SPEECH BY HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON AT FORUM
Spanish Hall, Prague Castle
Prague, Czech Republic
October 13, 1998
Thank you very much Mr. Hans van den Broek for your address and mainly for your
words on the crisis of complexity and what you said about the world governments.
It's very important for this forum. Now I should invite you, Mrs. Clinton,
to deliver your address.
HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON:
Thank you very much. I am honored to be here, and I want to thank President
Havel for convening another extraordinary gathering of Forum 2000. I am told
that during the Velvet Revolution, there were posters all over Prague with the
message: Havel to the Castle. Well, here we are, at the Castle,
with President Havel, thinking about the future that awaits all of us.
With poetry and prose, no one has done more to spread the message of freedom
and democracy throughout the world than President Havel. No one has worked harder
to nurture civil society and keep us focused on the real questions confronting
us as we end this century. He has reminded us that we live our lives not just
as consumers, but as citizens, as diverse and spiritual beings. And no one has
done more to make this castle a place for gatherings such as this, where ideas
can be discussed and where all of us can do more to ask ourselves the hard questions
about what kind of societies and world we expect to help build.
If we are gathered here today to talk about globalization, then I know there
are many different reactions to that rather long word. It is hard sometimes
even to define what one means by it. Certainly the increases in technology,
the changes in the economy help us to define what we think we mean by globalization.
We see the effects of rapid transportation and communication on our everyday
lives. We are more interconnected, and I would argue, more interdependent than
perhaps we have ever been. And as with any great sweeping change at any point
in history, there are those who are the great proponents of globalization, whether
they can define it or not, and those who are its great opponents, whether they
can define it or not. So conversations such as the one provoked by this forum
are extraordinarily important. We have to do more talking with one another across
the lines that too often divide us, so that we not only can define what is occurring
in our world today, but can summon up the will to take the forces that are at
work and try to move them in a direction that will better our common humanity.
It is particularly appropriate that we would do this on the brink of the millennium
and again I commend President Havel, and the organizers of Forum 2000, for choosing
this theme this year. My husband and I have also done a lot of thinking about
the millennium. We know it will come whether we think about it or not. Whether
we do anything about it or not. We know that it will be accompanied by great
parties on New Year's Eve, either 1999 or 2000 depending upon how it is
defined. We know that there will be entrepreneurs who will produce products
like millennium toothpaste or millennium candy, so we
understand that this event in history, which none of us will ever experience
again, has significance in and of itself. But then, what we give to that event
and how we further define it can perhaps help us tackle some of the issues that
you are dealing with at the forum.
We have adopted, in the United States, a theme for our discussions about the
millennium: honor the past, imagine the future. And if one thinks about those
two aspects of this theme, clearly, by honoring the past, one cannot shut ones
eyes to it. There were many references yesterday night in the cathedral to the
century that is just closing. We do ourselves no honor if we are not realistic
enough to acknowledge all of the great violence and disappointment that came
with this century as well as the great progress. So honoring the past requires
us to be honest about our past. To take a hard look about where we have been
and who we are in order better to live in the present and imagine a better future.
It gives us this opportunity now to think through what we would do if given
the chance to imagine a future where we could summon the political will, create
the institutions, and provide an opportunity for all individuals, in whatever
society, to feel that they were participating, and not only imagining, but creating
their own futures.
Now, there are pessimists among us as we end this century and the millennium
and there always have been at any point in history, but particularly at ends
of points of time. I went back and read a little bit about the first millennium's
end and about the panic terror where people supposedly gave away their possessions
and hid in churches here in Europe, waiting for the end of the world. There
was a rather controversial monk named, Raoul Glauger who lived in
the tenth century. He consistently warned his local citizenry of impending doom.
He had quite a checkered past- he was expelled from a number of monasteries,
but he always has an audience. There were always people who were ready to believe
the worst about themselves and about their futures. The earth did not implode
as he had predicted, but there were great pockets of fear as there always are
during times of transition.
So it is today, where the media is filled with doom and gloom and those who
are more concerned about painting a pessimistic future than determining how
together we can be realistic and optimistic. Even in that time so long ago,
there were changes occurring that, coming out of so-called Dark Ages, set the
tone for what was to come later. There was a spread of literacy, there was the
emergence of craftsmen's guilds, and new universities were begun and new
religious orders started. Not only in Europe, but in other parts of the world,
there was the beginning of ferment about what would be the future and how it
would be created.
Today, as we stand at the end of a very different time, we face some of the
same issues that go to the root of who we are as human beings and how we define
ourselves, our relations with one another, and whether or not we do summon the
will required to create a better future. There is much to be optimistic about
around the world and there is much to be pessimistic about. But clearly, whether
one is able to define globalization or not, it is here to stay. There is no
going back. There is no turning back the clock, doing away with computers, cutting
off the Internet, stopping jet travel, preventing the mass media from bringing
messages of different cultural ideas to remote parts of the world where they
have never been heard of or seen before.
So our challenge, given the reality of what we face, is to ask ourselves some
hard questions about how we will harness these forces of globalization, to deal
with the important issues that have always confronted humanity. Will the global
economy lead to growth and stability for nations? Will it lift up the lives
and opportunities for all citizens in the world or only those of us lucky enough
to be in this fabulous hall, who have the skills to deal with information and
the ability to navigate our way through this new world? Will it help us to humanize
ourselves and each other? Learn from one another? Or will it drive us further
apart into our own particular self-proclaimed identity as a way of protecting
ourselves from the challenges of the outside? Will it inspire a race to the
bottom of the economic ladder? Will we deplete our resources? Will we see our
unique cultures uprooted by a one-dimensional consumer culture? Our spirituality
replaced by an obsessive materialism? Will we retreat inward? Will the fear
of the unknown, which is always there when we think about the future, be transformed
into a plague of racism, nativism, and xenophobia?
If you stop for a minute and think about how popular culture imagines the future,
it is not a pretty sight. Most of the recent movies demonstrate our innate fear
about what is to come. Apocalyptic visions with only a few people left. Whole
cities that can only survive under domes because we have depleted our natural
resources. We don't even yet have a popular image of this new world that
we hope we can create.
So what vision of the future do we dare to imagine today? I hope that out of
conversations like this here and others that are going on throughout the world,
we will begin to realistically parse through globalization. In and of itself
it is neither a good nor an evil. In and of itself, we are offered tremendous
opportunities if only we take responsibility to address our problems. As with
every age, we have to take the world as we've been given it, not as we
wish it were, either with a too optimistic or pessimistic vision. And we have
to create conditions in which democratic governments become even more the norm
so that all citizens are given a stake in their future. In which free markets
benefit all people and not just a privileged few. And in which a vibrant civil
society fosters free and active citizens who will, after all, ultimately determine
our common human fate in the next millennium.
I often think of society with a very simple metaphor: as a three-legged stool.
One leg is the government, another is the economy, and the third is civil society.
Obviously we cannot sit on that stool if there is only one leg or two and we
cannot sit on it if one leg is longer or shorter than the other two. Rather,
we need three strong legs and a balance among them. They have to support each
other. And so if we think about the challenges that confront us, it is simple
for me to think about what needs to be done to make sure each of those three
institutions and structures are strong enough to support society in the years
We just heard a very eloquent description of some of the global governance
issues confronting us, so we are not only talking about government in terms
of national governments, but how we will create the institutions that will enable
us to have strong governmental effects on runaway economies, on global capitalism,
and other challenges. How we will redo international institutions like the IMF
and the World Bank, to create new financial architectures to replace what was
established more than fifty years ago at Bretton Woods. We know that government
is an essential part of strong societies that will enable people to live up
to their God-given potential, and yet in many parts of the world, particularly
in my own country in the last decade or so, we have had a continued assault
on government, as though the abolition or weakening of government would create
conditions that would better foster human enterprise and individual freedom.
That is, I believe, a mistaken notion that hopefully we will put to rest as
we end this century. We need strong and active governments, neither oppressive
nor weak, but able to deal with the problems of their citizens and able to create
public goods for their citizens to enjoy.
Similarly, with the economy, there are those who are great critics of the free
market and those who are great advocates. Either position probably overstates
both the capacity of the market and also the defects of it. We are working our
way toward trying to create in the global marketplace some of the rules and
regulations that will enable us to enjoy the benefits without suffering from
its excesses. There is a lot of work to do on that front. So there are many
tough questions posed by how we best structure and create governmental and economic
institutions that will prepare the way for a better future.
But I wish to just concentrate for a few minutes on the third leg of the stool.
That of civil society, of citizenship. The space that is filled between, on
the one hand, the government, and the economy on the other. It is really in
that space that life is lived. The economy is not an end in itself, but a means
to an end. To create enough wealth that people can enjoy what is best about
life. Government is not an end in itself, but a means to an end, to help us
order ourselves so that we have the freedom and individual space to pursue our
own interests. In that space of civil society exists families and religion,
voluntary associations, art sand culture, and learning, and most importantly,
the training ground of what creates citizens from people. Economic opportunity
can provide jobs and income, but economic activity alone cannot create the work
ethic that capitalism requires. It can create consumers and producers of goods,
but not citizens.
Governments alone cannot create citizens either. Only civil society can do
that important job. As I have traveled throughout the world, I have seen how
critical this component is, for us to imagine a kind of future that all of us
hope for. I have seen what happens to people whose spirits have been crushed,
whose economies have been driven into the ground, whose governments have oppressed
their spirits. And yet, I have seen how their determination and support for
one another can lift them up to rebuild their lives and families.
If one thinks about the challenges that confront us, we have to believe that
nurturing civil society, creating opportunities for people to become citizens
in today's world, is essential. There cannot be strong, sustainable, global
economy without a strong global society. And there are some simple rules about
how one creates citizens- simple to describe and very difficult to execute.
We have to invest in people; that means education and healthcare. It means creating
structures that value all people no matter whether they come from minority groups
defined by religion, race, or ethnicity. It means that we look at civil society
in any of our countries, as I look at mine, we can see clearly that we are not
investing sufficiently and where we must do more.
Whenever I see, as I saw just a few days ago in Bulgaria, and as I have seen
in so many parts of the world, great effort being made to make the transition
to full democratic, functioning government and strong economies. I see also
how there is great understanding growing up on the part of individuals and non-governmental
organizations, that they have to play their role as well. Much of the work that
was done successfully in the recent elections in Slovakia owes its roots to
the recognition by so many people there that non-governmental organizations
and citizen activity were a necessary precondition for true democratic values.
If we think about how better we need to invest in people, then clearly, we
have to reallocate the resources that are being produced by this global economy.
We cannot be satisfied unless we are doing more to better educate all children
and better prepare them to be citizens, to take their rightful places in their
societies. And it goes without saying, I hope in this room, that that means
educating both boys and girls to the fullest of their potential. It also means
investing in people's dream and hopes by giving them access to credit,
making it possible for them to create their own jobs and businesses. Not leaving
them out by the great sweep of the global economy that pays little attention
to what happens on the micro-level, but instead to create conditions in which
local markets can grow and flourish and more people can participate in them.
I have met literally thousands of people now around the world whose lives have
been transformed by something as simple as a loan of $15.00 or $50.00 or $100.00.
When my husband and I went to Uganda, we went with President and Mrs. Musevani
out to a small village where we met women who because they were given access
to credit had transformed their lives and in the process understood that they
were worth something, that they had dignity and value and because of that, they
understood better their citizenship responsibilities in a democracy. So within
the civil society, the creation of small enterprises that then can grow into
economic, viable ones is a way of giving people a stake in their own futures.
We also have to do more to ensure that people learn about their rights and
responsibilities as citizens and then be encouraged to exercise them. There
is good work going on around the world to help people understand how democracies
operate, but there is not yet enough of that. I commend the European Union for
its work in trying to create conditions in which people begin to learn, after
so many years of being shut out of their political systems, what it takes to
be a participant.
