>>President Bill Clinton: What I want to say
is you have this conference about all of our connections and how we’re all tied together,
and everything you say is about what we can do to make things better. It’s inherently
empowering. If you read the newspaper every day, you’d
think not a good thing happened in the world yesterday; right? I mean, it’s all about ISIS
or, just a few days ago, Gaza or what new theory Mr. Putin has thought up to trample
on the Ukranians, or the political fights in America or a thousand other things.
But these negative developments also have some basis in reality. That’s why you had
Mariam Ibrahim here. A lot of you probably followed her story and her husband and her
children when she was going through that horrible experience in Sudan.
And so what I want to try to do is to get you to think about what dominates your life,
making good things happen, and the extent to which a lot of the developments which empower
people through technology also empower people to make more bad things happen, and how we
are or are not going to resolve that. I have to say that, to me, I think you shouldn’t
assume, in going forward with the implications of all your work, that everybody that you
run with is representative of most of the people in the world. Not only because technology
has not reached them, but because technology may have reached them before other things
reached into their hearts and minds. A lot of how the 21st century turns out is
a matter of mind and heart. Who are we? What gives meaning and purpose to our life? What
are our obligations to other people? To future generations? To the Earth? With the stresses
of climate change and local resource depletions. What model will dominate our interdependence?
All the pioneers of information technology have created the most amazingly interdependent
world, and all the lessons of both your successes and the newspaper headlines indicate that
interdependence can be positive, negative, or, human nature being what it is, both.
Therefore, I believe that each, in our own way, we will all be fighting — we’ve been
at this for at least 25 years now, since the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the spread of
information technology out of its original silos, and we’ll be at it for probably another
25 years through various incarnations of cyber terrorism and other nightmares.
We are in the process of defining the terms of our interdependence. We can’t reverse that
fact. But we have not yet won the definitional battle, the battle that is over when you have
someone talk about the price of congestion and clogging people’s lives and how they can
be opened up. Over when Craig Venter sequenced the human
genome and joined with the global governmental cooperative project to announce the sequencing
and moved his foundation to San Diego and now there are 700 computer companies there
because you can’t see a genome to make it the center of research.
That happened when the consortium that established the Hadron superconductor/supercollider finally
discovered the Higgs boson. And now we got at least some idea, even us non-particle physicists,
about how matter holds together and evolution can occur within more or less balanced atoms.
The world is basically in a contest to define the terms of our interdependence. And there
are those who think cooperation is more important and those who think they ought to be able
to use the technology that drives so many of your lives for conflict, those who believe
that inclusion is more important and those who favor dominance.
Mariam Ibrahim was raised in a mixed religion home. A lot of us were. And she married a
Christian. And then she was told she couldn’t legally be one, and you heard her story.
This is classic identity politics and psychology. In China — I met a Tibetan monk the other
day on the street. And he came up and thanked me for going to China in 1998 and having a
press conference with the then-President and suggesting that he ought to meet with the
Dalai Lama, that they would actually find each other very interesting.
That’s second nature to you. It was heresy to them, better to send more and more Han
Chinese to Tibet and try to minimize the diversity. These are the questions, though, that still
have a great hold on the lives of billions of people around the world.
ISIS has one of the most adroit social media campaigns I ever saw. And I saw the other
day it got two teenage girls from Austria with blond hair, trying to get on the plane
to go there so they could blow some people up, too.
So here’s what I want to say about it. First, you should be optimistic because the trend
lines are more powerful than the headlines in a positive direction.
But the work of the next couple of decades, which you are uniquely able to influence,
whatever you do with your life, is the work of defining the terms of our interdependence
and doing whatever we can to increase the positive and diminish the negative forces
that will contribute to the definition. It is very important — and when the President
spoke the other night, I thought he had it about right, what he wanted to do with ISIS
and all that. But I think the rest of us have to realize we don’t get to make those decisions.
