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Fall 2001 PDF

Clinton slam-dunks Berkeley visit

By Bonnie Azab Powell

"That’s the nicest welcome ever given to a Stanford parent,” joked Bill Clinton about the standing ovation he received after Chancellor Robert M. Berdahl presented him with the Berkeley Medal on January 29.

Former president Bill Clinton shakes hands with Berkeley students in the overflow room at Haas Pavilion. Peg Skorpinski photo

More than 2,000 people filled Zellerbach Hall to hear the former president speak. In the Bay Area for a fund-raising event, Clinton was invited to campus by the Graduate School of Journalism and the Chancellor’s Office, for which he waived his usual $100,000 fee.

Also attending was Governor Gray Davis, who -- along with Clinton -- congratulated Berkeley for its role in the Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society (CITRIS) and the Bioengineering, Biotechnology and Quantitative Biomedical Research Institute (QB3), two new UC-based centers for science and innovation.

Clinton spoke for a fact-filled 30 minutes about globalization’s positive and negative effects. “We’ve torn down the walls and spread information and technology around the world,” he said, speaking without notes or a TelePromp- Ter. “But half the people on earth were left out of this expansion. One billion go to bed hungry every night; 1.5 billion never get a clean glass of water.”

Such poverty is the root of current terrorist activity, according to Clinton. In a passage that set off waves of applause, he said, “I do not believe that a law enforcement and military strategy alone is enough to build a world that we want our children to live in. I don’t want the walls we’ve torn down to be substituted with barbed wire.” The solution, he continued, is to “spread the benefits and shrink the burdens” around the world.

Returning to his Stanford-parent joke, Clinton reminded the audience that focusing on our racial, religious, tribal, and ethnic differences, instead of our common humanity, would forever keep peace at bay.

After the speech Clinton sat down with journalism dean Orville Schell for a question-and-answer session about his view of the media and why the right wing detests him. He seemed relaxed and articulate.

When told that an overflow audience had watched a video simulcast next door in the Haas Pavilion, Clinton headed over to shake hands for another half-hour. Passed a basketball to sign, he went for a 20-foot free throw, missing on the first try -- but sinking the second, to the crowd’s delighted roar.

Full transcript of Bill Clinton's speech and additional information about the visit, including videos of speech can be found here.

FOREFRONT reports on activities in the College of Engineering at the University of California, Berkeley. It features developments of interest to the engineering and scientific communities and to alumni and friends of the College.

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