Former President Bill Clinton spoke to a capacity crowd Tuesday at Georgetown University in an address capping a conference discussing issues facing young Americans.
“The great challenge is to convert this youthful idealism … into action,” Clinton said, addressing the audience of student leaders.
The day-long seminar titled “A Conversation: Issues that Impact Young Adults” featured remarks from actor Don Cheadle, California Congresswoman Linda Sanchez, Russell Simmons of the Hip Hop Action Network and Jeff Swartz, CEO of Timberland. The event was sponsored by the William J. Clinton Presidential Foundation.
After Clinton’s speech, students were divided into focus groups to discuss health issues, voting and civic involvement, criminal justice and education.
While focusing his remarks almost entirely on student activism and the importance of volunteerism, Clinton also discussed the dangers of interdependence on a world level.
“Interdependence alone is not a good thing,” he said. “The Middle East is an example of interdependence – because of (it), they can’t escape each other. You have to try to move the world from interdependence to an integrated community.”
Clinton cited voting as the single most substantial influence young Americans can have on policy and the George W. Bush administration.
“If people under 30 voted the same as people over 55 do you really think we would have given a tax cut?” Clinton said, referencing Bush’s tax plan.
“We need a stable society, a stable economy, good healthcare … if we don’t, we don’t have any sense to have the money,” he said. “We need to tell (the people benefiting from Bush’s tax cut) to buy enough Mercedes’ to get this economy going.”
One of five students presenting the findings of each group to Clinton, GW senior Chanel Haliburton, talked about health issues facing young Americans.
“(It is about) helping youth to realize they are the largest untapped resource America has,” Haliburton said in her address to the students and dignitaries in attendance. “It is our time to take the power and take the responsibility. Talk is cheap – don’t talk about it, be about it.”
Though Clinton didn’t discuss a potential war in his oration, following the group presentation he discussed the importance of the United Nations in the present conflict noting Americans do not take the organization as seriously as they should.
“What we’ve gotta do is to find a position in the middle where they think America respects the U.N. and the inspection process,” Clinton said. “If (Saddam Hussein) doesn’t cooperate then he should be relieved, but we should be able to find that common ground still and I haven’t given up on it.”