Bill Clinton delivers first of lecture series at Georgetown


On Tuesday morning, former President Bill Clinton (SFS ’68) came to Gaston Hall to deliver the first of a series of four talks, titled “The Clinton Lectures at Georgetown,” that will occur over a number of years.

He was introduced by University President John De Gioia, who detailed Clinton’s accomplishments, which include the founding of the Clinton Foundation, which partners with NGOs, world leaders, and other institutions in order to foster solutions to problems such as poverty and environmental sustainability.

This  is not the first time Clinton has given a series of lectures at Georgetown. In 1991, during his tenure as governor of Arkansas and his first run for president, he delivered a series titled “New Covenant,” about the importance of public service.

Clinton focused on a similar topic for his first talk. “I have reached the firm conclusion that 21st century citizenship requires that we do some public good as part of private life,” he said. “The future can be better than the present, and each of us has a personal, moral responsibility to make it so.”

He also discussed at length the importance of open communication and dialogue in public service. “We just have one remaining bigotry in America: we just don’t want to be around people who disagree with us,” Clinton said. “Americans are not hearing enough stories from other people.” He credited his upbringing in Arkansas with teaching him to listen, and the strength of the Jesuit tradition of open discourse.

Clinton told the story of his relationship with Fr. Josef Sebes, a Jesuit professor at Georgetown. Despite their opposing views on the Vietnam War, set against the tumultuous backdrop of protests during Clinton’s time as a student, they were able to continue their close friendship until Fr. Sebes’s death long after Clinton’s graduation.

Former GUSA President Clara Gustafson (SFS ’13) moderated the Q&A session after his speech. Questions were selected in advance from students at Georgetown and the Clinton School of Public Service at the University of Arkansas. While the question topics ranged from Clinton’s time at the White House to his work in Haiti, he closed the discussion focusing on one issue: the gun control debate. Clinton made it clear that he advocated strongly not only for tighter gun control legislation, but also to see more robust movement from Congress. “Disengagement is a recipe for failure,” he said.

Photo: Andres Rengifo/Georgetown Voice

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