your interest in the topic at hand. I want to thank Rick Levin and the entire Yale Community for welcoming me back. When I leave you, I'm going to a dinner for the 30th reunion of my law school class – I don't know what happened in those 30 years, but…
I want to thank my great friend President Zedillo, for the introduction and for the years in which we worked together and for the gifts that he gave to his country and the world. In the late 1970s, President Zedillo was a student of President Levin's in a class on industrial organization – I'm glad to see them together again, for your benefit. When I became President, I was able to appoint one of my teachers, Guido Calabresi, to the Court of Appeals, along with about 20 of my Yale Law School contemporaries who were part of the administration. One of my teachers, Robert Bork, did not wish to be a part in my administration, but I still enjoyed him in class. My most important classmate by far turned out to be the junior Senator from the State of New York, and now among my many interesting duties is clipping newspapers for her instead of the other way around.
When President Zedillo asked me to speak to the Yale Center for the Study of Globalization, I eagerly accepted. First, because I support Yale's mission to be a truly global university. This center was headed by my former deputy secretary of state and Oxford roommate Strobe Talbott before President Zedillo took over. When he was here, I asked him if I could be one of his World Fellows, and he said "no, because you are no longer a young world leader." That really hurt. I want you to laugh now, in 30 years it won't be as funny. So I shot back at Strobe that neither was he a young world leader, but President Zedillo is younger than I am, he still is a young world leader and I 'm glad he's here.
Ernesto Zedillo did two truly astonishing things when he was the President of Mexico. First he stayed with the modernization of his economy through a terrible financial crisis, one which I tried to help him through. On the night when we had to decide whether to give Mexico a loan package and then organize an international support package, we were doing it after the republican leadership of the Senate and House, which had previously promised to support the loan, pulled out after a morning Washington Post poll showed that the public, by 81 to 15 per cent, thought lending money to Mexico was a terrible idea. So my friends Bob Dole and Newt Gingrich came over and said, "Well, we can't deliver the votes anyway, our Caucasus tells us anyway that we finally got you where you want to the wrong end of a 81 to 15% poll question. Good luck and good-bye!" So we had this meeting and a bunch of the young political people at the White House said, "You can't do this – we just lost the Congress; now you are going to give Mexico this loan and poll's 81 to 15?" I said, "absolutely. This is an easy issue because if we don't do it, a year from now we'll have total instability in Mexico; the Argentine and Brazilian economies will probably totally crater; we'll have more illegal immigrants and more narcotics trafficking. And they will ask me why this has happened, and I'll say because a year ago that said the people were 81 to 15 against it." These polls can be very misleading in that way. So I approved the loan package, it went through, and thanks to Ernesto Zedillo's leadership, Mexico not only recovered quickly, but they paid the loan back three years early. Something I resented because I was enjoying the interest we were getting off the loan. Then in the end of his term he did something even more remarkable – he opened up the Mexican political system to competition. He willfully gave up the monopoly political power that had been enjoyed by his own political party for decades. In an age when people are too often driven by the desire to get to keep power without regard to public purpose, it was an astonishing act of statesmanship. And along the way he and Nilda let me come to Mexico two or three times and have a good time. And I have a picture of me at dinner they held where I got to play the saxophone with a Mexican pianist – I look at it everyday and think of all the good times we shared.
Most people today refer to the time in which we live as the age of globalization. I prefer the term interdependence, because it makes it clear that the nature of the world today and our connections are far more than economic, and because it makes it clear that the consequences of those relationships can be both negative and positive. Interdependence simply means we cannot escape each other. For those of us like most Americans, the age of globalization or interdependence has brought enormous benefits. In the eight years when I served as the president, roughly a third of our growth came from trade. Our country's enormous increase in productivity was in no small part fueled by the application of information technology across all sectors of the economy and the continued outreach to people throughout the world and the openness of our borders to new immigrants from all over the world who continued to replenish the energy of our entrepreneurial system. You can see if you look around this audience today – the student body looks very different than it would've looked if I had come here 30 years ago as a law student to hear the sitting President at that time. Though it worked for us, but interdependence is not by definition good or bad. It can be either or; it can be both. On September 11th, 2001, the Al Qaeda terrorist used the forces of interdependence – they use the open borders, easy travel, easy immigration, easy access to information and technology, to turn a jet airplane full of fuel into a weapon of mass destruction to kill 3100 people in the United States, including hundreds of people from 70 foreign countries who were in America looking for positive interdependence. Over 200 of the people they killed were Muslims, indicating the racial and religious diversity of the positive side of this equation.
