Former President Bill Clinton encouraged the 41 members of the 10th graduating class of the Clinton School of Public Service to focus on what makes people alike rather than what makes them different.
Members of the graduating class included citizens of Benin, China, Kenya, and Venezuela.
Speaking outside in front of the school, which offers the nation’s first Master of Public Service degree, Clinton told the graduates that the future will be one of unprecedented peace and prosperity, though it will be preceded by a struggle to define what he called “the most interdependent age in human history.”
Clinton made only oblique references to the presidential campaign, where his wife, Hillary Clinton, appears headed to the Democratic presidential nomination. Referencing Republican Donald Trump’s campaign proposal to build a wall on the Mexican border, he said that walls along all of the nation’s borders, along with placing the entire Navy in the Gulf of Mexico and continuous patrols by Air Force planes, cannot contain social media. The couple that carried out the terrorist attack in San Bernadino, Calif., was radicalized that way.
Clinton said the era’s interdependence had positive and negative aspects. He said people in various walks of life feel threatened, including coal miners who believe people concerned about climate change don’t care about them; American Muslims who want to defeat terrorists; social conservatives threatened by what he called “breathtaking advances” in gay rights; and rural residents who use guns for hunting and protection and who believe gun safety advocates want to confiscate their firearms.
Clinton encouraged the graduates to focus on people’s common humanity. He said in the hills of central Africa, the response to a greeting on mountain passes between passing strangers translates as, “I see you.” He challenged the graduates to see others, including those they will pass on the street and those who will serve them a restaurant meal.
“If you can keep expanding the definition of ‘us’ and shrinking the definition of ‘them,’” he said, “if you can look at people with whom you disagree and see them as opponents but not enemies, people and not demons, opportunities for conversation and empowerment, not targets to hit in a shooting gallery, every day, we’ll get a little better at seeing people who we encounter physically or virtually. And every day, we will prove by the example of our lives that the things we share are even more important than our special, fascinating and profoundly significant differences.
“So do well; do good; have a good time doing it. Don’t forget the journey matters, and in the end, when it’s all said and done, what matters is whether you can say people are better off when you stopped than when you started.”
The Clinton School was established in 2004, and is part of the University of Arkansas system.
Following are the 2016 graduates.
Joyce Ajayi (Lagos, Nigeria)
Joyce Akidi (Pader, Uganda)
Nouroudine Alassane (Bassila, Benin)
Berkeley Anderson (Waco, Texas)
Kathryn Baxter (Glenside, Penn.)
Abigail Bi (Kunming, Yunnan Province, China)
Romerse Biddle (Magnolia, Ark.)
Katherine Brown (Canton, Mich.)
Jordan Butler (Jackson, Miss.)
Melvin Clayton (Pine Bluff, Ark.)
Amanda Cullen (Panama City, Fla.)
Andrew Forsman (Mobile, Ala.)
Sarah Fuchs (Hayward, Calif.)
Georgia Genoway (Maryland County, Liberia)
Jennifer Guzman (Hialeah, Fla.)
Anne Haley (Little Rock, Ark.)
Austin Hall (Hot Springs, Ark.)
Austin Harrison (Louisville, Miss.)
Caroline Head (Little Rock, Ark.)
Amber Jackson (Camden, Ark.)
LaKaija Johnson (Oklahoma City, Okla.)
Akaylah Jones (Little Rock, Ark.)
Henry Karlin (Brooklyn, NY)
Helen Grace King (Pine Bluff, Ark.)
Alex Lanis (Ada, Okla.)
Coby MacMaster (Sault Ste. Marie, Mich.)
Amanda Mathies (Newport Beach, Calif.)
Emma McAuley (Glenview, Ill.)
Molly Miller (Sand Springs, Okla.)
Ashley-Brooke Moses (Sharpsburg, Ga.)
Florence Mueni (Nairobi, Kenya)
Dariane Mull (Little Rock, Ark.)
Michelle Perez Ferrer (Maracaibo, Venezuela)
Shanell Ransom (Columbia, S.C.)
Maddy Salzman (Wellesley, Mass.)
Eddie Savala (Nairobi, Kenya)
Kat Short (Hot Springs, Ark.)
Dustin Smith (Jonesboro, Ark.)
Becky Twamley (Brainerd, Minn.)
Nathan Watson (Fayetteville, Ark.)
Nicholas Williams (Judsonia, Ark.)
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