Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Clinton Pushes Public Service, NGOs

Former President Bill Clinton (SFS ’68) encouraged students to engage in public service in the first of a four-part lecture series in Gaston Hall on Tuesday morning.

The four lectures, to be given over the next few years, address Clinton’s vision for the future of the United States.

Clinton said that, after leaving the White House, he enjoys his current work in service and development through the William J. Clinton Foundation.

“People are always asking me, ‘Don’t you miss being president?’ I tell them the truth — I do,” Clinton said. “But I think that it’s foolish to spend one day of your life wishing to do something you can no longer do. … It’s always best to focus on what’s at hand and what you can do.”

According to Clinton, the United States currently has about 1 million non-governmental organizations, not including 355,000 religious institutions, that which also contribute to public service. Half of these institutions were founded after 1995. Clinton praised the independence of U.S. NGOs.

“This NGO movement is kind of a thorn in the side of governments,” Clinton said. “And like everyone else, they’re not always right, but they basically push the envelope of liberty and global responses.”

Clinton attributed the rapid increase of private citizens’ involvement in public service to new technologies, citing the decrease in median donation from $56 after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami to $26 after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. He attributed this difference to increased accessibility of donating due to technological advancement.

Clinton identified four requirements necessary to properly perform public service: interest in people and caring for purpose, policies and politics.

“Most people will get in real trouble and abuse power when they forget the purpose of power is not to impose will, but to let other people get empowered,” Clinton said.

Clinton stressed the importance of respect in development work.

“People are not just defined by their per capita income,” Clinton said. “There are incredibly dignified people who manage to compose a life out of poverty. From them, we can learn how to get their children and others out of poverty … I say that because it’s important for you if you want to do this work is to realize that everybody has some kind of story like that.”

Clinton connected the tradition of storytelling to the ability to discuss service and poverty.

“In my house … you couldn’t tell a story unless you proved you could listen to one. … I learned that you can’t speak unless you learn to listen, not in a way that people can hear,” he said.

Clinton related this idea to current U.S. politics.

“Ask yourself, ‘Did this person say that thing because they wanted it to be heard, or because they wanted to be on television?’” Clinton said. “If you want democracy to work, people have to be able to hear each other. It depends on what you say and how you say it.”

However, he warned against glamorizing poverty.

“Don’t ever romanticize poverty — it’s overrated,” Clinton said. “But don’t degenerate them. There’s dignity there.”

The speech was followed by a question-and-answer session moderated by former Georgetown University Student Association President Clara Gustafson (SFS ’13). Questions were collected from Georgetown students and students from Clinton’s own Hot Spring High School in Hot Springs, Ark.

Audience members, who gave Clinton three standing ovations, said that they enjoyed the speech.

“I liked his stories and his conversational speaking style,” Caitlin Donahue (COL ’13) said. “He did a really good job of connecting well with the audience.”

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