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Bill Clinton Inspires Donors, Yawns With USC Visit

Matthew Tinoco |
November 7, 2014 | 7:54 p.m. PST

Senior Reporter

President Clinton and Dean Ellis chat, accompanied by six ficus trees and a lovely carpet. (Matthew Tinoco/Neon Tommy)
President Clinton and Dean Ellis chat, accompanied by six ficus trees and a lovely carpet. (Matthew Tinoco/Neon Tommy)
President Bill Clinton gave a lecture Friday evening, explaining to a filled Bovard Auditorium at the University of Southern California the merits of cooperation and shared responsibility in tackling leading global issues.

Despite the audience’s cheers and applause when Clinton emphasized a key point, the lecture lacked details about how people are supposed to cooperate on an international scale.

Clinton talked about how a fundamental reality of our modern world is our interdependence upon our neighbors, whether locally or internationally. He called it our collective responsibility to build positive relationships with those around us while ‘killing’ negative ones.

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He cited work in Indonesia, after the 2004 Tsunami, of his Clinton Global Initiative non-profit, where the organization worked to provide cellphones to fisherman whose livelihoods were ruined by the disaster. Clinton’s allusion to his organization’s work avoided details behind the international mobilization.

Technology was also a major theme, insofar as it enables people to coordinate on a global scale. Specifically, Clinton highlighted the importance of “non-state-actors” working through the internet.

However, like global cooperation, the theme of technology never really sank deeper than, as Clinton phrased it, “the potential for us to collaborate and attack problems using more resources than our ancestors could have dreamed about.”

Clinton also explained the dangers of divisive thinking, elaborating on the importance of maintaining a personal identity based on cultural and social makeup. He urged caution lest we start excluding others who aren’t like ourselves.

“In my experience, the best organization and collaboration happens among diverse groups with diverse opinions,” said Clinton. “A diversity of backgrounds leads to more productive solution-making since people have more to draw on when [problem-solving].”

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The lecture concluded after about 45 minutes. Marshall School of Business Dean James Ellis led an informal question-and-answer session with Clinton. Dean Ellis kicked off the session by asking Clinton how we can apply ourselves to seek solutions in so-called hot-spots around the world, like Ukraine and Hong Kong.

Clinton responded, giving special attention to Ukraine. He said it’s our duty to do everything possible to seek peace, but without military intervention, taking special care to reiterate that final point over and over.

The event concluded an hour and ten minutes after it began.  Clinton was invited to speak as part of the President’s Distinguished Lecture series, a series started by former President Steven Sample to expose students to international leaders.

Despite the goal, however, Bovard’s auditorium Friday night was filled primarily with a graying audience. Students were seated on the auditorium’s third balcony. It appeared that university donors and faculty occupied the main two levels.

An invitation-only cocktail party followed the lecture. 

Reach Senior Reporter Matthew Tinoco here, and follow him on Twitter here.



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