Thank you, Mr. President. I appreciate the kind words and your invitation here today.
If there’s one thing we’ve learned this election season, it’s that a few words from Bill Clinton can do any man a lot of good.
After that introduction, I guess all I have to do is wait a day or two for the bounce.
Since serving as President here in America, President Clinton has devoted himself to lifting the downtrodden around the world. One of the best things that can happen to any cause, to any people, is to have Bill Clinton as its advocate. That is how needy and neglected causes have become global initiatives. It is that work that invites us here today.
As I have watched the astounding impact of this Initiative from afar, I have been impressed by the extraordinary power you have derived by harnessing together different people of different backgrounds, and different institutions of different persuasions. You have fashioned partnerships across traditional boundaries — public and private, for-profit and nonprofit, charitable and commercial.
On a smaller scale, I have seen partnerships like this work before. In Massachusetts, two social pioneers brought corporations and government and volunteers together to form City Year, the model for Americorps. I sat with then candidate for President Bill Clinton as he investigated the life-changing successes which occurred when young people came together for a year of service, linked in teams with corporate sponsors. Then, as the head of the 2002 Winter Olympic Games, I saw again the stunning success than comes when the disparate elements of a community join together in unity, to overcome challenges that had seemed insurmountable before.
The Clinton Global Initiative has also demonstrated the effectiveness of entrepreneurship and social enterprise. You endeavor to not only comfort the afflicted, but to also change lives thorough freedom, free enterprise, and the incomparable dignity of work.
Free enterprise has done more to bless humanity than any other economic system not only because it is the only system that creates a prosperous middle class, but also because it is the only system where the individual enjoys the freedom to guide and build his or her own life. Free enterprise cannot only make us better off financially, it can make us better people.
Ours is a compassionate nation. We look around us and see withering suffering. Our hearts break. While we make up just 4.5 percent of the world’s population, we donate nearly a quarter of all global foreign aid—more than twice as much as any other country. And Americans give more than money. Pastors like Rick Warren lead mission trips that send thousands of Americans around the world, bringing aid and comfort to the poorest places on the planet. American troops are first on the scene of natural disasters. An earthquake strikes Haiti and care packages from America are among the first to arrive – and not far behind are former Presidents Clinton and Bush.
But too often our passion for charity is tempered by our sense that our aid is not always effective. We see stories of cases where American aid has been diverted to corrupt governments. We wonder why years of aid and relief seem never to extinguish the hardship, why the suffering persists decade after decade.