We want to do what we can do to stop bad things from happening, but we also have to keep making
good things happen. To win a battle of how we all think, that
is profoundly important. So what do we know? We know technology is
empowering. But it has also made power more diffuse, which is a very good thing if you
can set up, like, microcredit networks among poor women and some men in Africa and do a
lot of things that we work on. We know that there is an enormous amount of
concentrated power, however, where geographic proximity matters. So old-fashioned power
matters in Ukraine because look at the map. And that means that we have to have a different
strategy for dealing with that. We know from the young people in Ukraine and
the Maidan and the young Egyptians in Tahrir Square that it is one thing to break down
— to bring down a government that is corrupt in Ukraine or too authoritarian in Egypt and
quite another to have the people who brought it down be included in creating the future
that they dreamed of. We know that everywhere in ways large and
small there is this great conflict between those who favor inclusion and those who favor
dominance. We know that as a general rule, as all of
you proved, creative networks of cooperation make good things happen and constant conflict
leads to paralysis. And if you doubt that, take a plane flight to Washington.
But getting from here to there is not always so easy. We know that these kinds of interdependence
often co-exist in the same place. I’ve often wondered when Boko Haram kidnapped the 200
young people in northern Nigeria, why they had never interfered with our foundation’s
work to save a million lives from water-borne illnesses, principally diarrhea, by getting
our oral rehydration therapy and zinc. They know these people represent our foundation,
and they have studiously let them work. Maybe because the little girls we were trying to
save weren’t old enough for them to feel they had to dominate yet.
Do you remember when al-Shabaab shot up the shopping center in Nairobi? Negative interdependence.
One of the victims was a wonderful Dutch nurse who ran an important part of our healthcare
program, my foundation’s healthcare program, in Tanzania and her brilliant partner, who
was an architect. She was in Kenya to have her baby because
Nairobi is the best place to have a baby in that part of Africa. And she was 8 1/2 months
pregnant when those men fulfilled their identity and mission in life cutting down totally innocent
people. She, too, was an example of global interdependence.
She left the Netherlands, went to work for us in Africa. Then got a chance to go back
to the United States and get a Ph.D. in public health and came back and was helping to build
a whole healthcare system for Tanzania when she was cut down about two weeks before her
baby was born. And I think often about how they represent two sides of this struggle.
The one thing we got going for us is the trend lines are still good. If you look at the millennium
development goals, which are — they’re running their course next year, we know we’re going
to make the healthcare goal, which Bill Gates has written a great deal about in terms of
dropping maternal and infant mortality, dropping early childhood deaths, dramatic overall improvements
in survival rates for AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria. And we are really getting there on
the dirty water deaths, 80% of whom are children under 5.
We know we will make the goal on the reduction of extreme poverty worldwide. And a lot of
you have probably involved in that one way or the another with various NGO efforts.
The Rwandan government gave every rural family that moved to one of their villages with appropriate
facilities to support them a milk cow. May seem like a little deal. In one year, they
moved 600,000 people out of the ranks of the extremely poor by making sure that the cows
could be properly milked and the milk could be saved and consumed or sold in an appropriate
way. We are making progress toward the only world
that will work that’s interdependent, which is more shared opportunity and prosperity
and more shared responsibilities for security and for social justice and for combating climate
change, and a genuine shared sense of community, not where people give up their identity but
where they wear it with interest and pride but they believe our common humanity matters
more. The technology will only work if in the end
those values prevail. And as I said, I think that — I want you to know about all these
problems that are in the news today. Don’t deny them. We shouldn’t be.
But it is just not true that it’s a one-sided story. And on balance, the positive forces
outweigh the negative. Look at China. They have terrible environmental
problems. Millions of acres of lands have been polluted so that food can’t be safely
grown. You all know about the air problems. But the Yellow River is dry parts of the year,
and the Chinese did what we all do. We are all vulnerable to this. Whenever you are in
a tight — this is sort of off topic, but remember this. Whenever you are in a tight,
your automatic reaction is to fall back on what you’re good at. Don’t you think? Personally,
professionally, whatever. Sometimes what you’re good at is not the right
response. What the Chinese are good at is what the Indians need to become better at:
Aggregating and investing capital to build infrastructure.
So they decided to build these huge gravity-driven canals connecting the Yangtze and the Yellow,
which their own engineers, not Greenpeace, were begging them, saying, “Please be careful.