Now I'll just give you a couple of other instances. The Middle East is an example of interdependence as good as any on Earth. The Israelis and Palestinians cannot possibly escape each other. So for seven years from the time we signed the Peace Agreement, until the onset of the second Intifada in 2000, we had seven years of progress towards positive interdependence, under the Peace Agreement which basically said we're going to divide the land as soon as we agree on the property settlement; we are going to share security responsibility, share economic benefits, we're going to go into business, be friends, and build the future together. And then in one of the colossal historical errors of modern times, Yasir Arafat walked away from the agreement, or the proposal that I had secured the Israeli agreement to under Prime Minister Barak. And they decided they'd be for negative interdependence. So now in three years you got 1900 dead Palestinians, average age 18, 700 dead Israelis, average age 24. But they are no less interdependent than they were in the seven years of peace – they just flipped it from positive to negative. The relationship between Mexico and the United States or Canada and the United States, you see on balance a positive relationship with negative elements existing at the same time. Our relationship with Mexico has been very positive, I believe, for both countries, economically and politically, we have been enriched, and continued to be, by Mexican immigrants, but we still have some problems of, principally, the transport of drugs across the Mexican border, and the continuing battles we do with narco-traffickers. Our relationship with Canada has been overwhelmingly positive – we still have some problems, principally due to the different economic systems and its impact on our trade relations in some areas, as well as an occasional environmental issue or two.
My basic premise is this: the interdependent world, for all of its promise, is in inevitably unsustainable because it's unstable. We cannot continue to live in a world where we grow more and more and more interdependence, and we have no over-arching system to have the positive elements of interdependence outweigh the negative ones. So I believe all thinking people must ask and answer for themselves, particular if you are in this country, whether you are a citizen or not – you should ask and answer for yourself three questions: one, what is your vision of the 21st Century world; two, what we have to do to achieve it; three, what does that mean for America – what does America have to do. I'll give you my answers to those questions. You don't have to agree with my answers but you need to have your own. To pretend that you shouldn't answer these questions is to walk away from the fundamental challenge of our time.
As to the first question, I think the great mission of 21st Century world is to make it a genuine global community. To move from mere interdependence to integration, to a community that has three characteristics: shared responsibilities, shared benefits, and shared values.
On the second question – how would you go about building that kind of world? How would you move from interdependence to an integrated community? In summary fashion, because I know we are going to have questions later, here are my answers. With regard to shared responsibilities, I think the most important are to fight for security against terror, weapons of mass destruction, organized crime, and narco-traffickers, to take shared responsibility for breaking up Al Qaeda and terrorist networks, for restarting the Middle East peace process, for resolving the nuclear issues and the missile issues of North Korea, for encouraging the new dialogue between the two nuclear powers India and Pakistan, for making the post-war Iraq a successful transition to a democratic self-government, for helping other countries to fight terror, like Colombia and the Philippines, and for having a global effort to reduce the stocks of available chemical, biological and nuclear materials. Second main shared responsibility (and I'll talk more about this in a minute) is to build institutions of global cooperation across a wide range of areas, so people get in the habit of resolving their differences in a peaceful way according to rules and procedures that are generally perceived to be fair to everyone. Unless you have institution-building, it will be hard to sustain the mentality necessary to have shared responsibilities. So, that's the first thing I want to say.
