Saturday, August 12, 2017

Bill Clinton: Dole Institute Lecture

Former President Bill Clinton gave a lecture at the Robert Dole Institute at the University of Kansas, and spoke kindly of his former political rival.  Here are some excerpts from the speech, touching on tolerance issues.[1]

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For the polarization of American politics is present not just in Washington but in American life. You just look at how many of our collective bigotries we have overcome in America in the last hundred years. We are less racist than we used to be, we are less sexist than we used to be, we are less religiously bigoted than we used to be, we are less homophobic than we used to be. We have one remaining bigotry--we don't want to be around anybody that disagrees with us. Now, we're laughing but you know it's true. We don't even want to watch television news we disagree with.

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A lot of you know that Senator Dole was one of the movers behind the American's With Disabilities Act for good reasons, …. A couple of years ago, I saw him in a wheelchair on the floor of the Senate asking them to ratify the International Convention on Disabilities … as long as I live, I'll remember Bob Dole in his wheelchair talking to the members of the Senate about the imperative of recognizing that not only human dignity but the human potential of everyone, without regard of their physical abilities.

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So, in the face of insecurity, the most predictable path going back to the beginning of humanity and people coming out of caves and clans is to stick to your own kind and try to just push everybody else away as much as you can. But in an inter-dependent world where you can't get away, where actions anywhere affect people everywhere, it's probably not the best choice, which doesn't mean we shouldn't worry about legitimate security concerns; it just means we can't escape each other. The real question of the 21 st Century is not whether Americans will live together but on what terms. The real question of the 21 st Century is not whether we will live with people all around the world but on what terms. Will our inter-dependence be positive or negative? Human nature being what it is, it's a little bit of both but it is clear that for every one of the young people here, the students, for the children you hope to have, the grandchildren I hope you live to see, our job is to build up the positive and reduce the negative forces of our inter-dependence to try to keep big bad things from happening and make as many good things happen as possible and make sure people understand what the promise, as well as the peril, is of the age in which we live. …. 

And it all begins with the idea that what we have in common is more important than our interesting differences.

[1] Full Transcript:

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