Bill Clinton at The Labour Party Conference

Former US President Bill Clinton was chief guest at the Labour Party Conference 2006 in Blackpool. He addressed the party making what turned out to be a truly inspiring and momentous speech. What stood out was his presentation of vast ideologies in short phrases that not only delivered tremendous and stunning impact but captured the audience and gave a clear message. He began by praising the Prime Minister Tony Blair, his cabinet and the Labour Party for their successes, especially at battling the problems of poverty, instability and global warming and for preserving the UK’s alliance with the USA. Clinton then began the main part of his speech addressing many current issues and challenges. “It’s a different world. This world has been a really good deal for many of us,” he said. “But fundamentally the fact remains that the modern world is unequal, unstable and unsustainable.”

The world remains unequal because of problems such as economic incongruity, poverty, social contrast and racial prejudice. These problems stem from our failure to realise the principle of equality among all human beings. The former President addressed this problem recalling the day when, during a video conference with Tony Blair, there was news of a breakthrough by scientists in human genome research. It was discovered that all human beings were 99.9% genetically identical. Furthermore if, for example, a genetic sample was taken from one person from an interbred tribe in the Middle East and a genetic sample was taken from a person from an interbred tribe in South America, the two samples would be more similar than two samples from the same tribe. He also presented the fact that most people spend 99% of their time thinking about the 0.1% difference between themselves and others. Therefore we should realise our similarity and equality and try to achieve reduce disparity. “We really believe our common humanity is more important than our interesting differences,” he said. He then continued, “We know that half a world away, trapped in poverty, there’s some little kid … who’s just as smart as our kid and just as deserving of a decent life.”

The world remains unstable because of problems such as political insecurity and terrorism. These problems can only be tackled if their roots are addressed because if they are not then these problems will only resurface. Fighting a war does not address the roots of these problems and therefore it is more appropriate to use more sensible approaches that would save lives and would be less costly. “Since we can’t kill, jail or occupy all of our enemies… we also have to spend some time and money making more and more partners and fewer enemies,” he said. He went on to explain, “It is so much cheaper to alleviate poverty, put kids in school, fight disease, build government capacity and economic capacity in a poor country than it is to fight a war.” Clinton also expressed regret at missing his opportunity during his term to send aid to Pakistan to develop education along with aid he had sent to support Pakistan militarily and now the country was threatened by terrorism as many children who could not afford education went to madrassahs and at some children were taught a twisted version of their faith.

The world remains unsustainable because of problems such as the depletion of resources and global warming. Finding cleaner alternative sources of energy is not only an environmental issue, it has economic implications. The result would be less reliance and demand on non-renewable resources and generally less instability which would be the key not only to future growth but it would be the key to protecting ourselves and the environment from the harmful effects of global warming. He promised that a full commitment to finding cleaner and alternative energy sources would not only prevent natural disasters, save lives, and sustain and protect the environment but would also bring about a fresh round of economic growth.

Clinton’s speech was, to say the least, admirable. It was hopeful and courageous yet clear and precise and despite the fact that in many peoples’ eyes the shadow of the infamous scandal still looms over him, I am sure that the speech itself gained him the respect and appreciation of many.

Walid Sharif FY

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