Clinton_bryant1I was deeply honored to have me and the work of Operation HOPE mentioned in this incredible speech by former U.S. President Bill Clinton; my friend, Operation HOPE’s partner, and one of the best president’s the U.S. has ever had.  Read the full text here.

PRESIDENT CLINTON: Thank you very much. Thank you. Josh, thank you for the introduction. I thank you, Madison Square Garden Entertainment, and Radio City Music Hall Speaker Series for having me here. And in advance, I want to thank my longtime friend, Jim Harmon, who is going to be the moderator here. I suppose in the spirit of full disclosure, I should just emphasize that he was the President and Chairman of the Export-Import Bank during my second term as President. Normally, it’s a good idea to be questioned by someone you have appointed to high office. But I don’t think he’ll take a dive.

I’d also like to join in paying my respects here to Tim Russert. His funeral and memorial service are being held tomorrow in Washington, D.C., but I think it’s worth pointing out that he was a great New Yorker and a particularly proud son of Buffalo. Some of you may be here from Western New York. It’s one thing that Hillary and I both always appreciated, that he was insufferable in his promotion of his hometown and his native state. I must say that, like so many other people in public life have noted, when you did an interview with him, you were always glad simply to have survived. We’ll all miss him, and I am personally grateful for the life he lived, and honored to be sharing this stage in the place where, as far as I know, he made his last public appearance in his native state.

Ladies and gentlemen, I want to talk tonight for a few moments and then leave as much time as we can for questions. A little bit on the topic here. The Speaker Series was supposed to be called "Minds That Move the World." It’s a little presumptuous for anybody to stand behind a microphone following that topic. It’s not as if I have the lever of Archimedes in my brain.

But I will say this: I think it is an important time for all of us to use our minds to figure out as much as we can about the world, about the way the world is working, what needs to be done today and tomorrow, what it means to be a citizen of the United States and a citizen of the world in the early 21st century. What does it require of us? Is it enough to go to work, pay our taxes, register, vote, and try to vote in a reasonably informed way? Is there more we can do to advance public service as private citizens? If so, what, and how do we do that?

Those are the kinds of questions that I have been asking myself almost daily since I left office, except only this brief interruption I took to try to advance the cause of my candidate. Otherwise, most of my life is spent trying to save lives and solve problems and help people see the future. And I have reached some conclusions that I hold even more firmly today than I did on the day I left office.

So let’s just begin with a few basic things. The fundamental nature of the 21st century world is its interdependence. We are tied together in ways that we have never been tied together before. There have been some periods in history where the world has been at least as trade-dependent as it is now; where as much of global GDP depended on national trade as it does today.

Around the turn of the last century it did. But never have there been such massive flows of money back and forth across national lines every day, over a trillion dollars a day. Never has there been so much investment across national lines. Never has there been so much travel. And, obviously, never has there been so much shared culture. And never has there been so much of a sense of both shared opportunities and shared peril.

Our interdependence can be positive or negative. We saw that when the SARS epidemic showed up first in Hong Kong. We now know it originated on Mainland China and next manifested itself in Toronto. We see it in the global spread of the AIDS epidemic, which I have a big involvement in today.

We see it in other ways, just in how we feel if we think something is going on in Tibet we don’t like, or if we’re worried about whether they can really have an honest runoff election in Zimbabwe, or when the Chinese courageously deal with the aftermath of their earthquake, so we are bound together, not for good or ill, for good and ill.

Interdependence simply means that divorce is not an option. So we have to make the most of a world that we are bound to share together and the most of a country that we are bound to share together.

If you look within our country, you see some amazing trends. We are clearly in some ways more open to people who are different from us than ever before. We just are ending a Democratic primary season where the survivors of a hard-fought contest were truly impressively qualified people, the only woman and the only African-American. So you see, that’s impressive. So we’re getting beyond a lot of the categories that used to hobble us.

On the other hand, there is an amazing new book out by a journalist who now lives in Texas, who himself happens to be a progressive Democrat named Bill Bishop, called The Big Sort, which says that the most troubling thing about American democracy is that we are more and more trying to live with people who think like we do.

In 1976, we had a close Presidential election between President Carter and President Ford. Only 20 percent of America’s counties went by more than a 20 percent majority for either one of them. We lived with people with whom we disagreed. We had debates. We had discussions. I remember that election very well.

