Former President Bill Clinton’s keynote speech Wednesday at Dreamforce 2010 in San Francisco was delayed because his flight came in late, so Salesforce.com Chairman and CEO Marc Benioff got entertainer Stevie Wonder on stage to talk about his life.
When president Clinton finally appeared almost an hour late at 5:50 p.m., Wonder introduced him.
“Well, I must say, after a lifetime as a mediocre musician, I never thought that Stevie Wonder would be the opening act for me,” Clinton said to audience laughter and applause.
“The great thing about being a former president is you can say whatever you want,” Clinton added. “The sad thing is that nobody cares any more.”
Clinton then turned more serious in tone, touching on the Wikileaks issue as further evidence of global instability. The disclosure of U.S. diplomatic correspondence by Wikileaks recently may have endangered the jobs and perhaps even the lives of people abroad who are working with the U.S., he said. The leaks also make it harder for the U.S. to establish and maintain international relations because world leaders and diplomats won’t be willing to speak to the U.S. when every conversation could be made public, Clinton warned.
Clinton also went on to talk about other topics, including politics and America’s future. America needs to renew itself and look ahead, he remarked.
Getting Down to Brass Tacks
America needs to overhaul its institutions and systems, Clinton said.
“We are fairly young as a country but our governmental and economic systems are fairly old,” Clinton pointed out. “When you get long in the tooth, the institutions that made you great become more interested in preserving their power than doing what they should. That means people get more interested in preserving their power than in being innovative.”
America needs to break out of that mindset, Clinton said.
“We need to reform our economic, energy, educational and health systems,” Clinton stated. “Whether we do or not determines whether we get back to dealing with the future.”
In the past decade, America fell from first to 12th in the world in the percentage of young adults with college degrees for the first time since World War II, Clinton remarked. This is because rising costs left many unable to finish their college educations. “This is a recipe for disaster,” Clinton said.
We waste money when it comes to healthcare, and our system is broken, he remarked. America spends 17.2 percent of its gross domestic product on health are while most of the developed nations, including Germany, Canada and the United Kingdom, spend an average of 10.5 percent, Clinton said. “It’s a chilling thing — we pay for procedures, almost everyone else pays for performance,” he stated.
There has been much debate over whether we should go to a national healthcare system like Canada, Germany and the U.K. Opponents of this idea contend these systems are socialist and will end up costing Americans more money than the current system does.
The inequality of income distribution in America has worsened, Clinton commented. “It’s worse now than Latin America, which we used to point to as being held back by income inequality,” he pointed out.
Back to the Future
America needs to be forward-thinking, Clinton stated.
That will, first of all, reduce the political partisanship that’s tearing us apart. “We live in a world where the way people get information is filtered through yesterday’s categories, and that leads to partisanship,” Clinton said. “We have got to be a tomorrow country.”
Clinton called for an end to partisanship. “I would like to break out of the left-right debate,” he stated. “I’d like to talk about the future.”
Being a tomorrow country includes investment in research and futuristic technologies such as green energy. “If we decide to get out of one of the future opportunities like the green revolution we should have discussions on it and look at what the competition is doing,” Clinton said. “Americans are loath to look at comparative statistics from other countries.”
Renewable energy tax credits are set to expire at the end of the year, and the tax deal President Obama hammered out with Congress doesn’t appear to include extensions for them.
Clinton also called for the renewal of a sense of community in America. “America should set aside enough capital in either the public or private sectors to invest in research,” he suggested. Those with a disproportionate share of wealth should give some of it back to the community, he added.