The New Bill Clinton

Ten years after leaving office, the vigorous, newly vegetarian former US president is devoting his time to convincing billionaires to care about the world's poor

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RD: While we’re talking about former presidents, George W. Bush picked up on what you had done to fight AIDS in Africa and got the US government to appropriate much more money for that cause. Then you get out of office and start CGI. It seems that it’s almost a friendly competition to do good in the world
BC: I strongly supported George W. Bush in his PEPFAR [President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief] programme – for AIDS and, increasingly, malaria – and I’m grateful for it. And then he was interested in working together in the aftermath of Haiti the way I had done after the tsunami with his father. I wish the congressional leaders and party leaders, while they are in office, could trust people the way the former presidents do.

RD: For those of us who were never president, what are the universal lessons here?
BC: Find something you care about where you can make a difference with whatever time or money you have. The older I get, the more I want to keep score: are people better off when I quit than when I started?

You talk about giving advice to kids coming out of university today. Would you tell them to enter politics, journalism or philanthropy?
BC: I would say, first of all, they have something that most human beings in history didn’t have: the ability to make such a choice. The vast majority of people who have lived since we first stood up on the African savannah thousands of years ago had no choice whatsoever in how to make a living. So it’s a great privilege to be able to choose what you do. So I would say, find something you care about: that’s most important. And then I would say, if you go into the military, teaching, inherently serving others – give it all you’ve got. And if you go into a profession you find interesting that has no connection to other people except indirectly, where you can acquire some financial success, then take some part of your life to do something for other people, because the world is interdependent, and it’s too unequal and too unstable.

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