Bill Clinton’s comeback for business

Bill Clinton’s comeback for business

I hope it happens to other people, too. I would worry if it doesn’t. I mean that feeling of a mental gap when you come across things that you have written some time ago. When you find it difficult to recognize your own writing, when you cannot remember the state of your mind, your feelings, the mental process that led you to write whatever you did.

It was that sort of mental gap that I experienced when searching for references on Bill Clinton and his recent visits to our part of the world. The reason for my interest on the 42nd American president was his visit last weekend to Nicosia and Athens. And the reason I felt alienated with myself was that during my search, I came across my article in this newspaper about Clinton’s last visit to Turkey. It was only two years ago, in October 2010, when he spoke at the Santral Campus of Istanbul Bilgi University as soon as he took up the position of the honorary chancellor of Laureate International Universities, to which Bilgi belongs to. 

I was among the 500 or so members of the audience at Clinton’s speech in the presence of Turkish EU Minister Egemen Bağış and, like many others, I was enchanted by his charismatic performance. My enchantment was obvious in my commentary then and it still holds to date. However, the amnesiac gap refers to the content of his speech. I am reading my own words: “His speech was about the future and the problems of our planet in the 21st century. Ideas and concepts sprang out of this core concept that all nations, rich or poor, similar of dissimilar, are dependent on each other and the world can only be sustained if its resources are managed properly, if there is less inequality and more understanding, knowledge and tolerance.” 

Memory is a funny thing. Events that happened recently may seem as having taken place a very long time ago or even not all. I think the reason I pushed Clinton’s words into some dark corner of my mind had to do with what happened after that speech and how many of his key concepts outlined then have since been challenged by ugly realities.

Under the same capacity as an honorary chancellor, Clinton spoke last Saturday at the campus of the European University Cyprus which belongs to the Laureate Group as well. Again he exercised his charisma in delivering a wide-ranging speech in which he talked about global warming, renewable energy sources and more. But two years after his speech in Istanbul, an unprecedented economic crisis has changed life in most countries, including Cyprus and particularly Greece. Speaking in Cyprus, Clinton referred to the crisis and apologized “to all of you because it all started in the United States, went on to Ireland and the U.K. and then spread across the world” as he spoke again about inequalities while also claiming that it is all about “finding the correct formula.” In an interesting comment, he said that “if there wasn’t instability, the world would not change over the years, but if there was too much, such as in Greece and consequently in Cyprus, ‘things shut down, they freeze up.’”

This time he talked about a new model of growth that the developed world needs to find; instead of tolerance, he said that “the future belongs to those who choose creative cooperation over conflict.” He did not talk about the Cyprus issue but he did call the Greek Cypriots “lucky” for the discovery of natural gas reserves in their exclusive economic zone and advised them to make “good use” of it. 

As this column was being written, Clinton was arriving in Athens and had met with Prime Minister Antonis Samaras. He was accompanied by prominent Greek-American businessmen on a mission to set up a multi-million dollar fund to help the ailing Greek economy. He was to deliver a speech to support the initiatives and he was to have a meeting with key ministers before departing from Greece. Investment opportunities under a “right formula” were to be discussed at a moment when the Greek government is ready to grasp at any chance to kick-start the economy. 

Against the backdrop of a world economic crisis, our area has become the focus of a major geopolitical change where energy resources play an all important role. As Clinton says, it is all about finding the right formula, from conflict to “creative cooperation.”