You could dry both these rivers up,” which would then put enormous pressure on them to
go after the headwaters of the Mekong which could cause all hell breaking lose in southeast
Asia. So I say that because I believe that it is
easy to overlook in the daily reports of the air pollution in Beijing that they have, nevertheless,
moved more people out of poverty into the global middle class in the last 30 years than
any unit in history. And so what we have to do is to try to figure
out how to make it possible for them to do even more of that and create more prosperity
by dealing with their internal challenges which will be good economics for them just
as it was for Japan before them and others if that’s the decision they make, rather than
a decision to try and confront and overcome by size their neighbors in the South China
Sea, southeast Asia, and the Philippines over natural resources.
These are the kinds of things that are going to be out there.
Since we, who are not in politics, our government, don’t have much say over how all that happens,
except at election time, the rest of us ought to be out there making as many good things
happen as possible. I have — When the Ebola outbreak took hold
in west Africa, we had been heavily involved in Liberia helping them to build a health
center system and deal with their AIDS issue for a long time. And we had to evacuate the
people who were working there except for the top three, which the government said, “Please
don’t take them. You know, we’re trying to build a response here, and we need them.”
And they all wanted to stay. One of the — with all the problems with the
response to the Ebola outbreak, I think we all recognize that there are a lot of truly
breathtakingly heroic Africans, people with Doctors Without Borders and others who have
knowingly put their own lives at risk to try to stop this. And it’s a problem now, one
that maybe technology can help us to isolate more quickly. Because with all these — these
— any kind of serious problem like this that we don’t yet have a cure for, that you have
to basically cure by isolation and care, it’s become much more complicated with Ebola because
of Nigeria and the Congo, which makes a lot more potential bodies you can bump up against
before responding. But the point I want to make about it is,
somebody’s trying to make something good happen. Again, networks of cooperation and inclusion
work better. Google has been a very active member of our
Clinton Global Initiative. We’re just about to have our tenth one. They’ve made 23 different
commitments, every single one of them with at least three other partners, amplifying
the impact. They shouldn’t have had to do it, but the idea of putting rapid broadband
networks in 45 American cities is going to make a real big difference to America. The
country should have built an infrastructure. But when they started, South Korea had the
most rapid broadband download speeds in the world, and they were, on average, four times
as fast as ours. That’s hardly a prescription for a competitive future, partially in a country
that is otherwise in the best position, I believe, for the 21st century. We’re younger
than every wealthy country but Ireland. We were going to be younger than China if they
hadn’t changed their one-child policy within 20 years. We have all this energy now we’ve
found, which I believe — I’ll betray my bias here — I think we can get the natural gas
out safely. But there have to be really strict standards, and you shouldn’t drill everywhere,
but I was governor of a state for 12 years where we did that, and we didn’t have methane
leaks, and we didn’t have water pollution, because we had very high standards. And nobody
should weaken them. We are first or second in the world in the
percentage of our energy that we could get from the wind and the sun. And we have lots
of geothermal and other sources. But today, only Texas, Minnesota, and Iowa have a base
load clean energy policy or capacity that’s at 20% or higher. On a good day, Texas gets
25% of its energy from wind. And once in a while, I do an event with former
President George W. Bush. And he will say something, you know, designed to run me up
the flagpole about. [ Laughter ]
And I always look at him, and I say, you know, back in your proto-socialist phase, when you
were governor of Texas, you signed those wind energy incentives, and I bet you’re proud
you did because of what they’ve done. But the fundamental problem we’ve got in America
still is that except for where we are right now and the California cities, and a handful
of other places, by and large in America, the wind blows and the sun shines where the
people are not. So we need a better grid. But the point is, we are well organized for
all this, but we don’t have the inclusive politics necessary to make the decisions together
that will maximize it. And everyplace in the world, including places that are way worse
off than we are, that has inclusive politics is either doing well or surviving against
all the odds. I’ll just give you one or two examples.
The most amazing thing, knock on wood, to me, about all this turmoil in Iraq, the tension
with Iran, the ISIS, you name it, Syria, has been the dogged survival of tiny Lebanon.
Those of you who are way younger than me won’t remember this, but in the ’70s, Lebanon was
nearly destroyed by religious conflict. And they resolved never to have it again by adopting
a conflict — a constitution which mandated inclusion.
So since the Sunnies are the biggest group in Lebanon, the prime minister is typically
a Sunni. When that is the case, the speaker of the assembly, the second most powerful
person is a Shia. The person who is usually the speaker is a moderate Shia. The president
of the country is always a Maronite Christian, and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court,
a Druze. And through everything that has happened to them, they have concluded, through political
assassinations of a prime minister and all kinds of other trouble, that they were always
going to be better off hanging together than breaking apart.
