Former Presidentl Clinton urges volunteerism

February 14, 2009 5:50:27 AM PST
Former President Bill Clinton urged Americans on Friday to find creative solutions to poverty, violence and other global ills at a time when the economic downturn has taken a bite out of traditional charitable giving. "The work is still there to be done," Clinton told students gathered at the University of Texas. "Your potential to do this work is limitless."

Appearing on stage with actress Natalie Portman and other activists, Clinton was taking part in a series of events designed to highlight the importance of volunteerism and public service. Clinton said the current financial crisis was an example of the "downside of global interdependence."

The three-day conference is being put on by the Clinton Global Initiative, a nonprofit group founded by the former president. The event concludes Sunday, when Clinton will appear with actor Matthew McConaughey and UT students at an Austin community center.

During a speech that followed a town-hall format Friday evening, Clinton noted that losses on Wall Street have caused wealthy Americans to cut back on their charitable giving, including to his own William J. Clinton Foundation.

But he said ordinary Americans can make a real difference by helping clean the environment, increase energy efficiency, reduce poverty and enhance human rights.

He said 1,600 people, most of them college students, had made commitments to help solve global problems by focusing on small-scale community projects ranging from campus recycling programs to anti-poverty initiatives in desperately poor countries.

Clinton said the current economic meltdown has been a "very painful wake-up call" but did not lessen the need to solve vexing issues such as global warming.

"The earth doesn't know there's been a financial crisis," he said. "It's still warming at an unsustainable rate."

Clinton used a bit of colorful slang as he urged world leaders not to give up the fight against global warming for fear it will hurt the economy.

"We don't have any time to lose and we can't let the world 'wuss out' on this," he said.

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