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Bill Clinton. The Struggle for the Soul of the 21st Century.
Bill Clinton. The Struggle for the Soul of the 21st Century..

I"m delighted to be here, delighted to be part of this distinguished lecture series at a time when every American is especially grateful for our long friendship with the United Kingdom; one that we see manifest now in the partnership that President Bush and Tony Blair have demonstrated in the fight against Afghanistan; one that touched every American heart when the Queen instructed her band to play the American national anthem in the grounds of Buckingham Palace the day after September 11th. One that I came to appreciate deeply when we worked together for peace for Northern Ireland and the Balkans. Lord Keynes once said how difficult it is for nations to understand one another, even when they had the advantage of a common language; "everyone talks about international co-operation, but how little of pride, of temper, or of habit." Tonight I want to talk a little bit about the prospects for international co-operation, and the problems of pride and temper and habit standing in the way, knowing that co-operation is the living legacy of Richard Dimbleby and the continuing mission of the BBC. In the poetic words of its motto "nation shall speak peace unto nation". The BBC first spoke to another nation in an experimental broadcast to the United States in 1923. At the time it was questionable that we spoke the same language, it took a team of translators a week to figure out that "bangers and mash" were not some veiled British threat. By the end of the Second World War, the BBC was broadcasting globally in more than forty languages, setting the standard for the kind of international reporting we see down to the present day in Afghanistan.
It was exactly a year ago today, near the end of my tenure as President, on my final trip overseas, that I went to Warwick University with Tony Blair to deliver a speech. As Mr. Dimbleby said just a few moments ago, none of us at that time could have foreseen the exact difficulties of this time, but what many of us could see even then and what Prime Minister Blair and I talked about, was a larger battle brewing, one that made it clear to us, at least, that we could no longer delude ourselves that the harsh realities a world away are without real consequence for our own people.
On that day a year ago, I said "we have seen how abject poverty accelerates conflict, how it creates recruits for terrorists and those who incite ethnic and religious hatred, how it fuels a violent rejection of the economic and social order on which our future depends". The world has now witnessed a tragic, graphic illustration of that new reality, one that, as Mr. Dimbleby implied, has made a lot of people rethink their rosy projections for this new century. I come here to tell you that on balance, I remain quite optimistic. I am absolutely confident that we have the knowledge and the means to make the twenty first century the most peaceful, prosperous, interesting time in all human history. The question is whether we have the wisdom and the will.
The terrorists who struck the Pentagon and the World Trade Centre believe they were attacking symbols of corrupt power and materialism. My family and I have a different view of that, I was Commander-in-Chief of the people who worked at the Pentagon. My wife represents the people of New York in the Senate, I knew people who were on those airplanes. My daughter was in lower Manhattan. I met one of her friends who lost her fiance. I talked to victims who lost their loved ones who were Jews and Christians and Hindus and Muslims, who came from every continent, including over 250 from the United Kingdom. I talked to children in schools who lost their school buildings on September 11th in lower Manhattan, whose parents come from over eighty different national racial and ethnic groups. To me, all these victims represent the world I worked very hard for eight years to build, a world of expanding freedom, opportunity and citizen responsibility, a world of growth in diversity and in the bonds of community. The terrorists who killed all these people, they thought they had the truth and because they had the whole truth, anyone who didn"t share it, was a legitimate target. They thought that the differences they have with us, political and religious, were all that mattered and served to make all their targets less than human. Most of us believe that our differences are important and make our lives interesting but that our common humanity matters more. The clash between these two views over this simple question more than any other single issue, will define the shape and the soul of this new century.


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Bill Clinton. The Struggle for the Soul of the 21st Century.

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Bill Clinton. The Struggle for the Soul of the 21st Century.


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