President Bill Clinton LAW ’73 spoke to a maximum-capacity crowd at Woolsey Hall Friday, challenging the United States to work with its allies to build an interdependent global community.
Clinton, who delivered his remarks to 2,400 people, said the nation must work to foster positive relationships with other countries, a move he said will create “more partners and fewer terrorists.” Pressing U.S. leaders to help develop a world based on shared responsibilities, benefits and values, Clinton said he thought the world would be safer if President George W. Bush ’68 improved his relationship with the international community.
“The United States should cooperate with others wherever we can and act alone only if we have to,” Clinton said. “In the current government, the conservatives, at least, believe they should act alone whenever they can and cooperate when they have to. This is a seriously, deeply held conviction by both sides.”
Clinton called on the Bush administration to enlist multilateral support to bring peace to the Middle East.
“If you come from a country with open borders, unless you seriously believe you can kill, imprison or occupy all of your enemies, you have to make a world with more friends and fewer enemies, with more partners and fewer terrorists,” Clinton said. “As we’ve seen every morning in Iraq, the United States military is the only supermilitary in the world. We can win every military conflict all by [ourselves], but [we] can’t build a peace all by [ourselves].”
Clinton said the United States needs to invest in foreign countries’ educational and healthcare systems.
“This is not rocket science, but every time we do it, we build a world with more friends and fewer terrorists,” Clinton said. “If you, like me, believe in expanded trade [and] believe America has greater obligations to open up borders and to invest more in development in poor countries, we have got to maintain the political support in America to do that.”
Yale Center for the Study of Globalization Director and former Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo GRD ’81 invited Clinton to speak on campus. At the beginning of his speech, Clinton said he worked very closely with Zedillo during their presidencies, citing their relationship as an example of positive international collaboration.
“[Zedillo] opened up the Mexican political system to competition,” Clinton said. “He willfully gave up the monopoly power that has been enjoyed by his own political party for decades. In an age where people are too often driven by the desire to keep power — it was an astonishing act of statesmanship. And along the way, he let me come to Mexico a few times, and we had a good time.”
Clinton also discussed his new role as political spouse, as his wife, U.S. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton LAW ’73, is currently the family’s only elected official. “I don’t know what happened in those 30 years [since graduating from Yale],” Clinton said. “[But] my most important classmate by far turned out to be [my wife]. Among my many interesting duties [since leaving office] is clipping newspapers for her instead of the other way around.”
Clinton received multiple standing ovations during and after his speech.
Akash Shah ’06, who did not win a ticket to the speech in the Web-based lottery, said he watched the speech on live-feed television. He said the lecture was “electrifying.”
“Maybe for the first time in his life [Clinton is] able to say things without having to worry about whether his own party will like it or whether the Republicans will retaliate,” Shah said. “I believe he is now speaking from his heart and what you hear is a man who fundamentally believes that America can be well-liked and stick to its principles as a nation.”
But Al Jiwa ’06 said Clinton’s accusations against Bush were overly political.
“I wouldn’t expect anything less of him,” Jiwa said. “He’s a Democrat’s Democrat, and I expected him to say ‘We’re right; you’re wrong.’ He accused [Bush] of being manipulative and being sneaky and I don’t think that’s fair.”
Before his speech, Clinton met briefly with Yale administrators and some students, including Yale College Council officers, at Woodbridge Hall. After his address, he attended the 30-year reunion for his Yale Law School class Friday evening.