In 2004, we had another close Presidential election between President Bush and Senator Kerry. But by then, 48.5 percent of America’s counties went by more than 20 percent for one or the other. Bishop has an amazing characterization of a development that I think was built in Southern California. It’s a gated community, and you turn right if you’re sort of a new-age Democrat, and you turn left if you’re a traditional-values Republican.

Interestingly enough, he says that the institutions which normally bring us together across lines that divide us — the civic clubs, the churches, which include diverse memberships and have interesting theological debates, and people who do things in the community — are strongest in the urban areas that have the weakest economy and weakest in the areas that have the strongest economies. Our sense of self-expression, which becomes empowered by our rising incomes has enabled us to simply withdraw from people with whom we disagree and don’t want to discuss anything, and makes us more impervious just to the facts.

I like this book. I recommend it to you. I’m not sure I agree with everything about it. But I mention it today to make the following point: if you believe we live in an interdependent world, and if you accept that the world presents us with several significant challenges, we cannot afford to be impervious to the facts, because politics and citizenship may be part poetry and part art and only occasionally science, but when you walk away from the prospect of an honest debate, you run the risk of making a serious mistake. I would argue to you that we are at a moment in time where we don’t have a lot of room for serious mistakes.

I say that to all of us, whatever our politics. I found when I was President that I only got to make the hard decisions. It was really frustrating. Somebody would always make the easy decisions for me and send me a one-page memo: "Every one of your advisers agrees w
ith this. Check on the bottom and sign if you do." Maybe three times in eight years I said, "No, I don’t think so."

On the other hand, the "we can’t make up our mind, what do you think?" decisions were legion. In those kinds of cases, you want people with listening skills and thinking skills who believe that the facts matter.

So I say that to ask you to look at the world we live in. There’s a lot of good in it. Otherwise, you couldn’t have afforded a ticket to come here tonight. You have a life which gives us the luxury of creating space in your mind and in your heart to think about these things and to imagine and to let your mind go over a wider landscape than way over 99 percent of the people who ever lived were permitted to think about in times past. But the modern world and this country are bedeviled by three very big challenges, the resolution of which will determine how our grandchildren will live.

The first is significant, persistent and, in the case of the United States, growing inequality. Inequality in incomes and employment, in education, health care, in life opportunities, and quality of life.

The second is instability. The uncertainties that come from interdependence. Could you be a terrorist target again? What about the spread of chemical or biological or nuclear materials? What about the prospect of avian influenza? Is our life unstable?

And finally, as nearly everyone recognizes now, the current arrangement, which has been good to most of us, is completely unsustainable because of global warming, which is going to aggravate all the other problems as we see it imposing burdens on food supplies, on water supplies, having more refugees moving around the world in destabilizing patterns.

If the world we live in is good in many ways but is burdened by inequality, instability, and unsustainability, how should we try to change it? We should try to make it a world of shared opportunities and shared responsibilities and a genuine sense of inclusive community, which includes all kinds of differences. Not just the differences of race and gender and age and religion and sexual orientation, but genuine, honest, intellectual difference, too. It’s almost like our gene pool will dry up if nobody is there to debate us. I think this is really important.

For America, it means that surely we have learned, if nothing else, from the experience of Iraq, of getting out of the Kyoto climate change treaty, of walking away from the Non-Proliferation Treaty, of walking away from the International Criminal Court, and lots of other things. No matter how much military power we have, our ability to make other people do things they don’t want to do is quite limited, and therefore we should be trying to build a world with more partners and fewer adversaries.

And finally, we should be trying to do that because there’s hardly a problem we have that goes beyond our own internal economic and social fabric that we can solve on our own. We can’t solve global warming on our own. China is now a bigger emitter of greenhouse gases than we are. We can’t combat international terrorism on our own. In fact, the single most successful strategy is intense, relentless, and virtually anonymous cooperation.

Well over 90 percent of the people who have been arrested for planning attacks on the United States, both since 9/11 and before, when I was in office, have been arrested by somebody else in some other country because of incredible cooperation between law enforcement, intelligence, and money-laundering people, people who work together who are the genuine heroes of this struggle to preserve civilization against nihilism, most of whom you will never know unless you happen to be related to one of them or whose family is caught up in one of the instances. They are the prototypical model of what works dealing with challenges today, because they work together. I think that’s the world we ought to be trying to build.