Secondly, we have to share the benefits of the interdependent world. Why do we have to do that? For one thing, let's just take a very selfish, forget about the moral and ethical imperative, think of the very selfish perspective – if you come from a wealthy country with open borders, unless you seriously believe you can kill, imprison, or occupy all of your enemies, you will have to make a world with more friends and fewer enemies, with more partners and fewer terrorists. As we see everyday in Iraq, the United States military is the only super military in the world – we can win any military conflict all by ourselves, but you can't build the peace all by yourself. Unless you can kill, occupy or imprison everybody, you have to a plan (applause). Unless you can kill, occupy or imprison everybody, you've got to make some friends this ol' world.
So what does that mean? Among other things it means that we will have to bring economic opportunity to the 50 per cent of the globe's population which lives on $2 a day or less. A billion people live on $1 a day or less; a billion people go to bed hungry every night. It means more trade with the developing nations. It means more aid that works properly. It means, I think, another round of debt relief tied to economic development, education, health care. It means funding projects that will build successful, functioning, sustainable economies in poor countries across the globe. It means educating the world's people who presently can't be part of positive interdependence. A billion people in this world cannot read a single word in any language, not one. 120 million children never go to school. But we know that every year of schooling adds 10 to 15 per cent a year to the incomes of people in poor countries for life.
And we also know how to get those kids to school: when President Zedillo was president of Mexico, they had a program where they actually paid the families of the poorest kids if their kids went to school. In Brazil, the Bolsa Escola program gives a little credit card to the poorest families that they can turn into the local lottery office with a certificate proving that their children had been to school 85 per cent of the time the previous month and they get about $15 for child per month. In my last year, Senator Dole and Senator McGovern came to see me with a proposal to offer nutritious meals to children in school but only if they come to school to get it, and so we found $300 million and feed six million kids first year we did that, and the enrollment exploded. And this year a program that has been sustained by partisan support is feeding 10 million children in poor countries in their schools, to get more people into school. This is not expensive and it's not rocket science, but it'll make a world with more friends and fewer terrorists. Same thing is true in health care – the sequencing of the human genome, the widespread availability of all kinds of medicines and a lot of other things are driving life expectancy to the roof in developed nations. Now you see over and over again, I can't turn on the television without seeing at least once a week some program about the coming age crutch in rich societies, when the old are swamping the young.
But ten million children in this world still die every year of completely preventable childhood diseases, and one in four of all deaths on earth this year will come AIDS, TB, malaria, and infections related with diarrhea, most of them little kids who never got a clean glass of water, something one and a half billion people on earth never do. So we know what to do about all these. I was just at the UN yesterday talking to the Secretary-General about the work I'm doing with AIDS in Africa and Caribbean and the fact that we're now going to be able to buy this medicine for under $140 a person a year, and how we need more people now to fund the poor countries (not me) to fund the poor countries to develop their health care networks, to make the medicine work. This is not rocket science, but every time we do it, we build a world with more friends and fewer terrorists. Same thing is true on the environment: nation-specific environments are worse for poor countries – it's one reason why there is not enough clean water. And the globe's environment is worse because poor and rich countries alike believe foolishly that the only way you can grow rich, stay rich and get richer, is to put more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Anything we do today to finance an alternative energy future tomorrow will mean stable agricultural production patterns, a more stable life in developing nations, fewer terrorists, fewer disruptions.
This is not just an idle talk – this stuff works. I will just give you one example. Last year I was in Ghana working with Hernando de Solo to try to set up the same sort of titling system in an African culture that he did in Peru that enabled all kinds of people to legalize their businesses and homes and then use the title they have to get credit from a bank. When they first did it, they had 10 per cent growth or better three years in a row. Now in Africa a lot of land is held in common by tribal chiefs, so we had to figure out the way around that and we are working on it in Ghana. I was on the tarmac of the airport on the way back to the airplane, and this woman started screaming at me, "President Clinton, President Clinton! Don't go!" And I looked around and she was waving some package. So she comes up to me and she said, "I'm one of four hundred women who work in a shirt factory here in Accra because of your Africa trade bill, we sell these shirts. And we all have jobs, so here's your shirt." So I figured, I'm not in office anymore, I took the shirt. It was not an a billion dollar no-bid contract, but it was something I got out of this, you know.
