SARASOTA — Former President Bill Clinton on Wednesday called upon Americans to decide which of the most pressing problems here or elsewhere they would like most to solve, and figure out what they can do to help address it.
“Cynicism is a cop-out,” he said, adding it is also a “lousy excuse” for doing nothing.
During a lecture at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, Clinton, the nation’s 42nd president, cited such pressing global troubles as poverty, political instability, climate change as a result of global warming, and serious economic difficulties.
Clinton said after his political career ended in 2001, he thought he should give something back in exchange for a “totally improbable, wonderful life” he has enjoyed.
The former president, looking tanned and dapper in a crisp suit, said after he left office that he has tried to aid people all over the United States and in many other countries through non-governmental citizen action groups and foundations.
He urged his audience to join him in tackling some of the worst dilemmas of the modern age, and to think of what the long-term future holds for their children and grandchildren.
Historically, when Americans have a problem, they organize citizen action groups to fix it, Clinton said.
One’s political persuasion, Republican or Democrat, liberal or conservative, does not matter because all are interdependent and must work together to build a better society, he said.
In developed countries like the U.S., families are losing ground economically because of stagnant incomes, higher costs for college and skyrocketing costs of health insurance, Clinton said.
The U.S. spends more than other developed countries on health care, yet 46 million Americans still lack health insurance and many others who do have it do not feel secure, Clinton said.
Citing a joke he once heard that the U.S. invariably doing the right thing after exhausting every other alternative, he asked audience members to think in broader terms about what makes a good citizen — and to take an active part in making a better world.
The former president spoke to a sold-out house of almost 1,700 at the Van Wezel as part of an event sponsored by the Ringling College Library Association.