What does that mean we ought to try to do? First of all, in the United States, as we’re in this election year, we have to face the fact that we have become the country we are because we seem to be a nation of constant becoming, of endless possibility. After World War II, we became a model for the rest of the world in ways we had never been before because we built an enormous middle-class society that was flexible and entrepreneurial enough to always be changing, but had enough opportunity to reward work and family in a way that had never before been matched in the world.

Today, we have to face the fact that there are societies in the world who are much more successful than we are at being good middle-class societies because we’ve had the biggest increase in inequality in this country since the 1920s. In this decade, 90 percent of the benefits have gone to 10 percent of the owners at the top; 43 percent to the top one percent. We used to viciously attack dictatorships in Latin America 30 years ago for that kind of inequality. We have tolerated it here in a way that I think has been very damaging.

Part of it is that we’ve had a virtually jobless recovery, and it’s a chicken-egg thing. But you can’t raise incomes if you don’t create jobs. In this decade, in a country of 300 million people, we’ve only had five million new jobs. We’ve also seen the cost of health coverage double and coverage slimming down. We’ve seen the cost of college education go up by 75 percent and the average debt of a college graduate go up by 50 percent while family incomes, after inflation, are $1,000 lower today, on average, than they were the day I left office.

So you have this big inequality problem. It seems to me that that ought to be a major focus of all of our debates here. What’s the best way to deal with this? First, you have to have more jobs. Second, you have to solve the health care problems and you have to deal with education.

I can tell you that these last few months have been one of the most wonderful experiences of my life because I got to go, just from March onward, to approximately 300 communities in America. Separate communities, not counting where we did more than one deal, and to sit and listen to people talk about their lives, and to think that all these things are happening in my country.

I remember a woman came up to me in Indiana with a disabled child who was no longer an infant but was in sort of a wheelchair-like environment and seemed to have more of a neurological disorder. She told me, "My husband had a good trucking business and we made a good living and we could take care of our child. The fuel prices broke him, so he had to go to work as a contract driver for someone else. So he’s out driving now so we can eat. But obviously those people can’t cover our daughter. She’s got a pre-existing condition. Tell me what I’m supposed to do. Should we eat and risk her life? Or go on welfare so she can see a doctor?" She said, "Some people say what we should do is get a divorce so I can go on welfare and he can make sure we can eat. I thought this was a family values country."

I could give you 100 stories like this. I would go to places in America, all over the country, and I would always ask: "Raise your hand if you know someone without health insurance." I did this 300 times. Maybe twice, less than half the crowd raised their hand. Maybe twice. You cannot ask that question and get anyone to raise their hand in any other nation as wealthy as we are in the world, and yet we pay 50 percent more for health care than anyone else does.

So time doesn’t permit me to go through all the details of health care. Jim can ask a question. If you want to, we can talk more about it. But there are lots of fixes here that do not bring the house down, and we just have to decide whether we are willing to drive the American economy flat off the cliff in pursuit of social injustice. Because we do not have better health indicators than other countries. We are spending more for less and running the risk of wr
ecking our economy.

I’ll give you another example. I think we made a terrible mistake to withdraw from the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change. But 170 countries signed it. Approximately 15, give or take, were from the former Communist world. It was an easy deal for them because you had to cut your greenhouse gas emissions below the 1990 levels. Given when Communism collapsed and they had coal-based economies, it was a no-brainer. But for 155 countries, they had to make an effort to reduce their emissions below 1990 levels.

The biggest travesty was America withdrawing. Second biggest travesty? How many countries do you suppose are going to meet their targets out of the 155 that had to do it? Probably six. Everybody talks about America getting out. Hardly anybody talks about that. What is the relevance of that to you in an interdependent world and to America’s future? It is this: the six that are going to meet their targets are producing jobs, swelling the middle class, and reducing poverty because the best strategy to create jobs in a wealthy country is to move to a post-carbon future that has the jobs of tomorrow in it. It’s very important.

Look at tiny Denmark. They had a big reduction in greenhouse gas emissions for two reasons. Number one, they grew their economy 50 percent with zero increase in electricity, financed entirely by efficiency. Number two, they now generate 27 percent of their electricity from wind. Now everybody says when I say that, "Oh, come on, Bill. I’ve flown into the Copenhagen Airport and I’ve seen those beautiful windmills, but it’s a little country. What do you expect from us?" The Energy Department has a study that says enough wind blows from West Texas to the Canadian border, through North Dakota and Montana, even when the politicians aren’t talking, to electrify America. Now, that is not going to happen because it would cost a trillion dollars to redo the transmission. But we can do more.