So, anyway, I put this shirt in a place in my home where I see it everyday. Why? Because every time I look at the shirt, it reminds me that that woman is not mad at me, or you, or the United States. Why? She knows I got more money than she does, but she thinks we want her to be part of our shared future. And she doesn't want her child to fight in an African tribal war, and she certainly doesn't want her child to become HIV positive. She wants her child to live, to learn, to be part of what you see around this room. We can not, and I'm all for a strong security position, but we cannot possibly kill, imprison or occupy all of our actual or potential adversaries, and we are drastically under-investing in building a world with more partners and fewer terrorists. And we'll get right involved then.
Now, what about shared values? People make fun of me all the time – how can you possibly have shared values in a world with as many different ethnic, cultural and racial systems as we have? When African tribes in Rwanda, who have been living with each other for 500 years, all of a sudden go nuts and ten per cent of the country's dead in 90 days, most of them with machetes. Well, my answer is: go to Rwanda and you'll see. Where the President of Rwanda Paul Kagame has given money to communities called "reconciliation communities" and they will give you a lot to have a house in one of these communities, but you have to agree to live in the neighborhood with people from other ethnic group. And when I went there, a little over a year ago I think, to Indira, to this little reconciliation village. And I met a woman and her neighbor, and one woman's husband was in jail awaiting a war crimes trial because he was a leader of the slaughter of Tutsis, and her neighbor was a Tutsi woman, who had lost her husband and her brother in the slaughter. I saw the children dancing together for the first time in a decade across their ethnic lines, and they slowly, as they began to dance, began to smile at each other.
And I've seen the reconciliation work in South Africa, and I've sat along with the Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland, and I've sat up half the night with the Palestinians and Israelis and heard them tell jokes on their leaders. And I can tell you there are things you see in these encounters, basic values that transcend religion, race, tribe, and ethnicity, but they're pretty simple. Everyone counts. Everyone deserves a chance. Everyone has a responsible role to play. Competition's good but we'll do better when we work together. Our differences are important and they make life much more interesting, but our common humanity matters more. Those five simple values I argue to you must become the globe's dominant values across all the lines of race and religion. The only thing you have to give up to embrace that value is that you don't have the absolute truth. Because once you believe you have the absolute truth, then it's not possible for everyone to count, or for everyone to deserve a chance if they disagree with you, or for everyone to have a role to play.
It's not possible for you to believe that we all do better when we work together if you have to deal with heathens, or to believe that your common humanity matters more than your interesting differences. All we have to say is that there is a truth – life is a search for it; religion is a pathway to it; but we’re all imperfect and nobody has it. The only thing the world has to give up to achieve the core values necessary to move from interdependence to an integrated community is the idea that you have the absolute truth. You may have noticed that the fundamentalists didn't like me very much when I was President, and I remember once that the President of the Southern Baptist Convention, the biggest Protestant church in America, of which both Al Gore and I are members, has to see me once because there was an actual effort to throw my church out of the Convention unless they threw me out of the church because I was pro-choice and pro-gay rights. It was an interesting thing because they didn't seek to throw me out because I was a sinner, because we believe that covers everybody so I was OK on that score. But I couldn't be pro-choice and pro-gay rights, so the President of the Convention looked at me and he said – in all of the world they have conversations like this about the Koran, or about the Torah, or about other holy texts. I can imagine the same conversation occurring in five or six different cultures and faiths – he looked at me he said, "I want an answer from you, not a political answer – just an answer, yes or no – do you believe our Bible is literally true or not? Yes or no?" And I looked at him and I said, "I believe that it's completely true, but I do not believe any of us, including you and I, are smart enough to understand it completely." And he thought that was a shuck and jive answer, but that's what I believe. And I say this because this is really important.
