Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Bill Clinton and Vaclav Havel

Today I went during lunch break to a discussion panel at Columbia University (which is about 100 feet north of Nasa) between former US and Czech presidents Bill Clinton and Vaclav Havel entitled The Challenges Of New Democracies. Clinton made a touching tribute to Vaclav Havel reminding people that along with Gandhi and Nelson Mandela, he had been the only person to radically change the course of a country in a non-violent way. The discussion topics between the two ex-presidents ranged from democracies around the world (differences between democracies and majoritarian republics, should every country be a democracy?), positive and negative interdependencies, the status of the US as #1 superpower as a "way overrated concept", Iraq (surprisingly, Clinton doesn't share the optimism of the current administration "we need to get people out of the killing business and back into the politics business"), the price of freedom and civil liberties, Hilary ("I can't say too much. I have a wife in the Senate, so whatever she says, I'm for"), post-communism and the after-presidency life where Clinton seems to really enjoy what he's achieving with his foundation.

Now Bill Clinton is one of my favorite person on the planet (a bit of a "clintonista" as my friend Jayson would put it) so it was a real treat to see him live for the first time (even more so after watching a conference press with W. this morning on CNN the differences between the two are even more striking, for one, one of them knows actually how to speak). And I couldn't help myself during the full hour wishing the 22nd Amendment (which limits every presidents to a maximum of two mandates) to be abolished. Bill seemed to somewhat share my views on that point ("Fortunately for you, there's the 22nd Amendment or else I think I could still be there if office!").

A video of the conference is now online on Columbia's website (RealPlayer video) and a podcast of the event will be available this week-end on iTunes.


Yzerfontein said...

Bill Clinton's kewl...never heard of Havel before your post - Nelson Mandela's one great man, but he wasn't non-violent - he was the head of the ANC's military arm.

Tony said...

Hey Yzerfontein
I guess what Clinton meant was that Mandela had more of an impact on changing the course of its country while he was in prison than before he got in (Mandela said that he took him the first 14 years of his life in prison to get rid off his rage).
And welcome around here!

Joel Reynolds said...

Hey Tony

Thanks for stopping by my blog, man. That's cool that you got to see Clinton. He comes up here to Canada sometimes, but it's usually for fundraisers where it's $500 or so bucks to hear him speak.
Take care

Tony said...

$500 to hear Clinton speak... I'm wondering what W.'s rate will be? W. is a good comedian though (most of the time in spite of himself). He could be the next Seinfeld. Or not.
Take care too

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