Wednesday, March 7, 2007
One of the world's most sought-after public speakers was in town last night, at the invitation of the United Jewish Federation of San Diego County. Former President Bill Clinton addressed an adoring crowd of about 2,000 people packed into a ballroom at the Manchester Hyatt Hotel. Clinton talked about making the world a better place through philanthropy, civic activism and politics. Full Focus reporter Amita Sharma was there. She's here now to tell us more.
Guest Host Eric Larson: Bill Clinton has his own foundation that brings philanthropists, business leaders and politicians together to raise money to fight world problems like poverty, AIDS and religious and ethnic strife?
Reporter Amita Sharma: Well, it's interesting …he's viewed as a rock star when it comes to lecture circuit but he started his speech by saying he wonders if he has anything useful to say. And then he launched into a discussion about the William Clinton Foundation which has gotten 1,500 people to commit more than $10 billion over the next 15 years to get rid of global hunger, diseases like tuberculosis and malaria, and get people of different religions to start talking to each other.
Larson: So he talked about what leaders are doing to improve the world, did he talk about what regular citizens can do?
Sharma: He did. He said every concerned citizen should ask themselves these five questions: What is the fundamental nature of the 21st Century World? Is it good or bad? How would you like to change it? What could bring about that change? And who's supposed to do it? More important than having those questions is for each person to have the answers because that answers are what give people a framework in which to evaluate the daily news.
Larson: Did he answer any of the questions?
Sharma: Yes, he wove the answers into the nearly hour-long speech. He said the world is far more interdependent than ever before. That interdependence and terrorism make people feel more vulnerable. There is a lot of instability and that the current global conditions cannot go on forever because of global warming and resource depletion.
Larson: So did he offer any solutions.
Sharma: Well, he said all of us have a moral obligation to change what's happening in the world today, and he the way to do that is create communities where everyone has an equal opportunity to participate, share responsibility and have a sense of belonging.
Larson: But how does President Clinton propose creating these communities created if there are people who are out to kill?
Sharma: He talked about that. While he talked about the importance of focusing on our common humanity more than our differences, you have to have a security policy because it's naïve to think that there aren't people out there who want to kill innocents and scuttle peace.
Larson: It sounds like a veiled reference to what's going on in Iraq and between the Israelis and the Palistinians. What did he have to say about those issues?
Sharma: He didn't address how to get out of Iraq but he did say a fraction of the 10s of billions of dollars that have been spent on the war in one country as he put it, could have been better spent on education and healthcare. On the subject of Israel and the Palestinians --he offered this interesting perspective. He said the leaders of Sunni countries like Saudi Arabia, Egyp and some of the Gulf states are feeling so threatened by Iran right now that they're ready to sit down and talk to Israel and normalize relations. He said there's a chance out there for Israel to have more confidence in its security than ever before.
Sharma: On the domestic front, he said America won't be able to sustain its historic responsibilities in making the world a better place unless it improves things here. By improving the lives of the middle class, doing something about healthcare and climate change. Overall, he said he's hopeful.
Larson: How much was he paid to speak last night?
Sharma: Well we don't know. He averages about $150,000 a speech.