Former President Clinton offered his perspective on the challenges facing America last weekend in an extemporaneous speech at Yale. Democrats.com now has the transcript of the Clinton address, in which he discusses the global context for the September crimes and the difficulties facing President the nation. He presents terrorism as the dark face of globalism: "This is about a global force with a fundamentally different point of view... It is time to take America's eternal mission to the world... We can no longer to deny to others what we claim for ourselves. That is the ultimate lesson of our interconnected world."
YALE TERCENTENNIAL ADDRESS
DEMOCRATIC VISTAS / GLOBAL PERSPECTIVES
OCTOBER 6, 2001
I was privileged to study here for exactly one percent of Yale's three hundred years. I love the law school. I love my professors and have stayed in touch with many of them over all of these long years, one of them I was able to put on the Court of Appeals. One of them I tried to torment in class with disagreements and he lived to torment me, my constitutional law professor, Robert Bork. And we had a great set of debates 30 years ago. Now that I replay them in my mind…they seem fresh today. I was fortunate enough to be here at Yale law school with a phenomenal number of outstanding men and woman who were my fellow students, one of them did become the United States Senator from New York. Senator Schumer went to Harvard. Meeting Hillary was the best thing that happened to me at Yale, and maybe the only thing that really stuck over all of these 30 years. I understand there was some discussion here in the Yale community about whether this tercentennial should go forward in the aftermath of the awful events of the September 11. I thank you for going forward. It is what President Bush asked us to do when he asked to us get on with our lives. and it is particularly important at this time.
Marking three hundred years of learning at any time would be a significant event. But marking it at this time with a commitment to be a truly global university is obviously profoundly important. For three hundred years, before the declaration of independence, Yale has taught young people the wisdom of the past, the analysis of the present and the importance of looking to the future. Yale has asked hard questions and looked for honest answers. That is what I found here years ago, and that is what I see when I look out on this vast array of faces today.
America is full of hard questions now. And I have spent a great deal of the last three weeks in Manhattan, visiting the crisis center, visiting ground zero, visiting fire stations and police headquarters, going to three schools, two of them double schools because the children were blown out of their schools by the events of September 11. And I have found so many questions. Hillary and I went to an elementary school in lower Manhattan, where nine and ten-year old students asked me these questions: Why do they hate us so much any way? How did that guy get all those people to commit suicide? I never thought I would hear a nine year old ask a question like that.
The other day I had a conversation with Mack McLarty who was my first chief of staff and my oldest friend. We go back to the time we were three and four years old. We were talking about the events of September 11. We had a conversation I had bet that thousands and thousands of Americans our age have had in the last three weeks. I said, Mack, if we had been on that plane over Pennsylvania, do you think we would have had the guts to take it down. He said, I think so, and I hope so.
I have gotten calls from women friends of Hillary's and mine who are the mothers of young children from all over America with a simple question. Bill, is it going to be all right? Tell me it is going to be all right. Well, first of all, it is going to be all right. I can tell you that -- applause –
Terrorism, the killing of innocent people for political or religious or economic reasons, is as old as organized combat. It has gone on a very long time. If we searchingly look through history honestly we find it in uncomfortable places. In the crusade in which the European Christians, seize Jerusalem, they slaughtered three hundred Jews and killed every mother and child on the temple mount who was Muslim. But no campaign of terror standing on it's own without organized military combat has ever succeeded in all of human history. Indeed it is not the purpose of terror to succeed militarily. It is the purpose of terror to terrify and I would guess a lot of young people in this audience today who have never lived through such a difficult crisis were understandably terrified. And what is sought from the terror is the people who are afraid. First of all, in a vast and diverse country like ours, you see we have got people here from just about every country, every racial and ethnic group and every religious heritage. What is sought is, first of all, to make us afraid of each other. And secondly, to make us afraid of the future. We are afraid to plan; afraid to invest; afraid to trust; that is what they seek.
Therefore, terrorism cannot prevail unless we cooperate. It is not a military strategy it is a psychological and human one. We have to give the people that attacked us permission to win. I do not believe we are about to grant them that permission. (applause)
Mr. Bin Laden and his allies misjudge America. They think we are fundamentally a weak, greedy, selfish, materialistic people. They think we are weakened by a lack of international religion and imposed social order. But, they are wrong. All Americans have been proud in these last days of the performance of our leaders to the president, to the governor, to the Mayor of New York, yes, to the senators. I am very proud of my wife and her colleagues and the house and the senate, but especially the people.