When I was the age of the undergraduates or seniors here in 1968, Martin Luther King was killed by James Earl Ray because he hated what King was trying to do because he was white and King was black, and Bobby Kennedy was killed by Sirhan Sirhan because Sirhan believed Bobby Kennedy was too close to Israel, but the major assassinations apart from that in my life time have been great people killed by their own because they abandoned the absolute truth. Gandhi was killed by a young Indian who thought he was a bad Indian and bad Hindu because he thought India should be for everyone; Sadat was killed by Egyptian Muslims because they thought he was a bad Egyptian and bad Muslim because he wanted Egypt to have a secular government and peace with Israel. On probably the darkest day of my presidency, my friend Yitzhak Rabin was killed by an angry young Israeli Jew because he thought he was a bad Jew and a bad Israeli because he wanted to give a homeland to the Palestinians to raise their children and he wanted to share the future. So I say to you: you have to think about that – that we can have shared values just fine, unless we insist on being in possession today in this life of the absolute truth.
So that answers my first 2 questions – what is my vision for the 21st century, what does the world have to do to achieve it. Third question – what is America’s responsibility. In this area we have great differences and I will just summarize them so we can get to the questions. Essentially, my philosophy was that the United States should cooperate with others whenever we can across the widest range of areas and act alone only if we had to. In the current government, the conservatives at least believe they should act alone whenever they can and cooperate when they have to. And I – don’t laugh, ride with me here a minute – this is a serious, deeply held conviction by both sides. So for example take those of us in the cooperation camp who were fairly hawkish on Iraq. And I ‘m still not ashamed of the position I took – I was for the UN resolution last November that said – Saddam Hussein you will let the inspectors back in or we will depose you. And when he let them back in the President’s promise to let the UN play its course but ask for the authority to use force – because Saddam Hussein never did anything in the world that he wasn’t forced to do. I would have voted for it. Where I fell off the wagon was when we moved from cooperation whenever we can and act alone when we’re forced to, to - well now we got the UN we will decide when Hans Blix is through with his inspections. And the UN inspector was pleading for 4 or 5 or 6 more weeks to finish – but the people who wanted the conflict didn’t want him to finish and didn’t want to let him finish. These reflect two very deeply held but very different diametrically opposed views.
I believe you can see this in the different positions that I had with the current Administration on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, the Kyoto Climate Change Accord, what we did with the chemical weapons convention as opposed to their opposition to strengthening the Biological Weapons Convention. My support for the International Criminal Court, their opposition to it, my support for changing the ABM treaty in the event we ever develop a missile defense system that works, their willingness to throw it out altogether, and the apparent contradiction in insisting that Iran complies with the International Atomic Energy Agency’s inspections and get rid of any capacity to develop nuclear weapons and – I bet not one percent of you know this, I don’t know why the press hasn’t made anything of this – but we’re asking for this at the very time that your government - if you’re an American citizen – is suggesting that for the first time since the atomic bomb was dropped in 1945 – that America should have the right to develop and use first a so called low-yield nuclear weapon to break underground bunkers that cannot presently be destroyed by the bunker-busters that were developed when I was president that are conventional weapons. Somewhere someday somebody will be deeper below ground under more concrete and the present weapons won’t work. Now they concede if one of these low-yield nuclear weapons had been used in Iraq it would have taken out a third to a half of Baghdad.
I don’t see how we can possibly speak righteously about how Iran should not be doing this and at the same time say that for the first time ever, now that’ there’s no threat of nuclear war with the Russians, we want to develop a nuclear weapon and explicitly say that we might use it first. But if you believe that maintaining power and control and absolute freedom of movement and sovereignty is important to your country’s future, there’s nothing inconsistent in that. We’re the biggest most powerful country in the world now we’ve got the juice and we’re going to use it – and there is a lot of respectable opinion arguing for this. Robert Kaplan’s book Warrior Politics, for example. But if you believe that we should be trying to create a world with rules and partnerships and habits of behavior that we would like to live in when we’re no longer the military political economic superpower in the world, then you wouldn’t do that. It just depends on what you believe.
