Former President Clinton Speaks to Packed Riceland Hall
JONESBORO – Encouraging students to engage and leave their regrets and resentments behind and to learn and teach others through storytelling, former President Bill Clinton addressed a full house Monday evening in Riceland Hall at the Fowler Center on the Arkansas State University campus.
Clinton’s visit, referred as “An Evening with President Clinton,” was the first in the distinguished presentation series made available through the generosity of Riceland Foods. The event was free of charge and tickets were available on a first-come, first-served basis. Riceland Hall seats 960 people.
“I’m glad to be back in Jonesboro and at Arkansas State,” said the 42ndpresident of the United States. “I have a long and interesting history with ASU.” In addition to visiting the campus for various appearances, Clinton spoke at graduation ceremonies in the old field house as well as the inaugural one in the First National Bank Arena.
The Arkansas native from Hope addressed members of the community, A-State faculty and staff, but most of his speech was directed at university students.
“We are living in a time of truly stunning opportunities and deeply troubling challenges,” he said. “I can’t understand why we’re not seriously talking to one another about how to deal with both the problems and the opportunities. And, we’re spending all of our time, it seems to me, that we’re doing something rather different.”
Clinton used anecdotes from his life growing up in Arkansas as a teaching moment about exchanging information with others to learn about each other.
“I grew up in a different time. I think in many ways, this is one of the most interesting, exciting times in history. I think in ways, it is full of potential. But, technology, economics and other forces that play in our world today do make it more difficult to have public debate, conduct honest free elections and find a way to get along with each other after it’s over.”
Clinton, who served as attorney general and governor (twice) of Arkansas, told the audience that he “honestly believes if I hadn’t been born in Arkansas at the end of World War II without a television until I turned 10, I would never have become President.”
He believed that during that time, it was easier for people to keep their eyes and ears open when meeting people and exchanging stories because of the lack of educational opportunities.
“The main gift of every university is not just the gift of learning; it’s the gift of empowerment, of imagination, of the ability to think about options and make choices that cannot only change your life, but can change the whole life of a state, a nation and the world.
“You can only be old when the weight of all your yesterdays outweigh the hopes for tomorrow,” continued Clinton. “You can be young until your last day on earth, but you’ve got to be going in the right direction.”
He challenged the students to think about their dreams and how they hope to achieve them. He also asked them to think about the “wreckage in human history brought on by the illusions of people who think the most important thing was that they dominate over others and realize in an interdependent world what you build is more important than what you break.”
Clinton concluded by reminding everyone, “We all have our resentments. We all have our regrets. But, all we really have is tomorrow and we shouldn’t let our resentments and regrets twist our tomorrow away from the bright path that lies before us, if only we can walk it together.”