I have seen the effects of that in a very personal way. In Senegal, for example,
several years ago, I visited a village where they were learning about democracy
by performing skits for one another. Where people would stand up, make speeches,
and others in the village would listen and then critique the speeches; where
they would act out going to vote. Now that may sound very basic, but it gave
those people their first understanding of what it meant to be citizens of a
democracy. We have to take the abstract discussion of democracy, take the resolutions
that are passed to promote democracy, and distill it into practical everyday
advice and lessons about what that actually means in the everyday lives of people.
We also have to make it possible for us to learn how to treat our diversity
as a source of strength. We have seen in too many places around the world that
even with people elected as leaders in a democracy, old attitudes die hard.
And old hatreds in the guise of democratically-elected leaders are no better
for the citizens of a country and their neighbors than before democracy occurred.
If people don't feel that they have a stake in their own futures and if
the economy is working for them, if they don't have the space that civil
society provides to give them meaning, then they often turn (as you know so
well) against one another. They often begin to blame the other for whatever
it is that they find lacking in their own lives. Whether that other is a minority
group , religious, racial, or ethnic, we have seen the results of too much blaming
of the other.
And yet, when people defy history they can begin to rewrite it. Recently, I
spoke at a conference for women in Belfast. We brought together both Protestant
and Catholic women who were doubly burdened by the sectarian hatred that had
stalked their land for so long and by their status as women. They came together
to talk about how they could assume responsibility to help make the peace and
reconciliation they voted for real and lasting. They put aside old hatred because
new and better leadership had encouraged them to do so, and began to learn the
tools of citizenship that will permit them to make their voices heard.
We also have to ensure that we do all we can to protect our natural and cultural
treasures and we require citizens to do that. It often cannot be done from a
distance or again by passing a resolution in a faraway place, but citizens living
in our rainforests, on the edges of our savannas and our wetlands have to feel
that they too have a stake in protecting what is best about our earth. And when
it comes to cultural treasures we have to do more to be sure that we respect
and preserve our religions, our languages, our heritage, which do give us our
individual identity and which require us to learn to respect one another.
There is much to be done, but I am an optimist. I believe that we have great
opportunities ahead of us if only we will seize them. If only we will be prepared
to do what is necessary at the global level to deal with our economic and governance
issues, as hard as that may be. And then to do at the local level what it takes
to build civil society and citizens. Each of us in this room and so many countless
beyond this hall have the obligation to do what we can to promote positive political
and economic change and to nurture civil society wherever we are. There is much
that each of us can do individually. We know today that we have global neighbors,
but we haven't yet decided we want to build a global neighborhood. When
we care about a toxic sill or a terrorist attack, or an economic downturn, or
a civil war in another nation, it is not just because it may affect us down
the road, but because we recognize that in a very fundamental way, we are now
more interdependent than at any point in human history.
So that brings me back to where I started. When we imagine the future over
the next years and over the next century and millennium, what is it we will
see? In one of those popular movies I referred to that swept my country and
apparently made a lot of money around the world, called Independence Daythese
movies always seem to start with an attack on Washington D.C., which I don't
really know how to take, the blowing up of the White House and Capitol to begin
withthe ending of it required all of us to cooperate to fend off an alien
attack. And certainly in the theater in which I saw it, there were great cheers
as people of all different races and backgrounds and societies around the globe
came together as human beings to save ourselves.
We certainly don't expect it to come to that, but in a real way, unless
we do come together, we will not have the opportunities we deserve at the end
of this very difficult and troubled century. We have done a lot in the last
fifty years to create opportunity, to build democracy, to reach deep and to
give more people a chance to fulfill their God-given potential. But when it
is all said and done, globalization, however one defines it, can never be a
substitute for humanization. We have a lot of work to do if we are to make sure
that the global economy does not drive us apart from one another, drive some
down and lift others up, but instead is an engine that we harness to create
a strong global society in which all people are given a chance to imagine a
future better than their past.
Thank you very much.