President Bill Clinton spoke to a packed house at Royce Hall on Wednesday night, delivering the keynote speech for the UCLA College of Letters and Science's inaugural Luskin Lecture for Thought Leadership.
President Clinton's speech touched on the link between solving the country's economic crisis and solving entrenched problems in developing countries around the globe. Both, he said, depend on turning our growing interconnectedness to our advantage. Between technology, trade, the global economy and other factors, globalization means we all affect each other more than ever, for good or ill, he explained.
"The good news, if you are an undergraduate or a graduate student at UCLA, is that you are coming into the full use of your powers at the most interdependent time in human history," he said. "Our futures are bound together ... You've got to build a world of positive interdependence. And you can do it."
Creating networks to ease inequality, instability and climate change can help reform what's wrong with American politics and build lasting infrastructure in the developing world, he said. Following his speech, President Clinton sat down for a wide-ranging question-and-answer session led by Judith L. Smith, dean and vice provost for undergraduate education in the College of Letters and Science.
The annual Luskin Lecture for Thought Leadership gives the College of Letters and Science an unprecedented opportunity to promote dialogue among scholars, leaders and the greater Los Angeles community on pressing national and global issues. The series was established in 2011 by longtime UCLA supporters Meyer and Renee Luskin as part of a transformative $100 million gift to UCLA. The Luskins' extraordinary service to UCLA was recognized at the event with UCLA's first Fiat Lux Award.
"President Clinton has been a decidedly thoughtful leader on the global stage: truly a global citizen and a global humanitarian," UCLA Chancellor Gene Block said in introducing the president. "But President Clinton knows that having good ideas isn't enough. Those ideas need to be translated into effective, concerted action on a global scale."
More than 1,800 people filled Royce Hall at the sold-out event, including 500 students who received free tickets. Another 371 students received complimentary tickets to view the speech via a live feed in Royce's neighboring Haines Hall. President Clinton told the audience his expectations for the country were optimistic — as long as Americans remember to persevere thoughtfully, not lash out, he said.
"Everything that's wrong with us is fixable," he said. "We're going to be fine. But denial is not an option. We have to embrace this moment, beat down the negative forces and build up the positive ones."