Look at the United Kingdom. The United Kingdom is going to beat its Kyoto Protocol targets. They’re going to cross the threshold in 2010, two years early. They have a swelling middle class. No increase in inequality. Gordon Brown put out two reports as Chancellor of the Exchequer showing how many tens of thousands of jobs have been created because they decided to go for clean, independent energy and through energy efficiency. I say this to point out that sometimes doing what is right, whether covering everybody with health care or fighting climate change, turns out to be what is, practically, in our self interest in an interdependent world.

So I would say to all of you as you head into this season when your citizenship will be tested, you should be asking yourself how can we create jobs and raise incomes? How can we eliminate inequality in health care and education? How can we start growing together again? It turns out that doing the morally right thing makes the most economic sense, whether it’s fighting climate change or solving the health care conundrum in covering everyone.

If you look at the larger world, you see the problems that Americans have amplified exponentially. I’ll come back to the most immediate problem in a minute, because I saved it for last on purpose. That’s $4 gasoline.

But if you look at the larger world, you see these inequality problems, the instability problems, unsustainability problems. Roughly half the world is living on about $2 a day, three billion people in a world of six and a half billion people. A billion people live on less than $1. A billion people will go to bed hungry tonight. Twenty-five percent of all the deaths on Earth this year will come from AIDS, TB, malaria, and infections related to dirty water, cholera, dysentery, and diarrhea. Eighty percent of the people in the last category will be people five years or younger, 25 percent of all the deaths. Hardly anybody in America will die of any of that. We lose a few people to AIDS every year because either the impact of their medicine runs out or, for whatever reason, they don’t follow the regime. Otherwise, we don’t die of dirty water or malaria or tuberculosis anymore.

So you have this great inequality. There are over 130 million children in the world who never go to school, and many others who go without any sort of learning materials. In some of the poorest countries in the world, the poorest parents have to pay fees to go to school because there’s no government money to fund the education system. All of this is creating enormous numbers of problems in the world.

It’s not that people elsewhere don’t want to do better. They do. The current government in Kenya abolished school fees. Within two years, two million more kids went to school. Two million. They wanted to learn. Now, all of this is going to be complicated by climate change because all the studies show that the poorest countries in the world are going to be the hardest hit first by the worst consequences of global warming. This will be a travesty in Africa where now the whole economy is growing about five percent a year.

It is a real mistake for people to believe that all of Africa is somehow benighted and incapacitated. That is not true. There are any number of countries there that are making dramatic progress against significant odds and are growing significantly. But in order to help them, we need to examine what we can best do with our dollars.

We spent $600 billion in Iraq at about $120 billion a year now. For one-third of that, we could pay our nation’s share of meeting the Millennium Development Goals. Put all the kids in the world in school by 2015. That’s peanuts. To provide a decent health environment and life-saving medicines to deal with AIDS, TB, and malaria. To provide lifesaving clean water. To start microenterprise development funds. All these things are far cheaper and make you a lot more friends.

Let me just give you one example of that. Every year, you know, Pew and some others do research on how America is viewed in the rest of the world. Throughout all these ups and downs of the last few years, there have been two areas where America’s approval rating has stayed high. You should know this. There are others where it goes up or down, depending on our position on a given local issue. One is in Central and Eastern Europe and former Communist countries where whether they agree with us on Iraq or not is not nearly as important to them as that we wanted them to be free in the European Union and NATO. In other words, we were pulling for them. This is not rocket science. The way other people view us is largely how we view our own friends. They don’t have to agree with us, but we want them on our side.

The other place where America is really popular is a cluster of countries in Eastern and Southern Africa where we’re viewed largely through the prism of President Bush’s malaria and AIDS program, and Gates’s foundation, and my Foundation. A lot of these countries, by the way, have heavy Muslim populations and strongly disagree with our policy in Iraq. It’s just that it’s not as important as they want their children to live and have a future. They think we’re pulling for them, and that we care about them.

So what else, apart from what we do within America? I think it’s important that we look to the 21st century to making a world with more partners. To dealing with inequality and instability. Yes, we need to get back into the climate change business, but we also need to realize that for a relatively small amount of money we can make a huge number of friends simply by sending the signal that we are pulling for the rest of the world. We want them to share the future with us. I think that’s important.