Hillary and I went to a Rosh Hashanah service the other night in our own little village of Chappaqua where we lost a person from the temple on September 11. And I met one of the two men there who escaped from the 84th floor of the World Trade Center carrying a disabled woman all the way to safety. When I went into the family crisis center the first day, a man came up to me and said to me: Why Mr. President, I haven't seen you since Oklahoma city. And I said, how did I see you there? He said, you came to console me, my wife was blown up in the bombing of Oklahoma City and I had no one to talk to. So when I saw that this happened, I went in to my job and I told my boss I was taking two weeks off, and I got in my car and I drove here -- and I sit here all day every day talking to people. I had no one to talk to and I thought I might be of help.
I have visited many of the firemen. The fire department is a marvelous organization in the modern world. It is more like a medieval army where instead of sitting behind and issuing orders, the leaders lead. And so in our fire department, we lost three top aides, the chaplain and some 200 other officers, three hundred and forty killed, necessitating over two hundred promotions, because no one took a backseat when it came to sacrifice. I think those who believed we would be weakened by this have misjudged us. All over America there has been a tremendous outpouring of caring---over six hundred million dollars given from Americans. I thank the workers and the people at Yale for the work you did for those that who have lost loved ones or feared they had in caring for them here. We are going to be all right.
Still we must realize that we have a formidable adversary and a difficult challenge. Partly, because in every conflict throughout human history, defense lags offense by a little bit. and we got caught not being caught up. This has always happened. But so far the human race is still around because self preservation and decency catches up and triumphs. Nevertheless, I think we have to take this seriously and see it for exactly what it is. I believe we are engaged for the first great struggle of the soul of the twenty-first century. We must understand terrorism in the context of the modern world. And we have to ask ourselves what we have to do--not only to prevent terrorism and protect ourselves, but to undermine the conditions and attitudes that bring to terrorists banish their foot soldiers and sympathizers.
If I had asked you on September the tenth, the following question, what would your answer be? What is the dominant trait of the world in the early twenty first century? If you are an optimistic person, it seems to me you might have given one of four answers. You might have said well, it is the globalization of the economy and culture that has lifted more people out of poverty in the last twenty years than any time in all history and brought America including the opportunity first immigration immigrants from all over the world. Or you might have said if you are a "techie," it is the information technology, revolution. When I became President in January of 1993, there where fifty sites on the worldwide web. When I left office there were three hundred and fifty million. There was never anything like it in the history of communications. Or you might have said if you were scientist, it’s the revolution in the sciences. We're going to find out what's in the black whole in the United States. Last year we found two new species of life, in two previously unexplored rivers. The human genome has been sequenced and soon women will bring home babies from the hospital with little gene cards saying here are the kids problems and the kids strengths. And very soon babies born in America and any country with a good health system will have a life expectancy in excess of ninety years. We have scientists working on digital chips to replicate the nerve functions of damage in the spinal cord, and raising the prospects that a chip might do for a spine, what a pacemaker might do for the heart. And people thought permanently paralyzed might get up and walk. And all of this is truly amazing.
Or if you are a political scientist you might say the dominant theory of this period is the explosion of democracy around the world and diversity at home. Just for the last three years for the first time in human history, more than half the world lives under governments of their own choosing. And in our country and indeed to other countries, with strong economy there is a lot of explosion of diversity. America is a lot more interesting place than it was 30 years ago. If we had this meeting thirty years ago, you would not look like you do. It is a lot more fun to be here, and a lot more education and exciting because of that. It seems to me if you are optimistic, on September tenth when I said what is the dominant strength of the twenty first century world, you would have given one of those four answers. The global economy, the explosion of democracy around the world and diversity, on the scientific revolution.
On the other hand, if you are a little more pessimistic, or if you are what Hillary refers to in our family, as her being the designated worrier, you might have mentioned four negative things. You might have said all those things are just fine, they all threaten to engulf all the progress and let them go a way. Nine of the hottest years ever recorded occurred in the last 12. If the climate warms at the same rate as it has in the last fifty years, as it has in the last nine, we will loose, the -- Florida everglades, agriculture will be disrupted all over the world and millions of -- there is a terrible water shortage in the world already. And one in four people on the globe never gets a clean glass of water. There is a serious deterioration in the salty of our oceans. And you could say it doesn't look to me like there is much going on about this and if we don't reverse these we will be in terrible problems.
