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Clinton speaks at the U.J.F.

When the United Jewish Federation of San Diego County planned a celebration for its 70th anniversary, the committee believed the logical choice to reflect the organization’s dedication to humanitarian efforts was former President Bill Clinton.

As we heard from co-chair Laura Tauber, who delivered Clinton’s glowing introduction, the former president is “one of the best friends Israel ever had in the White House.”

After waiting patiently for the crowd of 2,000 supporters to end their prolonged standing ovation, Clinton quipped. “I understand my long-time friend Murray Galinson is gonna ask me questions when this is over.”

When the former president got into the speech itself, he explained, “What I’d like to do tonight is to put what I do in my Foundation and what you do (in the United Jewish Federation) in perspective.”

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Clinton described his view of the contemporary world in terms of “interdependence” rather than accepting the commonly-accepted term of “globalization” (which he feels only covers economic issues, not social and environmental concerns).

“Our culture is getting more and more diverse and interdependent, and that’s both good and bad,” he pointed out.

Clinton wants people to ask themselves these questions, “What is the fundamental nature of the 21st century world, whether it’s good or bad. How to change it, and what steps are needed to change it. People are struggling to come together. The world is unequal, unstable and unsustainable.”

How we deal with those fundamental problems is the key, as Clinton explained it. Although he agreed having a good security policy is vital, “because there are people who wanna kill. But you can never kill all your adversaries,” he added, “People need a sense of belonging. Politics is a way of preserving unions and we’re better off inside than outside.

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“Diplomacy is a good thing,” Clinton assured. “We need to make a world with more partners and fewer terrorists. It’s cheaper than going to war.”

That statement earned Clinton a rousing ovation.

Other issues close to Clinton’s heart are health care and education - and he believes we must be involved in that on a world-wide scale. That’s what he does with his Foundation, he said.

“We know how to give people the tools to work themselves out of poverty,” he insisted.

The former president kept partisan politics out of his speech entirely. In fact, he praised President Bush for trying a diplomatic approach to the crisis in North Korea. This was no political rally for the Democratic party and no campaign speech for his wife Hillary.

The fund-raising event, held at the Manchester Grand Hyatt in downtown San Diego, began with a reception and dinner spread across the hotel’s fourth-floor ballrooms. But that had excitement of its own.

A fire alarm went off right in the middle of the reception, and sent everyone scrambling for the exit. It turned out to be a false alarm, and everything went smoothly from then on, despite the huge crowds that assembled for this major fundraising event, dubbed “Together as One.”