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Examiner
  • Clinton lauds Truman, describes interconnected world

  • In an increasingly interdependent world full of both crisis and opportunity, people around the globe must find ways to solve problems together, former President Bill Clinton said Wednesday.

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  • In an increasingly interdependent world full of both crisis and opportunity, people around the globe must find ways to solve problems together, former President Bill Clinton said Wednesday.
    “Truman was right. Being a good neighbor, more than ever before, is the best policy,” Clinton said in accepting the annual Harry S. Truman Good Neighbor Award.
    In a speech that ran more than 45 minutes, Clinton drew parallels between the challenges Truman faced in the years after World War II and the complex issues the world faces today.
    “It makes a difference if you see people not as statistics but as people,” he said.
    He pointed to positive trends around the globe: more girls going to school, more girls staying in school through college, fewer babies dying in their first year of life, the spread of technology
    “There’s a lot to be optimistic about,” he said.
    But there are problems, too: an unequal distribution of wealth, which can constrain growth; unsustainable patterns of energy use; climate change; and divisions along lines of identity although through a greater awareness of humanity’s commonalties “we keep widening the circle of ‘who is we?’ and shrinking the domain of ‘who is they?’”
    “We have to be much more careful with more people on Earth ... so we don’t wreck the planet,” Clinton said, but he hastened to add that none of those problems is unmanageable.
    The key, he said, is to involve as many people and as many viewpoints as possible to get the best answers.
    “And when you have complicated problems with a lot of moving parts you need many perspectives,” he said.
    Clinton repeatedly equated being a good neighbor with being a good citizen.
    “Being a good neighbor in the 21 century requires the ability to see all those complex conflicts in human terms,” he said.
    Truman succeeded because he stayed focus on, as Clinton put it, purpose, people, policy and politics.
    “And all of us have to do that,” Clinton said. “We can learn a lot from Harry Truman’s example.”
    Truman’s ability to communicate plainly and clearly served the country and the world well when, for example, he pushed the Marshall Plan, explaining to Americans why it was in the country’s interest to help rebuild Western Europe into a prosperous, secure model of freedom in opposition to communism in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe.
    “He had an understanding of people and concern for people. ... There was a human element to everything he did,” he said.
    Many of today’s challenges cross borders and require broad cooperation, he said.
    “We’ve got to be able to work around the corner, around the world. Harry Truman got that,” Clinton said.
    Page 2 of 2 - The Good Neighbor Award is given at a luncheon on or near Truman’s birthday, May 8. In 1953, when Truman had just left office, Kansas City area friends organized the first luncheon, and it became an annual event. The award was started in 1973, the year after Truman died. It has been given to dozens of senators, judges, journalists, military figures and others. Clinton is the second president to receive it. Gerald Ford was given the award in 1977.
    On Wednesday, the annual Philip Pistilli Silver Veterans Medal was given to Sgt. Logan Black, who served as a combat engineer in Iraq. He worked with Diego, a bomb-sniffing Labrador retriever, to find improvised explosive devices, saving many lives
    Black said if challenges in places such as Iraq are approached the right way, “we can and will have a lasting effect on these communities.”
    Clinton said Black downplayed the dangers he and Diego – who also was given an award – faced in Iraq.
    “He is a real hero,” the former president said, “and I’m grateful that you gave him the award.”
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