Or you could say no, no, before this happens, we will be engulfed of health crisis, and the race of academics. This year one in four people in the world will die of AIDS, TB, malaria or infections related to malaria 36 million people will have AIDS, and in -- the greatest growing rates are in the Former Soviet Union on pur roams back door in the Carribean, and China just admitted they have twice as many AIDS cases as they had previously thought. And only four percent of the adults know how the disease is contracted and spread. You could say when we have a hundred million AIDS cases it will collapse a lot of these democracy. And it is a total recipe for turmoil and violence.
Or you could say, no, the real problem is the flip side of globalization. Half the worlds people are really not part of it. It is true that more people have been lifted out of poverty by globalization than ever before. It is also true that half the people in the world still live on less than two dollars a day. That a billion people still live on less than a dollar a day. And think about it the next time you buy a cup of coffee. A billion people die every night, and one million women die every minute in childbirth. And that is a recipe for revolution, and compounded by half the children in the globe never go to school at all. Half the kids in Africa and eastern Asia, and the -- continent, or even on September tenth, you might have said, no, the biggest problem would be terrorism, coupled with the weapons of mass destruction and resulted in racial and religious and ethnic hatred.
And here is what I would like to say whether you would have given a positive answer, or a negative answer, there is something that all eight of these elements positive and negative have in common. They all reflect the astonishing increase in global independence. The extent of which we have seen the collapse of distances and barriers, bring us closer together for the good poor will. Terrorism, is simply the dark side of our increasing interdependence. We have not repelled human nature or the fact some people see reality differently than we do. And it was inevitable, if we take down all the barriers. If we open the society, that people who represent organized forces of destruction would take advantage of the forces that would make us richer, more diverse and made our lives better.
Therefore, all the great questions of the twenty first century, boil down to one. Is this new age going to be good or bad on hundreds, for me, my family, my community, my nation and the world? That is why Yale's mission in its fourth century to truly build a global university is so important. It is very important that it be good. I was delighted, Mr. President, when my former Secretary of State and former roommate, Strobe Talbot, became the head of the world communication program and his belief was the world fellow program. And I said I would like to be a world fellow. And I was informed I no longer qualify as a young world leader. So today you are stuck with my opinions without the further benefit of Yale study. What do we have to do to make sure we have the positive forces of independence and constrain the negative ones? I would like to make three points.
The first thing first, we have to defend ourselves against terrorism. I want you to know there are good people, lots of them, that have been working on this for years. I want you to know there are many, many, more attacks that were planned on the United States that were thwarted by the public service and our allies on the last millennium alone -- there was plan for bomb in the big airport, and the holy Christian sites and in the holy land and a half of other dozen plans all thwarted.
There are good people who are working hard. Nonetheless, clearly there is more to do to build our defenses to build our ability to be offensive to build our capacity to maximize computer networks to ward off people that will mean us harm. I don't want to say more about that right now because the president and our security terms and our allies have some tough technical decisions to make. And I think we ought to stick with them and give them the room to make good decisions. So far they have been making good decisions and we have no reason to believe they will not in the future. I think on this it is important for America to stay united. We are and we must stay that way. I will say again, I know it was frightening to have the first massive attack on American soil. And nothing can minimize the humans lost. But let me remind the young people here, that the century we just left was the bloodiest in all human history. 12 million died in world war one, twenty million between the wars, and another twenty million from government oppression after the war, not counting the million that died in Vietnam, and later in the senseless slaughter in Bosnia. And the world has never been free of violence. We took down the walls and we were independent and therefore all the things we have benefited from in this global economy, sharing with it the price tag of being vulnerable to those that will do us harm. But we will catch up and that will be handled. What we have to do as citizens is to think about what else has to be done and think about what else we personally can do. We have to lead an assault on the conditions of negative independence and create more opportunities for positive independence.
Americans should continue to work to reduce poverty, with things like more debt relief, more micro credit, more sensible trade. America should contribute its fair share to the Secretary-General health fund to fight the spread of the AIDS epidemic to -- America should deal with the challenge of climate change through conservation through the development of alternative energy, through helping our friends and neighbors throughout the world do the same. America should continue to promote democracy. One particular problem we have in the present crisis, is that so many people who hear the siren song of radical fundamentalism, and the teachings of Mohammed, live in countries growing ever larger, ever younger and ever poor where there is no democracy or chance to express descent or even as sent in a normal political way. And it keeps the populous in a state of permanent infancy, where you never have to take responsibility for your own lives, because you never get to take responsibility. And therefore it is very easy to listen to someone say your problems were caused by America’s success. It is a hard indication to make because people from all of those countries come to America and share in that success. It is a hard case to make, because last years military power to protect poor Muslims in Kosovo and America led the world in the most important sweep relief and debt relief, because the monies had to be used for education, health care and nothing else. But nonetheless, if you never get to vote or stand up in the public office and think, you are permanently disempowered. And I could hear the siren song; it is all because of America. So, we have to keep urging our friends to find ways to move to greater democracy and freedom. And finally let me say this even more important than what we do, is who we are. We must understand that this present conflict as agonizing as the loss, war is about far more than the buildings collapsing and the people dying. This is about a global force with a fundamentally different view of the nature of truth, the value of life, the character of human community.
