Former President Bill Clinton urged an audience of dignitaries and Michigan State University students to find ways to engage in public service during a Wednesday evening speech that touched on current events such as the terrorist killings in Paris.
“We are living in a world bursting with possibilities for both positive and negative,” said the 69-year-old Democrat. Those who sit on the sidelines and do nothing, he said, “contribute to the latter.”
Clinton was in Michigan to receive MSU’s first Spartan Statesmanship Award for Distinguished Public Service and was keynote speaker for a new Governor Jim Blanchard Public Service Forum.
Blanchard, U.S. ambassador to Canada under Clinton, and his wife made a $1 million gift to MSU to set up the forum. In a September announcement, Blanchard said the program honors top leaders in politics, diplomacy, public service and journalism.
“The goal of this lecture series is to provide generations of students, faculty and people in the MSU community with the opportunity to hear and learn from national and international political leaders and others,” he said in a statement released by the school.
MSU also has announced it is joining the Clinton Global Initiative University and will offer a minor in entrepreneurship and innovation.
Clinton was president from 1993 to 2001. Blanchard, an MSU graduate, served in Congress from 1975-83 and two terms as Michigan governor (1983-91).
In the U.S. House of Representatives, Blanchard is credited with helping pass legislation providing federal loan guarantees for Chrysler Corp. when the company was on the verge of bankruptcy in the late 1970s.
During the event, Clinton also mentioned that while in high school, he was offered a scholarship to attend Michigan State University. If he had accepted, he might have had to run against Blanchard for elective office!
For more information, see Gary Heinlein, “Bill Clinton talks about work post-presidency at MSU”, Detroit News, November 18, 2015.
R. J. Wolcott, “Bill Clinton honored at MSU amid protesters’ chants”, Detroit Free Press, November 18, 2015.