Jordan has a difficult situation. It’s become steadily more inclusive. It has been a majority
Palestinian country for a long time, not native Jordanians. Now they have a whole bunch of
Egyptian refugees, they got without many headlines after the upheaval or the Muslim Brotherhood
and then the military coming back in, and more than 600,000 Syrians, and virtually no
camps. They have gone out of their way to integrate the people in the rhythmic, ordinary
life, and they have no oil. The international community has done a reasonable job of giving
them money to feed these people and clothe them. But there has been no investment to
try to help them create the infrastructure and the jobs necessary to have a modern economy
that can include them if, God forbid, they never get to go home, or one that will strengthen
their country if they do go home. And so I organized a group two months ago
as part of the global initiative to try to get that done. We have 30 partners that we’re
trying to get to make investments there, because I can’t stop bad things from happening, but
these people can make good things happen in Jordan. And it’s important, because it’s an
inclusive country. When Nelson Mandela, who died, as all of you
know, not too long ago was president of South Africa, we had a wonderful time. His service
was entirely during the time I was president. And right after he got inaugurated, he called
me one day and he said, “Oh, they’re giving me hell.”
And I said, “Who, Madiba, the Afrikaaners?” He said, “No, no, my own people.”
I said, “And what are they saying?” They’re saying, “Madiba, you got 63% of the
vote in a 19-candidate race, and you want to put these people in your government that
kept you in prison for 27 years and beat our people up and shot them in the street? What
are you thinking?” And I said, “What did you tell him?”
He said, I ask — I said, “Look, we just voted for the first time in 300 years. So I — let
me ask you a question: Can we run the Army by ourselves? Can we run the banks? Can we
run this — all the ministries of government? Can we even run the local police forces? Is
there one thing in this country we can run all by ourselves tomorrow? The answer is no.
Perhaps someday. Not now. We have to do this together.”
And Mandela so disarmed the leaders of the Apartheid political parties by actually putting
them in the Cabinet, when they had nowhere near enough votes to get there, because he
knew how much of the country’s infrastructure they influenced, that they started behaving
more like him. It had nothing to do with technology. They
made a decision to have a network of cooperation, which technology can amplify millions of times
over. So I ask you to think about that.
The other day I went to Governor’s Island, a tiny island off the coast of Manhattan,
very near the state Statue of Liberty which used to have a Coast Guard installation, and
I arranged for it to be given to the State of New York and the city. There’s a school
on the Governor’s Island called the Harbor School, and I’m crazy about it because 80%
of the kids there are on school lunches. An enormous number of them couldn’t even swim
when they showed up. They come from immigrant families and low-income families. And when
they graduate from this school, they all have enough academic credits to go to a four-year
university, and they are certified in one of six marine sciences areas which enable
them to go to work the day they walk out of high school.
They are meanwhile planting millions and millions and millions of oysters in New York harbor,
purifying the water and building these oyster reefs that will help protect us against future
storms and sea-level rises. And they’re supported by the State, the Federal Government, all
these NGOs, our foundation, we all are doing this. It’s a creative network of cooperation
that abolishes the distinction, which I believe is phony, between academic and practical education
and empowers young people who are generally thought of as just not up to international
snuff to do things that are amazing. A lot of these 18-year-old, 19-year-old kids are
making more money than their teachers did within a year or two, and you’re doing something
really good. There are no problems we have we cannot deal
with. But we have to recognize that the only thing that will work is a model of constructive
teamwork. That’s my last point. The best political book
I’ve read in a decade was written by E. O. Wilson, the Nobel Prize winning microbiologist
when he was 83 or 84 years old called — it’s a couple years old now, and you don’t have
to read it. I’ll save you the trouble. [ Laughter ]
But for his sake, I’d like it if you bought it, at least online.
Anyway, it’s called “The Social Conquest of Earth.” Wilson is the first guy that taught
me 20-something years ago that the combined weight of all the ants on Earth exceeds the
combined weight of all the people on Earth. A lot of ants.
He described the — He said if you look at all the evidence we have of life on Earth,
going back to the emergence of single-cell organisms down to the present day, species
that have come, species that have gone, you have to conclude that the foremost enduring
species in the history of planet Earth are ants, termites, bees, and people.
