Ex-President Urges Public Role for Grads

The Associated Press
Friday, May 25, 2007; 6:58 PM

ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- Former President Clinton urged college graduates Friday to become involved as citizens in a world riven by inequality and instability, because "what you do matters."

"Citizens can have more power to do public good and solve public problems that ever before," Clinton told 3,800 graduates at Rochester Institute of Technology's spring commencement.

"Whatever you do, you must also be a citizen. You must find some way at home or around the world to deal with the inequality, the insecurity, the unsustainability of modern life. ... What you do matters."

In a 20-minute speech punctuated with humor, Clinton touched on the challenges of tackling terrorism, epidemic disease, climate change, the depletion of natural resources and the rising tide of immigrants seeking a better life in America.

"The fundamental problem is the population is growing in the world in places that can't support the population, so people who love their children or want to care for their parents have to go somewhere else to try to make a living," he said.

"And if they don't, there's going to be more wars and more upheaval and more explosions and all these trends are going to get worse."

Clinton cautioned the students that much of the world "is dominated by patterns of thought and action directly opposite to what you have come here to pay tribute to _ political and religious, even emotional fundamentalism, designed to divide rather than unite, to crush argument, to seize power rather than to empower."

South Africa's former president, Nelson Mandela, "was a free man because no one could make him hate or kill or react. He got to decide. And I hope more than anything else ... (you are) free to recognize the fundamental truth of the modern world: that what we have in common is more important than our interesting differences.

"You are only a free person when you recognize that every moment of every day, no matter what happens to you, no matter what is said to you, no matter what is done to you or your crowd, you still are free to decide how to respond."


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