Thursday, October 15, 2009

Listening to Former President Bill Clinton

This past Saturday, I had a chance to listen to former President Bill Clinton address the Pan IIT 2009 conference.I had heard a lot about President Clinton's abilities as a public speaker, but I was not expected to be left so much in awe.

President Clinton started by talking about globalization, and its relevance in todays economy. He discussed the merits of globalization, and the demerits of globalization. For example, with globalization, one can source product from anyplace in the world, wherever it is most efficient to produce those goods. We are hence increasingly interdependent. This also comes with increased risks of failure of the system when a few parts of it start failing. The recent recession is a good example.

Then President Clinton spoke about the kind of work he has been doing on a global scale. Taking into account that the crowd was a group of engineers, entrepreneurs, technologists, and business leaders, he discussed Entrepreneurship in emerging economies that he supports through the Clinton Foundation.

He told us a story of a group of Entrepreneurs in Haiti, who have created a profitable business, and simultaneously help alleviate the problem of deforestation in Haiti. Most of the wood in Haiti is used to make charcoal, which people use to cook food. In addition, Haiti has no trash collection system in the residential areas. These entrepreneurs started collecting paper from people, and saw dust from the furniture factories. They developed a very simple, mechanical way of rolling the paper mesh with sawdust to create these oval blocks, which could be used to run the stove for two meals a day. They are less than half the cost of wood charcoal, yet are made at a 50% profit for the entrepreneurs. We need people like these to solve the world's problems. President Clinton emphasized that he intends to solve problems not by charity, but by supporting such people.

There was one funny moment in the speech. Right in the middle, his phone rang. He said,' It must be Hillary. She is the only one who has this number.'

He then picked up the phone, told her that he was addressing 2000 people at that moment, and asked her if she wanted to say hi to her. He talked for another ten seconds, told her 'Good for you,' said bye and shut the phone, and said 'Hillary said Hi from Zurich!'

Overall the speech left me highly inspired about entrepreneurship, and the impact it can have on the world.


I would not be a true MBA student if I did not analyze the reasons why this speech was so powerful. If I look at the approach Chip and Dan Heath suggest to make ideas stick in people's minds, they suggest the approach of SUCCESs. The idea should be simple, unexpected, concrete, credible, emotional and have stories. The components that made this speech inspiring for me was that it was emotional, and it had statistics. President Clinton complemented statistics like 'x% of the world is malnourished' with emotional stories about people. You could relate to these people, you could visualize them, just like you, they had dreams, aspirations, hopes.

I hope I will get another chance to hear former President Clinton speak at sometime in the future.

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