And what do they have in common? They are by far the best cooperators of all the things
that have ever lived on planet Earth. So we go through ants in Africa that, when
being chased by a predator, some of them automatically walk up on a sprig of grass and sacrifice
themselves so others get away. Termites in hot rainforests digging homes underground,
putting five holes in the roof. They’ll only go in and out of one. The others are for air
conditioning, and when it’s about to rain, they won’t go in at all. All the things that
bees do that you know well. He said, people are the greatest cooperators,
because unlike the others, they have consciousness and a conscience. But they are aware they
have those two things, so they’re also prone to arrogance. Therefore, we constantly flirt
with our own destruction. However, having spent a lifetime, and he has,
warning about species destruction — and it’s horrible right now, by the way. Probably its
most rapid rate in 200,000 years. He said, “On balance, I’m still pretty optimistic because
we always pull the chestnuts out of the fire. But the only thing that works is cooperation.
That’s why we’re still here.” Therefore, all of these religious-based conflicts
which are normally just an excuse to get money and power, or ideological conflicts, have
got to be put into some kind of deep freeze, moderated, mediated.
And every time you see people in conflict that is not evidence based, you should fight
it. The reason Washington is so polarized is that
the system is set up so that they are rewarded for that. When you wring your hands, just
remember there’s not anybody there who wasn’t elected by somebody somewhere.
And so you need to think about how technology can be used to create a model of sharing.
The reason all those workers walked off the job at Market Basket and all those customers
quit going is they thought finally I’m buying my food at a place I can respect, where there’s
a shared prosperity, and they’re making plenty of money but they’re sharing more of it with
their workers, and the food’s good. And so they got the guy back after they fired
him. His own family got rid of him because they wanted more money.
Nucor Steel. There’s a liberal and a conservative way to do this. I’ll give you the conservative
example. Nucor Steel became the third biggest steel
mill in America, founded by a man, now dead, named Ken Iverson, whom I knew. He was a conservative
republican. I’m virtually positive he never voted he for me, but I love the guy. They
had a plant in my native state which, when they moved in, was 49th in the country in
per capita income. People were paid 65 to 75% of the steel worker wage, but they got
weekly bonuses, so they averaged 150 to 200% of steel worker income. Over and above that,
they got an educational supplement for every child they had in college. One man educated
12 children. Over and above that, they were part of a profit-sharing
plan that only top management could not participate in. And now the education plan extends to
spouses and even to the employees themselves if they want to go to school at night and
work themselves out of a Nucor job. In the mid ’80s when they were with me — I
still have a copy of this letter in my files — Nucor’s profit went down. They didn’t lose
money. I think the only time they ever lost money was right after the crash. But in this
year, they just went down. So Ken Iverson sent a letter to all the employees at Nucor,
and he said, you know, we have a strict no layoff policy, and our profits are down so
your income is going to be down 20% this year, and I feel terrible about it. You didn’t do
anything wrong. You did everything I asked you to do. But I must have done something
wrong. I should have been smart enough to figure out how we can be the only steel company
in the world to beat this, so I’m cutting my income 60%.”
And there was a huge article in Fortune Magazine, I remember it like it was yesterday, somewhat
making fun of him for saying he had now become by far the lowest paid Fortune 500 executive.
At the time, he took like $110,000 this year, and he wore it like a badge of honor.
He said, “All we do is set the conditions and provide the technology for people to succeed.
Our success is 40% technology, 60% the people.” Needless to say, no one quit. They would have
jumped into a hot cauldron of steel for this guy.
We have to share the future. We have to identify with people who are different from us.
In America, we’ve made so much progress. Less race and sex, less homophobic than we used
to be. We just don’t want to be around anybody who disagrees with us. And yet every one of
you know that diverse groups make better decisions than geniuses alone in a room.
That is the test being faced in the Middle East, in Washington, D.C., and all places
in between. And I’m not comparing what goes on in Washington to the violence in the Middle
East. I’m just telling you the mind set of an interdependent world will determine the
outcome. This is a matter of mind and heart. We’re
going to share the future. You and I have to make good things happen in a way that helped
to define the terms in the right way. Thank you very much.
[ Applause ]