Bill Clinton Speaks at A-State

President Bill Clinton

by Chase Gage
Delta Digital News Service

JONESBORO – Former President Bill Clinton spoke to a near-capacity crowd at the Fowler Center Monday night. The man from Hope delivered a speech about hope for the future.

At a time when America is arguably more politically divided than ever, Clinton urged listeners to love one another like human beings, not opposition. He drove home the message of treating people like people and getting rid of resentment and anger towards others.

Arkansas State University Chancellor Kelly Damphousse introduced the 42nd president to approximately 950 people.

“If you live in resentment and anger, it disempowers you. You want to be empowered,” Clinton said. “You have to open your heart and ears before you can open new doors. You’ll waste a lot of your life living in resentment and anger.”

Clinton, founder of the Clinton Foundation, said the current political discourse does not lay the foundation for citizens to have the types of conversations they need to be having. Instead of discussing economic inequality and how to fix it, or the emergence of artificial intelligence (an advancement that may kill more jobs than it creates), people are more worried about tearing each other down.

He proposed Americans should be more concerned about their grandchildren’s future instead of winning the next fight on a television talk show. People in disagreement are still people, and sometimes that is forgotten.

Bryant Moy, a graduate political science student at Washington University in St. Louis, said before the event that he hoped to hear the former president speak on civil discourse in the United States. He got his wish.

“He talked about trying to treat people as people. You can still have these deeply held, strong beliefs and resentment, but you have to cooperate with one another. I loved it. It was exactly what I wanted,” Moy said after the event.

Kaylee Bauman, a medical student at New York Institute of Technology from Michigan, said the speech was refreshing.

“(Clinton) talked about bringing everyone together, and then seeing all the different types of people in the room, it was great. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I thought his overall message was something that could apply to everyone in the room. I found it fascinating,” Bauman said.

President Bill Clinton

President Bill Clinton spoke for about an hour Feb. 11 to more than 900 people in Riceland Hall at Arkansas State University as part of the “Riceland Distinguished Presentation Series.” The 42nd U.S. President previously spoke at A-State on three different occasions. (Photos by Ammar Taqi)

Monday night was not the first time Clinton spoke in Jonesboro. He recounted the story of when he spoke at the Arkansas State University Commencement ceremony in the late 1970s while he was Attorney General of the state. Due to rainy conditions, the ceremony was moved into the field house, where Clinton cut his speech off after only six minutes due to the hot, humid conditions. He most recently visited the university during the 2014 election cycle while campaigning on behalf of Mike Ross for the Arkansas gubernatorial election. He also dedicated the Dean B. Ellis Library in 1995 while in office as president.

Clinton told many stories that showcased examples of people treating others with love and respect. One such story involved fellow former president, George W. Bush and how the duo was able to put partisanship aside to work on creating a better world for the American people. Another story told of how Clinton’s grandfather would give food to those in need. The differences between the two examples demonstrated how respect for others can work on any level, in any situation.

“If you want America to lead the world to a better and more peaceful place, we have to think about empowering people, not putting them down,” Clinton said. “This is not a (partisan) issue. This is not a racial issue. This is a challenge.”

His message of a hopeful tomorrow rang throughout the hour-long speech. The future is up for grabs, for whoever wants to take it.

“We all have our resentments and regrets, but all we really have is tomorrow. You only become old when the weight of all your yesterdays outweigh your hope for tomorrow,” Clinton said. “There will never be a time free of problems. We have possibilities, but you have to face them and the problems they present not with resentment, but with an open hand, a listening ear and a loving heart.”

Listen to the full speech, courtesy of KASU’s Johnathan Reaves: