Former President Bill Clinton told 2020 graduates over the weekend that the country is counting on them to save our democracy by wiping out “divisive tribalism” ushered in under the Trump administration.
“The world needs you. Your country needs you,” Mr. Clinton said during a taped message for CNN’s “Class of 2020: In This Together” special.
“Even before the outbreak, you knew you were entering a world of growing inequalities, and divisive tribalism, with people pulling away from those who are different from them,” he continued. “Seething resentments and a broken information system have empowered those who for profit and power for themselves, are willing to inflame our worst instincts. It’s put your future, our democracy, and our very planet at risk.
“In ways large and small, people the world over have been urged to see life as a dog eat dog, zero-sum game. Someone else is winning, you’re losing. You can only win if someone else loses. It’s fun in sports but bad in an interdependent world,” he said. “Now the coronavirus has forced us all to stop business as usual. Step back. It’s given us both the chance to see what actually works and the time to go deep inside to decide what we really believe and what kind of world we want to live in.”
The former Democratic president went on to say that new graduates have been provided the opportunity to help unite the country through “dignity” and “mutual respect.”
“With a tough but open mind and a caring heart, you can help keep us together,” he added. “Help find ways to serve others, not run away from them. Help to unite, not to divide. Help to build, not tear down. Help to support, not demean. If you do, you will find your own path to fulfillment and happiness and in so doing, your example will inspire the world.”
Mr. Clinton never mentioned Mr. Trump by name but he has accused the current president of perpetuating tribalism in the past. In December 2017, Mr. Clinton wrote an op-ed for The New York Times slamming the rising tide of nationalism that promotes an “us” versus “them” mentality.
“All too often, tribalism based on race, religion, sexual identity and place of birth has replaced inclusive nationalism, in which you can be proud of your tribe and still embrace the larger American community,” Mr. Clinton wrote at the time. “And too often resentment conquers reason, anger blinds us to answers and sanctimony passes for authenticity.”
Mr. Clinton wasn’t the only predecessor to criticize the current administration in a message to graduates over the weekend. Former President Barack Obama, who also declined to mention Mr. Trump by name, told high school seniors that the “so-called grownups with fancy titles” are to blame for things being “so screwed up.”
“This pandemic has shaken up the status quo and laid bare a lot of our country’s deep-seated problems – from massive economic inequality to on-going racial disparities to a lack of basic health care for people who need it,” he said. “It’s woken a lot of young people to the fact that the old ways of doing things just don’t work.”
Mr. Trump responded to Mr. Obama’s comments Monday, calling him “an incompetent president.”
“That’s all I can say. Grossly incompetent,” he told a pool of reporters at the White House.
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