Aspen Ideas Festival – President Clinton

Here are my notes from President Clinton's excellent speech at the Aspen Ideas Festival. Also, if you are interested here is a video of the speech: A Conversation with President William J. Clinton. I should also note (due to a comment below) that these notes, while extensive, are obviously incomplete.

Intelligence and effort are evenly distributed. Systems are more important than we think. You would be shocked if the lights went off.
In the developing world you can't take that for granted.

Mr. Powell was able to succeed because there was a system that was predictable.

We need to create systems that are predictable that allow them a chance to understand the outcomes of their effort – we need to give every child an "arc" for their effort.

How important is ingenuity?

It is very important. Premise of military – leaders are made as well as born.

Leadership matters.


Many did sign it. 155 countries had to try to reach Kyoto targets.

6 to 8 will make it.

Leaders were not willing to stay poor.

To mobilize the economic resources of the country to make money.

Denmark, UK and others treated it as an opportunity to make money and they have done well.

Why don't we capture the wind between Texas and Canada.

Leadership is important but not enough. You need systems also.

Mr. Mandela

Mr. Mandela gave up his own freedom to prove that Freedom is a Universal commodity. He invited all of the leaders of his oppressors into his government because he knew that he needed them. You don't have to be in office to do public service. You can do it as a private citizen – used his stature to help others even later in life. He showed us all how to live. When he was released, "I felt anger, and hatred and fear, when I left, I let go of the hatred because I wanted to be free".
Every living soul on the planet has a justified reason to be angry.
He disciplined his mind and heart and spirit to overcome it every day.
What will happen in the aftermath of Mugabe's going?
Mr. Mandela gives us a universal lesson: we should all live from a place from forgiveness.
Itzak Rabin the other greatest person he ever knew.

2002 AIDS conference in Barcelona – if you were rich you could get meds. 6mm needed it but only 200k could get it.
Mr. Mandela saw what was needed. He told a story about a young woman who had AIDS, and he paid for this woman's medicine. He had no connection to her, he wanted her to be a beacon.
Mr. Mandella said: this is what you should be doing.
Mr. Clinton realized this was important. Started doing it. 2.8 mm take medicine now. 1.4mm from Clinton-negotiated contracts.

Generic Drugs,
Cut the price structure for all drugs by driving up volumes. (got kids drugs from $600 to $60). Chris and Jamie Cooper Hahn negotiated a deal to do more.
Best thing the French have done – created a minor charge on intl flights – this money is used to fight problems for kids globally.
Did the same thing with fertilizer in Rwanda and Malawi…similar things with building equipment.
Simple change in business models can do a lot.

Food Crisis
Within 30 years if not before, people will be consuming more local produce (within 150 miles of home). Agricultural self-sufficiency is a national security issue and energy issue.

Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa
When you change productivity, there are issues but we need to increase productivity here.
1 – replicate results of millenium development initiatives and
2 – change the way we deliver food aid. Now, has to be grown in America and delivered by American flag ships. Canada gives cash close to crisis. President Bush has been trying to do this here, but the Dems and Republicans are holding it back. Crazy that people are fighting this.

GMO Crops – safety is important. Let people continue to debate the issue. Look at the evidence and see what the data tells us. There are a lot of unanswered questions here. We should win the debate in an old-fashioned and honorable way.
One new experience – we have tripled the number of people who have autism in 15 years. No one knows why.
Mr. Clinton was shocked. Doesn't know what the answer is here.

Climate. What should we do to retrofit cities? Are "green jobs" an opportunity?
Almost 75 percent of greenhouse gas emissions are emitted in the U.S.
We should pick the low hanging fruit.
If the U.S. India, China and Russia were to reach Japanese levels of efficiency, we would be 25 percent of the way to 80 percent reduction.
Low hanging fruit is in efficiency.
We should look for systematic ways to change things.
Only $5b in the whole world was being used for retrofits – raised more than that in a day and now have started with public and now moving to private to analyze and determine what best low-hanging fruit initiatives. For instance, NYC public housing, cutting annual cost from $500 mm to 350 mm per year. Energy Service Organization guarantees underwriting of these projects and banks will fund this with the proceeds from energy savings go to service debt.
Sears Tower, etc. are doing this. Jim Rogers (Duke Power) says everyone should offer this because it will allow the power companies to better utilize existing system. Just use current stuff more efficiently – can prevent building new power plants.

The money is there to be made, we are not organized to make it.

This is not just a thing for the rich. Ethiopia can grow sugar just like Brazil.

Everybody can do it and make money out of it.

Thomas Jefferson said: Education is the bedrock of Democracy.
World – everything we want to do is complicated by the massive urban population growth. Given the various issues around controlling population growth, the most clear way to do this is to put every single girl in the world in school. 60 percent of the unschooled are girls.
If you put them in school and give them access to work, there is always a reduction in birth rates.
Key: support education of girls.
In America, we have great colleges and universities and not as good at k-12.
We have most diverse classrooms (by any metric), and we have made up the delta by sending tons of people to college, having immigration, and other issues.
We should not continue to dump more money into bad schools.
Issues: leadership and governance
We are good at 4th grade level. Gap emerges at 8th grade level and then splits massively.
Sure there are lots of social issues.
We need to move towards local operational control, but national movement for better trained and compensated teachers, real oversight for Superintendants and Principals.
We should move to a more generalized national test. Needs to be a national crusade.
We need to go more school, pay teachers more and remove beaurocracy.
Find the 20 schools that are great and replicate it.
We have stubbornly refused to replicate excellence and we are paying the price.
Spirit of Optimism.
Next generation has an idealism. What do you see in my generation?
Be optimistic.
Climate Change – something bad is gonna happen, but we don't know when. Something like this is always lurking.

The young generation is the most connected to the internet, the most active socially through NGO's and other, he has never seen this many motivated young people.

Every young person should recognize that this is not an "option".
In an interdependent world, every citizen, the definition of citizenship will include: What can you do to join with likeminded people to do Good in the world?
Public service is key to citizenship.
If we do it, I am optimistic.

These problems are hard. They require dialogue. It is easy to say "we hate the Taliban". We can

Book recommendation: The Big Sort, Bill a Texan.

We are becoming more isolated in our debates because we are able to self-select into likeminded groups.

In 1976, very close election…there was a raging debate about who should win, and very few had 20 percent margin of victory. Were trying to build a national debate. In 2004, 48 percent of the counties voted by a 20 percent margin (a developer recently created a gated community).

One piece of advice to young people.
Do public service with someone who looks and thinks differently than you.
Be worried about the increase in inequality. 90 percent of the benefits have just gone to 10 percent of us. Think about those who are desparate. Don't get smug about how enlightened we are.

Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

2 thoughts on “Aspen Ideas Festival – President Clinton

  1. Anonymous

    If you have an audio transcript please post it your notes are really incomplete. Not really “better than nothing” because some major concepts are missing.


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