Wednesday, February 24, 2010

A Speech to Remember

As I was walking up Bancroft St. this afternoon, I found my way blocked by some policemen. They were allowing nobody to cross the street behind Zellerbach Hall. After I waited for a few minutes, a motorcade turned into the street. Police cars at either end flanked a couple of SUVs. I looked into the silver one and saw...

President Bill Clinton!

As I expected.

You see, I was already on my way to Zellerbach to hear him speak about Global Citizenship.

Tickets were only available to UC Berkeley students, faculty, and staff, and were sold out (technically, they were free for students, but “freed out” doesn’t quite work) within 40 minutes of being offered online. At 7 am. They probably would have been gone even faster had the website been able to handle the traffic.

I, however, am fortunate enough to be one of some 400 students in the Global Poverty & Practice minor, so my ticket was guaranteed.

My ticket. Row F. Not bad, eh? A couple of my friends were lucky enough to be in the front rows, and they got to shake hands with him.

(Former) President Clinton spoke about the importance of the work non-governmental organizations do. He emphasized that while their success does not mean states and governments should shirk their responsibilities, the actions of citizens can have wide-ranging effects.

His main point, though, was that in this day and age, people around the world are not only interconnected, but interdependent.

The US subprime crisis had far-reaching effects – it led to other countries investigating their ledgers and finding discrepancies, Iceland collapsing, and unemployment rising in China.

Everything we do affects other people, no matter how localized the problem may seem to be. And the things they do affect us as well.

The world is not flat, whatever Thomas Friedman may say. So we need to help make the world more equal, because even if we are not altruistic enough to help the poor for their sake, we should do it for our own. But for those of us who have the leisure, let's do it for the nobler cause.


  1. Oh wow, I'm glad you liked his speech. I was up at 7am that day, trying to get a ticket to no avail. I will be sure to watch the recording of the speech soon.

    I agree that the world has become super interconnected and interdependent these days. Individually, our actions are powerful and can have far-reaching effects.

  2. Yeah, the ticket thing was quite a fiasco. I even heard an odd rumor that some CS student figured out that streaming music (e.g., from Pandora) when you tried to access the site somehow gave you priority? I'm not sure how possible that is though.