Bill Clinton and the Common Good
- Kamran Mofid
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‘Common Good Reaffirmed: A Vision for America and the World’
The concept of the common good, an idea that winds through time from Aristotle to Saint Thomas Aquinas, to the U.S. Founding Fathers and, on the way, through a number of popes and many others was the theme of a conference organised by the Centre for American Progress, and hosted at Georgetown University on October 18, 2006.
John Podesta, President and CEO of the Centre, opened the event ‘Common Good Reaffirmed: A Vision for America and the World’ by noting that in today’s tumultuous landscape, revisiting this old yet powerful moral principle is important. The panel’s speakers developed and expanded the notion of the common good as a concept in contemporary politics and society that needs to be reinvigorated for the good of all people—both in America and beyond, Podesta noted.
The Conference’s keynote speech was delivered by President Bill Clinton. Speaking at his alma mater, under the banner of securing the “common good,” President Clinton reflected on his eight years in office, and delivered, what I can only describe as a very moving and inspiring speech on the common good, the philosophy, meaning and action.
As the Founder of the Globalisation for the Common Good Initiative, I am very pleased to share with you a summary of the speech and also a link to a video where you, too, can watch the entire lecture.President Bill Clinton on "Securing the Common Good"
"In both the civic and faith realms, a commitment to the common good means pursuing policies and community actions that benefit all individuals and balance self-interest with the needs of the entire society."
‘In his speech, President Bill Clinton reinforced the earlier observations of the panelists. Clinton began by noting that 15 years ago, when he was running for President, he gave a series of speeches which laid out his philosophy based on the common good—what he termed “The New Covenant.” Then Governor Clinton outlined the overarching principles which guided his philosophy: a commitment to mutual respect, equal opportunity, shared responsibility, and inclusive community.
‘President Clinton elaborated that the common good takes place when individuals of differing viewpoints engage in dialogue with one another. By arguing and espousing their views, they can then reevaluate in light of new evidence and opinions. Clinton called this process “creating a common good out of a dynamic center.”
‘The President cited his accomplishment of this with the Welfare Reform Act of 1996 that resulted from a successful exchange of ideas and even two presidential vetoes before being signed into law. Clinton emphasized the bedrock of such policymaking ten years later: “The relentless search for the common good—to devise policies that promote equal opportunity, shared responsibility, and inclusive community—is still relevant to the present day.”
‘In today’s increasingly ideological environment, President Clinton stated that much to America’s detriment, neither this process of an open exchange of ideas, nor any commitment to common good principles are evident. He cited several examples, such as a stagnant minimum wage amid five years of economic growth, cuts in college financial aid and after-school programs, and a skyrocketing budget deficit that future generations will have to pay. These failures also answer to Clinton’s ultimate test for the common good—leaving what you find in a better condition than you found it for all.
‘President Clinton concluded his keynote address by emphasizing the importance of individuals looking to one another’s similarities instead of differences. As long as we continue to try to engage with another, Clinton urged, the common good is still a viable outcome in policymaking. Both the panelists and President Clinton emphasized that rather than being a mushy, outdated concept, the common good holds great potential and promise for the sustainability of American politics and society.’
See the original source:
Watch President Clinton’s speech "Securing the Common Good" at Georgetown University, October 18, 2006