Charles Nailen/The Hoya Former President Clinton speaks to Georgetown students and youth conference delegates in Gaston Hall on Tuesday.

Amid cheers of “four more years” and overwhelming applause, Georgetown alumnus and former President William Jefferson Clinton (SFS ’68) once again returned home to deliver a speech in Gaston Hall Tuesday afternoon. In addition to encouraging greater youth participation in national affairs, Clinton also railed against the Bush administration’s recent tax cuts.

“I’m sort of like the prodigal son that keeps coming home,” he said.

Clinton’s address was the keynote speech in the first annual William J. Clinton Presidential Foundation Young Adult Symposium. Conference participants, including high school and university-aged students, focused on the four themes of criminal justice, education, health and voting and civic involvement.

After four student representatives spoke about the conclusions and recommendations drawn during the day’s sessions, Clinton took the podium. He commended the success of the student delegates and acknowledged that the chance to meet with young people “from all walks of America” was one of the greatest rewards of his presidency.

Clinton’s focus remained on encouraging the nation’s youth to effect change in their lives and actively participate in the creation of a better world. “Figure out the basic outlines of the world in which you live. What would you like it to be like and what’s your strategy to get from where we are to where we want to go,” he commanded the attentive crowd.

Clinton’s proposed solution for youth social and political disenchantment was increased attendance at the polls. The expansion of the active electorate to include the younger generation was vital in making changes in policy such as President George W. Bush’s latest tax cuts. Although he acknowledged that a short-term tax cut may have been necessary in light of the post-Sept. 11 economy, he did not hesitate in strongly criticizing President George W. Bush’s long term tax cuts.

Clinton claimed that reducing taxes for the richest part of the population would do nothing to help the national economy. “Let’s see if they [the population qualifying for tax cuts] can buy enough Mercedes to get this economy going,” Clinton said in a strong tongue-and-cheek comment.

While the tax cut served as a sounding board, Clinton’s message was that voting should be used as the primary tool to correct any and all national ills.

“We wouldn’t have these policies if people under 30 voted in the same percentages as people over 55,” he said.

Clinton stressed that it was necessary to make voting easier and more accessible, through programs such as mock elections in elementary school. Instilling in children the importance of voting is the key to ensuring they go to the polls, he said. He also recommended using this tactic to increase public service among the youth.

Clinton also played on the theme of the increased interdependence of the world. “The number one fact of the world you live in is interdependence – we are exposed to each other more than ever before and we can not escape each other,” he said.

He attributed the tragedy of Sept. 11 to the effects of interdependence and maintained that people cannot settle for a world where their lives will be more uncertain at best and “miserable and deadly” at worst. Instead, he proposed the solution to be a diversified but integrated community with “simple values that accommodate any religious faith, that still makes America home to people all over the world.”

Playing off the student delegates’ recommendations, Clinton also advocated for greater accessibility to higher education, an expansion of children’s health care and a reform of the criminal justice system to gap the disparity between crime and income.

Several members of the Clinton presidential administration, including Georgetown professor and former Secretary of State adeline Albright, were on hand for the address. Celebrity Don Cheadle, of Ocean’s 11 and Boogie Nights fame, as well as top business executives, participated as panelists in the day’s events.

University President John J. DeGioia, who commended Clinton’s involvement with the nation’s youth, introduced Clinton. In the years since his election to the presidency Clinton has met with Georgetown students over 12 times to discuss national issues of pertinence to the younger generation.

“He is still focused on tomorrow and the new generation of young people who must meet its extraordinary challenges,” DeGioia said.

The event was co-sponsored by the Georgetown Lecture Fund.

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