I’ll give you one example of that. I went to Ghana in 1998 on the longest, really comprehensive, serious trip a President had ever taken in Africa at the time. We had the biggest crowd I ever gave a speech to. A million people. There were probably more than that, but we could count a million. It was amazing. Then in 2001, with the support of Repub
licans and Democrats and with the only trade agreement the labor movement ever supported, we passed something called the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act, which enabled us to buy more materials and products manufactured in Africa. It created unbelievable numbers of jobs all over Africa.

In 2001, I went back to Ghana as a private citizen. The then-President wanted to see me. We were doing a project together with my Foundation. After I finished, I went to a market and I went shopping, and I met probably 1,000 people, a long way from a million. Then I got back to the airport, and I was walking alone across the tarmac to a plane much smaller than Air Force One. This woman started screaming, "Don’t go. Don’t go." I turned around. This lady was running toward me waving something like crazy. I stopped and shook her hand. She said, "You know, because of you and that African Growth and Opportunity Act, I am one of 400 women who have the first jobs we’ve ever had with a regular paycheck, making shirts. Because of that, all of our children are in school." I said, "That’s really good." She said, "Yes, it is. So here’s your shirt." And I figured, you know, what the heck, I’m not President anymore. I took the loot.

So I took this shirt home, and I put it in an open shelf in my little closet. I look at it every single day I’m home. I literally can’t go into my closet and get my clothes for the day without looking at the shirt this woman gave me seven years ago now. Every time I see it, it reminds me that that woman is not mad at me or America. She knows she will never be as wealthy as we are. She just thinks we’re pulling for her. She doesn’t want her son to grow up and fight in an African tribal war. She wants him to get an education and have a good life and share the future.

I could give you lots of examples like that. But it is really important for us, in our preoccupation with America’s own difficulties now, not to imagine that we can somehow divorce ourselves from the larger world and walk away from it. Our answer is not in trying to deny the interdependence of the world, but trying to make it work for us, and adjusting both our policies toward other countries and our policies within America toward our own people to deal with the realities that are inescapable. So that’s sort of the political landscape.

Now, I’d like to make one other point before we start the questions. If there ever comes a time when everyone you vote for wins, and they do everything you think they ought to do, there will still be, for the foreseeable future, pretty dramatic gaps between where we are and where we ought to be on the inequality, instability, and unsustainability front, because no government has unlimited money, and because no government has unlimited power. Therefore it is incumbent on everyone to think about, in their own communities or their country or the larger world, whether there is something we should all be doing besides voting for people who we think will do what we want done, because there will be this gap, particularly now.

Look at the mess we’re in now. Nobody knows what the end of the home mortgage crisis will be. We have gone from a projected surplus and no problems with Social Security or Medicare to a budget that has added $4 trillion to the debt and imposed a $30,000 birth tax on every child born in America. We are riding around on tenterhooks because of the financial uncertainties within our own economy. I say that because I want you all to think about this in terms of your own experience.

I wrote a book about this last year in which I tried to argue that every one of us could do something over and above voting as a private citizen to advance the public good, that we could give time or money or skills, that we could empower others. It didn’t matter how limited our own time, money, or skills were. There were things we could do that would strengthen the fabric of our common life either in our own neighborhoods or across the world.

That’s what I’ve tried to do. You heard in the introduction that when I got out of office, I was really outraged to discover that not only were we not giving enough money to AIDS work, but that, essentially, almost no matter how much money we spent, the systems were so dysfunctional a lot of people were going to die unnecessarily. So we basically reorganized the market for medicine. That’s why, for a pittance of what other people spend, we now have 1.4 million people on lifesaving medicine. We changed the way medicine was bought. Even the generic AIDS drugs were essentially sold in a jewelry store-type market, almost like a small business. I’ve got to have a high profit margin because I have a low volume and payment is uncertain. You know, the wedding may get called off; the engagement ring may never be paid for. That’s really the way the market was. So we didn’t do much.

I got a bunch of countries to promise to give me money to make my word good, and we went to a grocery store-type model of selling AIDS medicine and delivering it. Low margin, very high volume, absolutely certain payment.

All of a sudden, for very limited funds, we were accounting for now about half the people on Earth who need it to get this medicine. It’s very important. Then we tried to do the same thing in a development project in Malawi and Rwanda with fertilizer and seeds, and we doubled, and in some cases, tripled, farm yields.

I noted with great pleasure, amongst all the sadness of the recent food riots, that they didn’t occur in the places where we had empowered local farmers to produce food for their own people.

