Cooperation is the key to success in an increasingly interdependent world, former president Bill Clinton said Wednesday at the Global Business Travel Association conference in Boston.
This spirit of compromise does not exist in American politics today, he told business travel professionals at the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center. Democrats and Republicans are bitterly divided, he said, and people are forced to choose one side or the other.
“Wherever I go in the world, where there’s creative cooperation, good things happen,” he said. “Where there’s constant conflict, good things don’t happen.”
Clinton steered mostly clear of politics, focusing his speech on his work around the world for the Clinton Foundation and the theme of working together for the greater good.
He joined in on the jokes about the association’s initials, GBTA, started by Monday’s keynote speaker, comedian Seth Meyers. Meyers told the crowd that former President George Bush was only speaking at the convention because Bush thought the initials stood for “George Bush is Totally Awesome.” Tuesday, Bush countered with “George Bush Travels Alot.”
Clinton’s translation? “That was actually the Republican slogan after I got elected president: Go Back to Arkansas.”
On a more serious note, he said, GBTA was also the topic of his talk: “Great Brains Take Action.”
Clinton recently returned from a 12-day trip to the United Kingdom, South Africa, Mozambique, Rwanda, Uganda, Cypress, and Greece. In South Africa, he helped that country’s former president, Nelson Mandela, celebrate his 94th birthday and opened a school library, where several children read to him, reminding him that intelligence is evenly distributed, he said, even if opportunity is not.
Clinton singled out MIT for the “best technology transfer program in the country,” saying that the university allows start-ups to use technology developed there for free in exchange for a piece of the company. He praised San Diego, where Republican and Democratic leaders worked together to make the city the center of genome research.
“Genetically, we are all 99.5 percent the same,” he said. “Don’t you think it’s interesting that we all spend 99.5 percent of our time thinking about the .5 percent of ourselves that’s different?”
The Global Business Travel Association did not respond to inquiries about how much they paid Clinton and Bush to speak.Katie Johnston can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.