After his speech on the Saturday of the Annual Meeting, president Clinton responded to a few questions from Klaus Schwab, president of the World Economic Forum. Many of the Davos participants thought Clinton’s speech was a good one, but his final answer was the highlight of his visit. This is an unedited transcript of the president’s remarks.
Schwab Mr. President, to conclude our session, you have in front of you the 1,000 most influential business leaders. What would be your single, most important wish towards them, at this moment?
Clinton My most important wish is that the global business community could adopt a shared vision for the next 10 to 20 years about what you want the world to look like, and then go about trying to create it in ways that actually enhance your business, but do so in other people as well.
I think the factor about globalization that tends to be
under-appreciated is, it will only work if we understand it genuinely means interdependence. It means interdependence, which means we can, none of us who are fortunate can any longer help ourselves unless we are prepared to help our neighbors. And we need a more unifying, more inclusive vision. Once you know where you’re going, it’s a lot easier to decide what steps to take to get there. If you don’t know where you’re going, you can work like crazy and you would be walking in the wrong direction.
That’s why I think this forum is so important. You need to decide.
The business community needs to decide. You may not agree with anything I said up here today. But you have to decide whether you really agree that the WTO is not just the province for you and me and the trade experts. You have to decide whether you really agree that globalization is about more than markets alone. You have to decide whether you really agree that free markets, even in an age of free markets, you need confident, strong, efficient government. You have to decide whether you really agree that it would be a good thing to get the debt off these countries’ shoulders if you knew and could require that the money saved would go into educating children and not building weapons of destruction.
Because if you decide those things, you can influence not only the decisions of your own government, but how all these international bodies, including the WTO, work. So the reason I came all the way over here on precious little sleep, which probably undermined my ability to communicate today, is that collectively, you can change the world. And what you are doing here is a mirror image of what people are doing all over the world. This is a new network.
But don’t leave the little guys out. You know, I come from a little town in Arkansas. I was born in a town of 6,000 people, in a state that’s had an income just about half the national average. I’ve got a cousin who lives in Arkansas — he’s a small businessman, he works for a small business — who, two or three times a week, plays chess on the Internet with a guy in Australia.
Now, they’ve got to work out the times. How they do that, I don’t know. But the point I want to make to you is, he thinks he knows as much about his life and his interests and how he relates to the Internet and the world, as I do. He thinks he knows just as much about his interests as his President does, who happens to be his cousin.
So we need these networks. And you are in an unbelievably unique position. So my one wish for you — you might think I’d say China or this or that and the other; it’s nothing specific — develop a shared vision. When good people, with great energy, have shared vision, all the rest works out.
Thank you very much.