Long winding lines marked the wait for President Bill Clinton at The University of Texas-Pan American on Oct. 22. He spoke at the Fine Arts Auditorium about pressing issues facing the world and how his Clinton Global Initiative is set to help.
More than 1,000 people from UTPA and the community witnessed his visit and listened to Clinton encourage change for a better world through education, community service and sustainability efforts.
"I am delighted to be here at UTPA and there is nothing I would rather do than be here tonight and have the opportunity to speak to all of you, particularly those who are students," Clinton said. "I like to come to colleges and universities to ask young people to think clearly, have a clear view of the world and its challenges so you can learn what you can do."
Clinton touched on many issues such as the world's fundamental character of interdependence and its profound negative forces of inequality, instability, and unsustainability. He addressed examples that many could identify with, such as diseases and death caused by lack of resources, instability of finances, the spread of swine flu and security issues and the unsustainable way energy is used.
"This is how I view the world," Clinton said. "But there needs to be framework and the answer is first having the right approach and be communitarian to simply realize that we are in this together, we go up and down together and we need to create a world of shared benefits and shared responsibilities so that everyone plays to win."
Among his discussion, he stated that the United States must be more competitive in education with decreased dropout rates of high school students and higher performance rates. The dropout rate comes from students needing to work to help families financially, he said. He would like to see high schools develope more like colleges so that students can work while pursuing their education.
He also said better health care is needed and more jobs must be produced. He focused on encouraging zero emissions campuses and how preserving energy can create twice as many jobs by building efficiency in creating and running solar panels and windmills.
"We have to get serious about energy," Clinton stressed.
Clinton's visit was not primarily to state the issues, but to discuss solutions and the goals of his foundation and how students and the community can join forces to help advance the public good.
"Citizens have never had more power than they do now to make a difference," Clinton said. "We all have a role."
In 2007, to build upon his Clinton Global Initiative, the former president created Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U) to bring together and engage the next generation of leaders to take action on global challenges. Since its inception young leaders have taken action in solving world challenges by creating commitments and working toward their goal.
Clinton also took the time to recognize two UTPA students who have created commitments to action. Christopher Ramirez in 2008 committed to conduct a program for 15 low-income children in the Rio Grande Valley and introduce them to making eco-friendly, sustainable works of art from natural and recyclable materials. Nadia Thomas Robledo made a commitment to sell photography and handmade crafts and used the money to donate to Mujeres Unidas, the Rio Grande Valley Food Bank and other nonprofit organizations for supplies.
"The world is hungry for solutions, so think about this: What can you do," Clinton said.
As Clinton wrapped up his speech for the night applause roared through the auditorium as people, like UTPA freshman Maggie Rodriguez, had been inspired to work toward a cause.
"He really touched my heart. I was amazed how his speech opened my eyes," Rodriguez said. "He inspired me to serve the community and the world to make a difference."
Others like, Marianella Franklin, director for sustainability programs at UTPA, believed that his speech had a great impact for the University.
"I feel very honored and privileged to have had President Clinton come speak to our students, especially at a time when UTPA is beginning its journey and commitment in implementing sustainability measures," Franklin said. "His examples clearly encouraged students to follow in the footsteps of world leaders, in taking action on global challenges."
Before exiting the stage, Clinton left the audience with one final thought.
"I think this generation of young people will live in the most exciting and prosperous time in U.S. history," Clinton said. "If you just keep in mind that we are trying to build up the positive forces and beat down the negative forces of our shared interdependence, you are going to be just fine."