It’s a small World

Clinton and Orfalea Chat About NGOs and Globalization

by Martha Sadler

Clinton-%26-Orfalea.jpgThe scene outside the Arlington Theatre
Friday afternoon, where people lined up for former president Bill
Clinton’s appearance, was marked by lively passions, chief among
them a fierce nostalgia for the 42nd presidency. A town-square
atmosphere reigned: News-Press union activists reminded people to
cancel their subscriptions, while foreign policy activist Nancy
Tunnel passed out leaflets accusing Clinton of keeping mum about
plans to invade Iraq. Physician Dr. Samia Saad wore a blue sari and
a large sign around her neck that read, “I am from Darfur and I
exist.” She said that many Africans are naming their children
Clinton these days, in honor of the work he’s done there since
leaving office. Saad was at the event to hand-deliver a letter to
him about conditions in Sudan.

Clinton brought his star power to a fireside chat at the
Arlington with Kinko’s founder Paul Orfalea, who began the
multinational corporation now known as FedEx Kinko’s with a copy
machine on an Isla Vista sidewalk. UCSB, his alma mater, is now
inaugurating a global studies masters degree program bearing
Orfalea’s name. In addition, the Orfalea Family Foundation has made
a $400,000 commitment to the Clinton Global Initiative, a
nongovernmental organization (NGO) focusing on poverty, climate
change, health, and peace. Cheers kept coming from the large
contingent of UC students in the audience, including some who
camped out overnight in front of the university’s box office to get
one of the 600 tickets given away to students. Seated stage left on
two leather-bound chairs, Clinton and Orfalea, prompted by
questions from Direct Relief International’s Thomas Tighe,
discussed NGO management issues, such as what they are looking for
in an NGO worker. (“The light in their eyes,” said Clinton.
“Initiative, accountability, and candor,” said Orfalea.)

The former president ranged onto other topics, including Darfur.
He reiterated an idea he first ran up the flagpole in 1993, that
the UN should have a standing army — perhaps 50,000 troops on-call
and ready to respond to genocide. He later preached on the subject
of faith, quoting St. Paul from the first Epistle to the
Corinthians: “For now I see through a glass darkly, but then face
to face; how I know in part but then shall I know also as I am
known,” noting grumpily that this passage does not belong at
weddings because it is not about romantic love but charity. He
warned against a “religious heresy afoot in the world that all
faiths must acknowledge,” namely the attitude that any one of them
has an exclusive claim to truth. Along the same lines, Clinton
regretted that American political dialogue has been increasingly
dominated by ideology, giving a mini-lecture on the difference
between that and philosophy. Ideology is all attack and defense, he
said, whereas in philosophical discussions, “We learn from each
other because we’re different and we’re thinking.”

There was some consensus that Clinton must be touring to test
the waters for a possible presidential run by Hillary, though he
mentioned her only once, with reference to their having met
Bangladeshi Nobel Prize winner Muhammad Yunus. Clinton did say that
if he were campaigning for president this year, “I’d almost run on
nothing but energy.”

Despite some hope that Clinton would take questions from the
crowd, as he has done before, or that they all would just keep
chatting as they seemed inclined to do, Tighe practically pushed
them offstage after little more than an hour so that the theater
staff could prepare the auditorium for that afternoon’s movie.
Finally, after shaking hundreds of hands from the edge of the
stage, Clinton walked off holding in his hand the letter from Dr.
Saad.

The event was a fundraiser for UCSB’s Global and International
Studies program. To learn more about G&IS and/or to view the
entire Clinton/Orfalea discussion online in streaming video, visit
www .global.ucsb.edu.

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