Bill Clinton on Generosity

There's no question that President Clinton has always been a generous man. But it wasn't until he underwent a quadruple bypass operation in 2004 that he fully understood his true mission. "Surviving my heart surgery filled me with gratitude and made me determined to do even more, to give more people the chance to live fulfilling lives," he says. After recovering, he returned to work at his philanthropic William J. Clinton Foundation with a new intensity. This past fall, he released the book "Giving" and launched mycommitment.org in an effort to inspire more people to help make a difference.

B+S: There's a prevailing belief that if you can't donate a lot of money, you can't make an impact. How do you respond to that?
Clinton: It isn't true. You can make a microcredit loan to a person in another country for as little as $25 through kiva.org. You can give small amounts to everything from Katrina relief to political campaigns, which, when combined with donations from others, really amount to more money in total than wealthy people giving to the same causes.

How do you quell concerns that the money people donate isn't going to the right place or cause?
With a little research, you can find a place whose mission you believe in, with a proven track record of accountability and results; I mention some of them in my book. Many organizations allow you to track where your donation goes and see how your contribution is making a difference.

Who has been your inspiration when it comes to helping others?
All the people I've met along the way, from Nelson Mandela and Bill and Melinda Gates to people of modest means who do so much. For example, there's a group of teenagers in Cincinnati who decided to adopt AIDS orphans in Africa. They funded a school and changed the whole structure of these children's education. The teens didn't have money, but they went out and raised enough to help.

If you had one piece of advice to give to the world as it relates to helping others, what would it be?
We live in an interdependent world with many benefits, but it is unequal, unstable, and unsustainable. Even good government and a strong economy can't solve all the problems. Citizen action is also essential, and everyone can give something that will make a difference. All you have to do is try. You'll see that it's not as hard -- and it's much more fulfilling -- than you might have thought.

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Comments (4)

  • bellamaci 25 Mar, 2013

    Here's a man simply talking about great things to do to help humanity in any way possible, why does there always have to be some angry, bitter, lost person writing comments that serve no purpose, other than to demean a perfectly sweet and profound idea, that will ultimately benefit all ?!!! To you, I say, move along and let us that care, help each other to still make this world a little better for somebody somewhere!!!!! Go get 'em Mr.Clinton !!!! More power to you, sir !!!!!

  • scrapofnature 19 Mar, 2008

    There is no mention of politics in this article. The ideas expressed here are clear. We all should, and can, do our part to change the world. To drag along our various histories, as egregious as they might be, is like toting a childhood blankie along. We are in no need of the kind of dubious protection from the present that past mistakes can afford us. In other words, darling1100, get over it.

  • schaef5853 16 Mar, 2008

    I love to see President Clinton in articles. We need more leaders like him echoing the sentiments expressed in this article.

  • darling1100 27 Feb, 2008

    i would like to leave politics and especially clinton out of a body and soul article.
    didn't anyone research his background? not a moral person at all

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