By: Christopher Ruddy, as originally published in NewsMax
I took the plunge last weekend while at Barnes & Noble and bought Bill Clinton’s new book, “Giving: How Each of Us Can Change the World.”
Through the years, NewsMax and I have done our share of Clinton bashing. Would I find more fodder in this book?
Clinton’s “Giving” turned out to be quite a surprise, detailing from cover to cover his sojourn on behalf of his own and other charities.
As the title says, the former president offers examples of “how each of us can change the world.” Clinton’s focus, interestingly enough, is on individuals, private charities, corporations, churches — all working together to prevent disease and alleviate poverty, among other worthy causes.
Clinton notes that “one in four people who die this year will succumb to AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, or infections related to dirty water” — all preventable or treatable conditions. His thesis is that individuals can truly mitigate this misery and impact the world for the better.
He cites groups like Franklin Graham’s Samaritan’s Purse, which has “collected and distributed more than 50 million [care] boxes to boys and girls in more than 125 countries.”
Another group is Operation HOPE, led by a charismatic African-American John Hope Bryant. We have reported on Operation HOPE’s important work.
Bryant’s organization teaches kids in the inner city financial literacy — how to bank, borrow money, open small businesses, own homes — moving these young people from poverty to empowerment.
Clinton is sharing the great philosopher Maimonides’ wisdom: "Teach a man to fish and he’ll eat a lifetime." The former president writes that “one of the greatest gifts anyone can give is a useful skill.”
In Clinton’s vision, governments play a role, but it is certainly a secondary role.
Wait a minute. Let me check the cover again. Did Newt Gingrich write this book?
No, it is not my imagination. Bill Clinton did indeed pen this.
This book should not have come as a total surprise. Back in March of 2006, I wrote a featured column, "AIDS in Africa," in NewsMax magazine praising Bill Clinton and his Clinton Foundation for their humanitarian efforts on the forgotten crisis of AIDS in Africa.
Sometime after Clinton left the White House, he had his own road to Damascus. He gives hints of it in his introduction, admitting that for most of his life he did not make charity a priority, starting in college when “I became obsessed with politics and gave very little time or money to anything else.”
But after leaving the White House, Clinton said he found his new mission “doing what I could do to make sure people younger than me don’t die before their time and aren’t denied the chance to find their own fulfillment.”
He writes that the mission took on a new urgency in recent years. “After I narrowly escaped what could have been a fatal heart attack in 2004, I felt that way even more strongly.”
Republicans may be skeptical, but I feel Clinton’s efforts are genuine. I do not think former presidents take trips to Third World cities in Africa simply for publicity stunts. Clinton regularly travels to Africa for his foundation efforts.
In Africa and elsewhere, his foundation has also made remarkable progress on the ground, where it counts. By last year Clinton had signed up several major pharmaceutical companies to give the most effective anti-AIDS drugs to more than 50 less developed nations. Clinton has also sensibly backed wider AIDS testing in countries with high infection rates.
The former president has also praised President Bush, who has made dealing with the African AIDS crisis a national priority.
As a frequent Clinton critic, I find it remarkable what the former president has done since he left the White House.
For starters, he has completely remade what we know as the post-presidential period of a former president.
He has turned the post-presidency into a formidable bully pulpit. Indeed, Clinton, like Nelson Mandela, is one of the few former leaders alive today who remains a world leader.
Clinton has also been a valuable goodwill ambassador for America, a vital role especially in these troublesome times when we find that world opinion has turned so starkly against us.
And unlike Jimmy Carter, Clinton has refrained from using his post-presidential position to attack the United States, coddle with our enemies by endorsing sham elections like that in Venezuela and making Israel the bogeyman for all the world’s ills.
Is this a new Bill Clinton? A better Bill Clinton? A reformed Bill Clinton? I don’t know. I can’t read into a person’s soul.
But I do look at a person’s actions. “You will know them by their fruits.” Today, I’m glad about what Clinton is doing for charitable causes.
Nevertheless, we would both have serious policy differences — and a strikingly different opinion as to who our next president should be.
But as Americans, we need to find common ground and applaud good works — even from our political adversaries.
Editor’s Note: Get Bill Clinton’s book, “Giving: How Each of Us Can Change the World.” from Amazon — Go Here Now.