Editor’s Column: Another Job For Bill Clinton?



Trust me. No one at Colgate was more thrilled than I was to hear that Bill Clinton would be our Global Leaders lecturer this fall. No matter your political leanings, most agree that Bill Clinton led a fascinating and dynamic presidency. His humanitarian interventions in Somalia and the Balkans and his lack of action in Rwanda set important precedents for how great powers respond to international crises. His efforts at peace in the Middle East have had profound effects on America’s relationship with Israel and the Palestinian territories. Since leaving office, he has applied this innovation to the non-profit sector through his work around the world from Africa to New Orleans with his foundation. Most importantly, he is probably one of the sexiest politicians of all time. Although it is a close call between him and Mitt Romney.


Yet, I was also excited to hear Tony Blair and Colin Powell during last year’s lecture series, as well. But, just like Bill and Hillary’s marriage, their speeches left a lot to be desired. Instead of hearing Colin Powell discuss his role in the invasion of Iraq or listening as Tony Blair described his handling of the death of Princess Diana and other watershed moments in their careers, we instead got to hear stump speeches that these men of distinction have given at countless colleges, conventions and conferences around the world. Perhaps in the car ride up Route 12B one of Bill Clinton’s speechwriters will quickly do a search on his Blackberry to find a joke to insert about quaint Hamilton, New York, but we may not even be that lucky. Instead we hear motivational platitudes and clichés about leadership more suited to the self-help section of a Barnes & Noble than a speech by a world leader. Can you blame them? It is speeches like these that ensure that former world leaders never have to work again. In fact, since leaving the position of Prime Minister, Tony Blair has made more than 18 million dollars from these speaking engagements, amassing six times his lifetime earnings from other sources, according to The New York Times.


I understand that Colgate, as an institution of higher learning, prides itself on bringing these world leaders to our isolated campus.  I also understand that parents are raising this money to give Colgate students a unique opportunity. It shows to prospective students, current students, faculty, staff, members of the community and potential donors that despite Colgate’s location, we care about the world around us and are an institution of prestige that attracts global leaders. But, to be honest, I do not believe that paying $100,000 (Clinton’s rumored speaking fee) to hear a stump speech is accomplishing that goal. Will Bill Clinton’s speech really inspire a dialogue about an American president as a global leader? When I left Tony Blair’s speech in the fall, most of the exiting students were discussing their Halloween costumes, not leadership or globalization.


I believe Colgate has a long way to go before we create a truly globally aware student body. Our language requirement is so minimal that most students here will never have to graduate with fluency in anything but English. Colgate study groups are limited to only a handful of countries and even less non-Western countries. In addition, the university is not very accommodating when you want to venture elsewhere. For example, if you wanted to study abroad in the Middle East and learn Arabic, arguably one of the most important languages to know these days, the university’s standards make it very difficult for you to get course credit and nearly impossible to transfer your financial aid.


Students at Colgate, however, are hard-working and passionate. I believe that given the right opportunities we all have the potential to be these so-called “global leaders.” What if this $100,000 went to a fund to assist students to study up-and-coming languages in far-off countries? Or an endowment to help students to do volunteer work around the world, through foundations such as Bill Clinton’s? The U.S. government funds these opportunities through fellowships like the Fulbright Grant with the exact aim to make Americans vibrant parts of this globalized world; I believe Colgate University and our alumni should do the same.  Instead of yet another job for Bill Clinton, let’s truly do something to put Colgate students on the map.