But the point I want to make to you is that these differences are genuine and deeply held. They don’t cover everything. The current administration and the Republican party generally supported our cooperation in trade, in the human genome project, in the international space station. The Democrats supported the cooperation in terms of helping increasing the capacity of Columbia, the Philippines, and others to fight terror. I applaud the work they have done to try to bring peace to the Sudan – something I couldn’t do and we tried. So it’s not totally either/or. I think the agreement of the US to have the UN donor conference have a separate account where people could give money that would be totally administered by the United Nations - in an international way in Iraq – is one of the reasons they got the money they did. I still believe we ought to see if the UN can take over security – ask NATO to handle it – and involve countries that opposed the military conflict but who are part of NATO. If they came in, it would prove that we are all trying to build a multi-party multi-ethnic multi-tribal democracy in Iraq.
But most of the problems we have today, I think, are ill-suited to unilateral action. You take SARS – SARS started in a Hong Kong hotel – led to a quarantine in Toronto and a grass roots e-mail campaign by Chinese citizens forced the Chinese government finally to tell the truth about it and to cooperate with the rest of the world. It was brought under control not because of military strength or a determination to go it alone but because China and the rest of the world cooperated. You cannot zap a microbe with a missile, and night vision goggles won’t protect you against it. So I think that’s true for a whole range of things – I certainly think it’s true on the AIDS issue– and I won’t bore you with a great deal of detail about what I’m doing there but let me just say this – we have 42 million cases in the world – over 2/3 in Africa – but the fastest growing rates of AIDS are in the former Soviet Union on Europe’s back door and the Caribbean on America’s front door. In India, the world’ biggest democracy and in China – the world’ biggest country. Today 6 million people are at death’s door and only 300,000 are getting life-saving medicine – over a third of them are in Brazil, where the government manufactures it and provides it. It is an inexcusable thing. There is no military unilateral action we can take. I applaud the President’; desire to spend more money on AIDS and I saw a bipartisan majority in the Senate yesterday put more money into the account. How will we spend it? We cannot do this alone – we have to do it in partnership with other people who know how to build health systems, get the medicine, get out there, keep people alive – that is a better model for the problems of the modern world than those that you might think are suited to unilateral action.
Finally let me say just one thing. I believe that fundamentalism, the sense that you have the certain truth and the entitlement to impose it on others, is not well-suited to solving the problems of the modern world in either religion or politics. It is far better to deal with these problems based on evidence and argument with a willingness to experiment – if you’re driven by ideology you’re going to make mistakes. And that’s another thing that bothers me about a lot of domestic issues in America – I think that they’re being decided by ideology more than evidence. Practical people make mistakes all the time but they follow the old rule that if you find yourself in a ditch stop digging. When ideological people find themselves in a ditch they ask for a bigger shovel. They’re quite sure the whole thing was somehow a mistake. We have to realize that America has to be governed, I believe, in a way that keeps us growing together and growing stronger, where we have fertile debates over difficult issues, and where we treat people on opposite sides of issues as friends who are differing not enemies who are somehow worthy deserving of destruction. Because we have got to keep moving to the point where we can play our critical indisputable and probably irreplaceable role in building a world with more friends and fewer enemies and a world with the right kind of cooperative security environment.
The world is full of hard questions without easy answers. Not everyone who disagrees with you is your enemy. So let me just say this in closing. I don’t agree with a lot of things that are going in Washington as you can probably tell. My differences on domestic policy are equally pronounced. I think it’s wrong for a person in my income group – I love saying that, I never had any money since I left the White House – and now the president’s taken such good care of me, he wants me to have a 100,000 dollars in tax cuts over the next ten years – but they’re also trying to take 100,000 kids out of their after-school programs, uniformed police off the streets and a 100,000 workers out of their job-training programs – I don’t think that’s a good idea.
