April 21, 2015 – A sense of purpose, vision and ‘radical inclusion’ have been the hallmarks of successful leaders throughout the world, President Bill Clinton (SFS’68) said in a speech at Georgetown today.
In the third of his Clinton Lectures at the university, the 42nd president of the United States cited a wide range of leaders who used this formula to improve the lives of their people.
Among those he cited were the late Nelson Mandela, who led South Africa out of apartheid and later included opposition leaders in his cabinet, and Bill and Melinda Gates, whose vision Clinton said is “equal chances” for everyone.
“If you have a vision, a strategy and you have the support of people at the grassroots level because you’re inclusive, these kinds of things can be done by ordinary citizens,” Clinton said. “These are things we need to be thinking about in America as we work to restore broad-based prosperity, as we work to define our role in a world of competition from new and different sources to define the future.”
He said his own life’s purpose is simple.
“I always wanted at the end of my life to be able to answer with a resounding ‘yes’ three questions,” he explained, “are people better off when you quit than when you started, do children have a brighter future, and are things coming together instead of being torn apart. To me, all the rest is background music.”
After the talk, Clinton's former theology professor, Rev. Otto Hentz, S.J., asked him a series of questions.
When Hentz asked the former president if he ever thought about quitting public service, Clinton said, “I had an unusual upbringing, but I was raised not to quit.”
“We’re not big on quitting in my family,” he told an amused audience, “you may have noticed that.”
The Clinton Lectures at Georgetown are designed to explore the people, events, lessons and principles that shaped the Georgetown alumnus’ career in public service.
In his first lecture, which took place on April 30, 2013, Clinton said that young people interested in public service should focus on four areas – “people, purpose, policies and politics.”
He gave his second lecture, in which he defended his administration’s economic policies, on the same day in 2014.
Purpose and Responsibilities
Georgetown President John J. DeGioia introduced the former president this morning.
“With this theme, ‘purpose,’ President Clinton turns to each of us – as he did during those formative New Covenant speeches – to all of you, future leaders of our nation and our world, to think deeply about our own responsibilities,” DeGioia said, “about where we are, where we want to go and how we propose – together – to get there.”
This is the second time Clinton has given a series of talks at Georgetown.
In 1991, as the governor of Arkansas and a Democratic candidate for president, he presented three “New Covenant” speeches to students on Responsibility and Rebuilding the American Community, Economic Change and American Security.