Clinton addresses UCD students

 

Inequality, instability and unsustainability are the negative forces affecting the growing interdependence of the world, former US President Bill Clinton told an audience in Dublin tonight.

There were positive and negative forces around interdependence and the mission of humanity must be to build on the positives and reduce the negatives.

Continuing his Irish visit, Mr Clinton was earlier awarded UCD's highest honour, the Ulysses medal, and later addressed the Clinton Institute for American Studies on the campus.

In a wide-ranging address delivered without notes, he identified the first negative as the "enormous, staggering" amount of inequality within and between countries. This posed a massive psychological, emotional and economic threat to our future, he said.

The second challenge was the world's inherent instability. "The same internet used by a 10-year-old also allows you to learn how to make an elementary nuclear weapon. The same wonderful financial transactions that allow people based in Dublin do business with Papua New Guinea allows the transfer of funds through secret accounts to support narco-trafficking and terrorism."

The financial crisis had begun in America because "we allowed too much leverage with too little oversight and too little collateral".

The trick was for a country to maintain its creativity and inter-relationships and to deal with the instabilities without destroying character or the future of its children.

The third problem was that the world was unsustainable because of climate change, yet was locked in a constant race with economic and emotional interests who denied this was so.

Mr Clinton said the problem faced by developed countries was that systems aged and tended to become ossified. They became more interested in preserving the present than creating the future, and more interested in preserving the power and position of the people at the top of institutions than advancing the purpose for which they were created in the first place.

"The major mission of the developed countries is to reform their systems that made them great so they don't take then down now."

He said there were only three things that mattered about public service: "Are people better off when you quit than when you started? Do children have a brighter future? Are things coming apart or coming together? If you can give the right answer to these questions none of the rest matters a hill of beans

He concluded: "I love this country and I want you to get through this mess and I want in your lives to give the right answer to those three questions".

Answering questions from students after his address, he said he didn't think there was any serious danger to Northern Ireland from an increase in dissident violence. However, no-one should overlook the fact that economic problems and disaffections were danger signals that needed to be dealt with.