These are things that don’t require a lot of money and that volunteers contribute to. I have 500 people working in this AIDS project today. A lot of them are young people who live on room and board. A lot are retired people. We pay their travel and room and board, and they just want to do this work.

But there are things like that to be done elsewhere. We’re doing climate change work now in ways that ordinary people can do. You may not have the capital to start producing or buying or deploying windmills or solar panels, but every community could be doing energy efficiency work much better than we’re doing it now.

I’ll give you an example. Seventy percent of America’s growth since the last fuel price spike has been funded through energy efficiency. But we have only scratched the surface of what we can do.

So we decided we’d try to get discount prices for energy efficiency equipment, like we did on AIDS drugs. In an afternoon, five banks contributed $5 billion in guarantees to fund this.

Now, here’s the bad news. That doubled the amount of money being spent in the entire world in cities for energy efficiency in buildings. I mean, a couple of square blocks of Manhattan are worth $5 billion. You should know, cities have two percent of the land and 75 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions. We know that virtually 100 percent of the buildings can be made between 20 and 50 percent more energy-efficient with investments that have a reasonable payout.

So anyway, there is lots of stuff to do. Mayor Bloomberg and I said we were going to work on all the public housing in New York. You know what its utility bill is? $500 million. We think when we get done it will be $350 million. Think about it. Reduce greenhouse gases. Give the utility back clean power. Put lots of people to work and train them to do jobs for which there will be a demand in the future. You pay the loan entirely through lower electric bills.

This is the sort of thing that can be done everywhere, in every community. A lot of you come from smaller communities around New York. Everybody can do it. Every school. Every government building. Every college building. I could keep you here until tomorrow morning talking about it. I won’t, thank goodness.

But if you want to do something that will really ensure that your grandchildren will have a decent world to live in, you might start by making sure that your
community is as energy-efficient as possible.

If you want to call our Foundation, we’ll show you how to do it without anybody coming up with one red cent from their operating budget.

These are the kinds of things I try to think about. But there are a lot of other things you can do. For example, there’s a group called Operation HOPE I work with founded by a man named John Hope Bryant. We worked to help people after Katrina qualify for all the tax benefits for which they were qualified. They also teach financial literacy in the schools.

He’s helping us try to figure out how to get 28 million of your fellow Americans, 28 million who have a regular paycheck and do not have a checking account, in the banking system. They spend hundreds and hundreds of dollars every year in alternate transactions.

Want to help people in Afghanistan? Go to a microbanker. You can pick somebody anywhere in the world and lend them as little as $25. You can pick the person, the project you’re going to fund, and you know when they pay you back, and what the consequences are. Over 90 percent of the people get paid back on time, and you can turn around and lend it again. It doesn’t matter what your salary is. You can feel like a big-time international banker. You’ll never have to worry about being accused of rigging markets.

It is impossible to have a perfect solution for all these problems. We’re a little behind the curve in America. We’ve lost some valuable years, and we’ve gotten ourselves in a financial hole.

Even if everything works out the way you hope it will politically, there will still be a gap between where we are and ought to be. The most important point I can make to you is in an interdependent world, the definition of "citizen" will include being a productive worker, an honest taxpayer, the best parent you can be if you’ve got a child, an informed voter, and someone who gives whatever you can give — time, money, or skills — to make the world a better place.

The last thing I would say is this: I love my life in politics. I loved being President. It was fun. Exciting. It was an honor to do it every day. But I’ve never done anything that was any more fun than what I’m doing now, because I get to see things in a personal way I never would have otherwise.

I’ll leave you with this one story. A couple of years ago, I was in a little orphanage in Cambodia where a Catholic order is keeping over 300 kids alive who were born HIV-positive. We give them the medicine. I got to hold a beautiful baby who was orphaned almost immediately at birth. His mother was very ill when he was born, and he found his way to the orphanage. I put that child as a frontispiece in my book on giving. So fast-forward. I come out with a book. I did a book signing in Southern California, and I’m signing away. A guy comes up to me who is a volunteer at the orphanage a half a world away. He gives me a t-shirt with a picture on it of all the kids, saying, "Thank You," to me for helping them. On the back is the picture of this kid, two years older, strong, healthy, alive, from certain death to hopeful life.

We can all do this, and it’s fun. It’s a lot more fun than worrying about whether you’re a little bit further ahead or a little bit further behind on whatever pole it is we’re all trying to climb. It’s a good thing to climb those poles, but it’s just not enough in an interdependent world.

Thank you, and God bless you.

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