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Bill George

Harvard Business School Professor, former Medtronic CEO

Bill Clinton on Global Citizenship at the 2009 World Business Forum

Even more coming out of the #WBF09.

Former President Bill Clinton began his Wednesday night speech with the acknowledgement that much had changed since he assumed the WBF stage in 2007: “I was reviewing my notes [from last year] and things are a little different now than they were at that point.”    

And though we remain in the midst of a worldwide economic downturn, President Clinton believes there is something that each of us can do to make a dent in global problems.  As we continue moving into the 21st century, we need to think very hard about good global citizenship.

Some highlights from his remarks:

  • It is worth remembering that worldwide inequality is a threat to our future.  We can afford to make great strides if we just focus on making immediate actionable impact now.  For instance, investing in malaria medication, aids medication, and clean water programs will reap incredible health and economic benefits immediately – and carrying into the future – at a minimal cost.
  • Regarding the global economic collapse, China really did not have money problems as it enjoyed over $2T in cash reserves.  Meanwhile Ireland, England, Iceland, and the US were all leveraged to the hilt.  However, despite the on-hand cash, China was also hit by the financial crisis as it had no one to buy their products.  The lesson is that no country is completely stable or independent.
  • There are many people who question whether climate change is as important as 95% of all scientists claim it to be.  “But when I think about the future of my children and grandchildren, I don’t want to bet that only 5% of people are right.”
  • Since 2001 the US ranking in the percentage of people between 25 -34 with 4-year degrees fell from first to tenth.  It’s not rocket science – we’re pushing ourselves out of the market.
  • There needs to be a new source of jobs every 8 years to remain productive.  (The President used the example of tech growth during his term.)
  • On the current healthcare debate, “I want to laugh, cry, and gag.”  If we don’t solve this healthcare issue, we will drive America into an uncompetitive economic situation.
  • When we get out of this recession we have to go back to a balanced budget.
  • 90% of the decisions the President gets blamed for are really made by advisors.  You hire the President for the other 10%.
  • The best thing you can do as a leader is to communicate with your people that you are doing the best you can do.