And I want to say this – the opposition to globalization in the world is rooted in people who feel left out, left behind and stepped on in other countries. If you, like me, believe in expanded trade, believe America has greater obligations to open our borders and to invest more in the development of poor countries - we have got to maintain the political support here in America for doing that. And the only way we can do that is to keep making our economy function better, to keep making our society more united. In other words, we have to build an integrated community in America too. Otherwise we won’t have the political support here to do what we need to do around the world. So I have now given you my answers. I have a vision of 21st Century world that becomes an integrated global community of shared responsibilities, benefits, and values. We have to do it with a strategy that is rooted in both security and making more friends and fewer terrorists. America has to lead the way and our philosophy has to be to cooperate whenever we can and act alone only when we have to – not the other way around – and to keep making America a better place.
Now let me tell you this – on balance I am very optimistic. I’m talking about all these problems and I want to tell you why I am optimistic. I try to say this in every university audience I got to – do not ever let the headlines obscure the trendlines of your time. People rose up out of the African savannah somewhere between 100 and 150 thousand years ago, and began to scurry across the earth. As far as we know based on the archeological digs, the oldest city is Jericho, where the ruins go back to 10,000 years. We know then people were living together, speaking the same language and writing. So there was no civilization as we know it until about 10,000 years ago. So it took over 100,000 years for people just to get that far. Then from that moment to this, for 10,000 years people have become increasingly interdependent. There was a mini-globalization process going on when people strolled from Jericho to what is now Gaza. All that time the world has been in a constant contest between reaching out and embracing different people and different tribes and in different places and the increasing capacity to destroy people as technology let people kill those who were different. That process continued throughout the 21st century, where we nearly got it wrong and nearly destroyed humanity. We did not have a United Nations or a Universal Declaration of Human Rights until 1945 – that was 58 years ago - after 10,000 years of civilization and over 100,000 years of existence. We could not create the global community envisioned by the United Nations because of the Cold War, which ended in 1989, fourteen years ago, after 10,000 years of civilization.
Now in the last 14 years a lot of bad things have happened – we’ve had 9/11, rise of terror, the concern we’ve had over weapons of mass destruction, you had Rwanda, you had the horrible killings in the Congo, you had all the other problems that all of you know very well – the clear unambiguous threat of global warming. But look what else has happened. For the first time in history over half the world’s people are living in democracies, every country in Latin America but one is a democracy. The world is exploding with nongovernmental organizations – from rich ones like the Gates Foundation to poor ones like the Self-employed Women’s Organization in India – who are reaching beyond government to solve problems together and bring people together. We’ve had China and Russia reconciled to the west, you’ve had the European Union, the expansion of NATO, the WTO, peace in N. Ireland, seven years of peace in the Middle East, the end of ethnic cleansing in Bosnia, Kosovo, and East Timor, the global debt relief initiative, Africa rising on the world’ radar screen for the first time.
There are a lot of problems but if you think about the last 14 years we’ve done a lot of building an integrated close-knit global community. We are moving in the right direction. No matter how bad the headlines are, the trendlines over the last 14 years are pretty good. But this is not the work of a day or a year or a decade. It will take the better part of this century. So I will say to you the most important thing to me – if you don’t remember anything else I say today – is when you go home tonight ask yourself what your answer to the questions are. What is your vision of the 21st century world? The young people here are going to be in it a lot longer than I am. What do you believe has to be done to achieve that vision, and what is America’s special responsibility at home and around the world for making it come alive. But you should be optimistic – it’s no accident we’re all hanging around here after all this time. Thank you, and God bless you.
William J. Clinton was the 42nd president of the United States of America. This is the complete transcript of a speech he delivered at Yale University on October 31, 2003 at the invitation of the Yale Center for the Study of Globalization. Click here for the streaming video. An article adapted from his remarks is also available here.