On Friday afternoon, former President Bill Clinton (SFS ‘68) spoke at Gaston Hall, and reflected on the current economic and political state of the country. His speech was part of the “Clinton-Gore Economics: Understanding the Lessons of the 1990s” symposium, which highlighted economic successes that the speakers attributed to the Clinton administration’s policies and leadership.
The symposium consisted of two panel discussions in addition to Clinton’s keynote speech. The panelists, including top officials and political players during the Clinton administration, addressed the 1993 budget battle and how the Clinton administration treated education, technology, transportation, and other issues within the larger economic plan. They also highlighted the important role that investment played during his administration.
The panelists and the former president also spoke about the country’s balanced budget during his second term, as well as the drops in unemployment numbers and number of people on welfare during his administration, the latter of which decreased from 14.1 million to 5.6 million. They argued that the administration’s policies played a measurable role in changing the economic state in which the country had been during the previous decate.
Clinton, however, noted that the policies made during his administration were not prescriptive. “As you look at the problems that the President faces today, the members of Congress face today, I would like to first state the obvious,” he said. “The particular solution we pursued is not appropriate to this particular moment because the problem is different.”
However, he did say that some of the philosophies that shaped the policies under his administration remain relevant today.
“Abraham Lincoln said that in America, it was good to have wealthy people because it fostered innovation and creativity and effort in the rest of us,” Clinton said. “On the other hand, as an economic matter, we all need to pitch in and do what we can so that those of us who had all of the gains of the last decade [and in the 1980s], just as I did, should make a contribution. That’s a contribution we can make.”