Closing out the two day World Business forum conference, the former President Bill Clinton, made an appearance.
While Clinton focused on globalization and world instability, he also touched on technology, innovation, decision making, finance, and solving a world in crisis. While these are not necessarily topics that comprise our core focus, we thought his words were important enough to share with you. Here are some of the highlights:
– Clinton started by speaking about maximizing the impact people can make on global problems, even if it’s just addressing something in their own neighborhoods. He talked about how a dollar can buy ten $0.10 packets that can purify water as an example.
– However, he gave the audience a reality check, even if it’s an obvious one: we will never be able to solve the world’s problems to a point where we’re satisfied. People will cut down trees and pollute until it makes sense for them not to.
– Clinton took time to compare the changes that have occurred in the last few years. He quickly pointed towards the collapse of Lehman Brothers. He believes it was wrong for AIG not to give Lehman Brothers the loan necessary to save the firm, because he thinks it was the first domino that started the market collapse.
– Clinton said that he believed John McCain had a 1/3 or 1/4 shot at winning the White House before the market collapse. Afterwards, worse than 1 in 50.
– Clinton was asked yesterday “Is Bill Bernanke correct when he says the recession is over?” His answer was: Yes, No, and Maybe. His explanation: Yes if you’re a professor of economics, since technically the recession is over after two quarters of growth. No, because hiring is a lagging indicator, and it can take a year after the stock market starts recovering for jobs to recover. Maybe, because people can be easily spooked by events and the market can easily fall back due to our concern and fear.
– Interdependence: This is the one word Bill Clinton believes describes the 21st century world. He also stated that the world faces 3 persistent challenges: inequality, instability, and unsustainability.
– Clinton: In 1992, cell phones weighed 5 pounds and there were 50 sites on the Internet.
– 1/4 of the people who die in the world this year will die not of cancer, old age, or strokes, but of AIDS, Tuberculosis, Malaria, and dirty water. “These are the diseases of the poor,” he said. 80% of the people who die from dirty water are children.
– One of my favorite lines: “Congress is like a cat: Once you sit on a hot stove, you won’t sit on a cold one either.”
– From the implementation of the G.I. Bill (1940s) until 2001, the United States was the undisputed #1 ranked country for % of people with college degrees between 25-34. The U.S. ranking has now fallen to 10th. President Clinton believes that this will have devastating consequences on the US.
– Clinton: Solving the climate crisis through innovation would be the #1 best thing we’ve done since entering World War II. We cannot have a new source of jobs, and thus a new wave of economic prosperity, without it.
Bill Clinton then had a (very) short Q&A session on stage. Here are some of the most enlightening questions he received and answers he gave:
– On being a leader: There isn’t any one model, but he thinks you need to start with the basics. Have a vision with where you want to go. Lay out a strategy to get there. Develop a set of specific actions to implement the strategy. You have to speak to your customers/constituency through the entire process. And understand not only policies, but people.
– Q: “What was one of your toughest decisions as President?” A: Decisions that were unpopular were not the hardest. Instead, the ones that had no easy answer were the most difficult. Literally no one could know the answer to some of the problems he faced, Clinton said.