Montecitans Welcome Bill Clinton

BIG BILL COMES TO TOWN: Knowing it takes a village to change the world, many Montecito villagers showed up last week in downtown Santa Barbara to support the global-connection vision of neighbors Paul and Natalie Orfalea. It didn’t hurt that former President Bill Clinton was on hand to endorse the Orfalea cause, or that the event served to kick off UCSB’s Orfalea Center for Global and International Studies Master’s Program.

By From File

The unbeatable combination made the Arlington Theater the place to be last Friday afternoon. Tickets for the event sold out in two hours, filling all of the theater’s 2,018 seats. Among the Montecitans taking seats were Tom and Eileen Mielko, Wayne and Sharol Seimens, and Roger and Miny Willmon. Coral Casino members Harry and Judi Weisbart enjoyed premier loge seats not far from First District Supervisor Salud Carbajal and his wife Gina.

More than 600 seats were allotted to UCSB students and they led the cheer for President Clinton, resplendent in an apricot tie, and his host Paul Orfalea, the founder of Kinko’s. The statesman/businessman duo came on stage and settled into leather covered recliners for a chat. And while they joked about being semi-retired with “nowhere else to go,” it quickly became clear that they had a mission, which was to motivate the UCSB future leaders as well as the assemblage of Santa Barbara’s master-movers.

Direct Relief Executive Director Tom Tighe effortlessly facilitated the two-hour drawing-room style chat. The conversation was wide-ranging, covering AIDS, religion, politics, philanthropy, goal setting, business management, and non-government organizations. NGO’s, as they are tagged, are endorsed by both Orfalea and Clinton. The system allows non-profits to assist governments by filling in gaps and by creating strategically planned global policies aimed at conquering world poverty, health problems, and environmental abuse.

“Private citizens have more power to do more public good than ever before and those with the means and the time to do it have the advantage,” Clinton said. His remarks hit home to many in the audience, including super-philanthropists Sara Miller McCune, Baroness Leni Fe Bland, Anne Towbes, Deanna Dehlsen, and Nancy Koppelman, who commented later she liked the non-political and positive tone of Clinton’s comments.

“I’m a wide-eyed optimist and human history is on our side,“ Clinton told the crowd, when asked about changing the sometimes sad state of human affairs. “Just think how boring the world would be without challenges.”

Clinton added he believes environmental issues may hold the key to world unity: “The environment will be the common thread that pulls (mankind) together—it will remind us our common humanity is more important than our differences.”

The event ended with the Orfalea family convening on stage to commit $400,000 to the Clinton’s Global Initiative. The afternoon also served as the official inauguration for the new Orfalea Center at UCSB, which will be offering a master’s degree in global and international studies. Lending enthusiastic approval for the Orfaleas’ contributions and vision were Montecito residents Nina Terzian, Ann McWilliam, Jo and Andy Gifford, Tarik Kadri, and natural history filmmaker Michael deGruy.

Clinton departed quickly after the lecture, but 300-plus well wishers gathered at an invitation-only reception honoring the Orfaleas and UCSB students in the global studies program. Montecito guests were overheard describing the Clinton-Orfalea colloquy as “fascinating,” “enlightening,” “motivating,” and “invigorating.”

As she departed, one guest said she planned to swap her small town village vision for the more universal concerns of the global village. And, Supervisor Carbajal spoke for many when he offered this observation of the event: “It was exhilarating to be here today and be able to hear about the real challenges in a real world and then be able to leave with some real solutions!”

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