Mr. Bin Laden and the Taliban believe they have the truth. And everybody that agrees with them is good, and everybody that doesn't is evil. This great university is dedicated to the proposition that nobody has the absolute truth. We all get to vote. We have the right of freedom of speech. We have the right of freedom of religion. And we have the right of freedom of assembly. And we have the responsibilities of the freedom because we believe that life is a journey because we move closer and close to the truth. But because we are finite human beings we never will achieve it. And we don't have the right to impose our iron will on others. And the more the merrier, with the thought that together we might find more truth that is a fundamental difference. And it leads people to a different view of the value of human life. Because we believe that we are all traveling on this journey together. We have come over time, more and more, and more to value all life. To think that everybody counts that everybody deserves a chance. But for them they believe there are three kinds of people. There are the people that will embrace their particular view of Islam and then there are the Muslims don't agree with the reading of the Koran who keep sitting that Allah put different people on the earth not that they might despise one another, but that might come to learn from one another and know one another. They hate that in Afghanistan. People that will believe that are heretics to them. And the rest of them that are not Muslims are infidels. We are all combatants in the war and we all deserve what happens to us including the death. Even if it was a six year old girl that decided on the morning of September 11 to go to work with her mother in the World Trade Center.
In all the things that I have been moved in the last few weeks, the thing I will carry to the grave, is the lines of the victims families holding their little flyers, because for days and days and days, people didn't know whether their love ones were in the building when it was hit. They all made up flyers. They all had flyers this is my wife, my husband, my brother, my sister, my father, my child, here is the picture. And outside, often in handwriting this is what floor they were on, this is how tall they were, this is how much they weighted. All these people holding these pictures; there were Indians, Pakistanis, Japanese, Chinese, British, and German, Mexicans, Chileans, there were people from every conceivable religious faith. They were all there. A stunning rebuke, to the people they thought they had the right to kill them because they had the whole truth. We believe in a different character of community. We believe we all did better when we work together. And all you have to do in our country is to accept the rules of engagement. Our rules about everybody counting, everybody getting a vote. People that will have to show up every day to do what is right. It gives us the freedom to celebrate your diversity that we request be ignited by our common humanity. Their community is not united by common humanity. It is divided on what it is not. Mr. Bin Laden wants to get rid of a rather wide area America, the Middle East, so they all look like the Taliban what a dreary world. We have seen in pictures what we have seen on television from that movie, behind the veil, what their believes are like, forcing women to wear those horrible -- and beating them with sticks and worse. This is a formidable adversary. They do not believe they are evil. They believe they are doing good.
The most important thing over and above anything we do, is that we have in our minds clearly the world we are trying to make that our wealth is not an end in itself, but a tool for the people to live up to their God given abilities that we keep struggling to get beyond the categories of difference to our common humanity. And we should never be blind to how hash it is going to be. Think of the spirits of the last fifty years, Ghandi killed not by a Pakistani Muslim, but one of his own Muslims -- Sadat, killed by the organization that whether Bin Laden number two heads now, not by an Israeli, but by an Egyptian. That reaches across the ethnic and bloody divide to make peace. My friend Yitzhak Rabin, a lifetime of defending Israel, killed by -- not a Palestinian terrorists, but because he wanted to lay down arms and take up peace. This is hard. I thank God that of all the great spirits of the last fifty years, Mandela survived, probably because he had to pay with twenty seven years of the his fifty years, being in jail. They are defined by their – and not by humanity. You can do it by living it and recognizing it is time to take America's eternal mission to the world. A mission to widen the circle of opportunity, to deepen the meaning of freedom, to strengthen the bonds of community. We can no longer deny others what we claim for ourselves.
That is the ultimate lesson of the independent world. We are going to get through this crisis. Our leaders are going to make good decisions. But in the end, we don't only have to stop bad things from happening, we have to build for you, the best, the most prosperous, the most exciting time the world has ever known. We can do it, if we remember who we are and what we believe. Thank you and God bless you.