The Honorary Graduates

179th Congregation (2008)

William Jefferson CLINTON
Doctor of Laws honoris causa

The Honorable William Jefferson Clinton was the 42nd President of the United States of America, and under his leadership, the country enjoyed the strongest economy in a generation and the longest economic expansion in US history, including the creation of more than 22 million jobs.

Following his time in Office, he established the William J. Clinton Foundation with the mission of strengthening the capacity of people in the United States and around the world to meet the challenges of global interdependence.

The Foundation has 800 staff and volunteers around the world working to improve lives through several initiatives, including the Clinton HIV/AIDS Initiative which is helping 1.4 million people living with HIV/AIDS access lifesaving drugs. Other initiatives include applying a business-oriented approach worldwide to fight climate change and develop sustainable economic growth in Africa and Latin America.

The Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) was established in 2005 to bring together global leaders from all backgrounds, regions, and religions to devise and implement innovative solutions to some of the world's most pressing challenges. ‘CGI Asia' is the first of the Initiative's international meetings and will be held in Hong Kong in December 2008.

In recognition of his contributions to his nation and the global community, HKU will confer upon him the degree of Doctor of Laws honoris causa.


Citation

HIV/AIDS is a killer virus of horrendous proportions. As I speak more than 33 million people in our world are HIV infected. Each year 3 million new cases are diagnosed. Each year 2 million people die from AIDS. It must be defeated.

A disease of this magnitude can, however, only be overcome by the united efforts of single-minded persons with divers skills. We need doctors and scientists to labour in their laboratories to find cures and preventive measures. We need informed philanthropists to donate the funds required to confront the disease and facilitate the necessary research. We need decent and reliable corporations to manufacture the required drugs motivated by a desire to alleviate suffering rather than the pursuit of profit. We need leaders of stature to publicise the problems and overcome barriers to their solution.

Mr Chancellor, I have the privilege of presenting to you two most eminent men who contribute extremely significant, but very divers, skills in AIDS prevention and alleviation.


Mr William Jefferson Clinton

Mr William Jefferson Clinton is both an outstanding philanthropist and world leader. His influence in both capacities has been incalculable. He grew up in Hope Arkanses and, whilst at high school, was invited to meet President John Kennedy in the White House. That encounter, together with hearing Martin Luther King's wondrous speech 'I Have a Dream' delivered in 1963, provided the inspiration for a life of public service.

Having graduated from Georgetown University, Bill Clinton won a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford where he studied Government and played rugby. He continued his studies and received a law degree from Yale University in 1973. It was at Yale that he courted Hilary Rodham, his wife to be. They married in 1975 and their daughter Chelsea was born in 1980. After graduation Bill Clinton became a Professor at the University of Arkansas, but his interests lay outside academia and he was elected Attorney General for Arkansas in 1976. Two years later he was elected Governor of Arkansas, making him the youngest governor in the United States of America at the age of 32. He lost the post in 1980, however, commenting wryly that he was now the youngest ex-Governor in the nation's history! Two years' later he was back as Governor, a position he held for the next 10 years.

Bill Clinton was elected the 42nd President of the United States of America in 1992 defeating Republican incumbent George HW Bush and billionaire populist Ross Perot, who ran as an independent. He held that prestigious and demanding post for the next 8 years. At his inauguration he famously said: 'Our democracy must be not only the envy of the world but the engine of our renewal. There is nothing wrong with America that cannot be cured by what is right with America'. He was the third youngest President and presided over the longest period of peace-time economic expansion in American history. Based on Congressional Accounting Rules, Bill Clinton reported a surplus of $559 billion at the end of his Presidency. He left office with an approval rating of 65%, the highest end of office rating of any President since World War II. He was named Time Magazine's Man of the Year in 1992 and, jointly with another, again in 1998. Since leaving the Presidency he has thrown himself wholeheartedly into the espousal of humanitarian causes.

We are here today to honour Bill Clinton primarily for his outstanding achievements as a philanthropist and, in particular, for his work to alleviate HIV/AIDS. He made clear his view of the significance of AIDS in an interdependent world when he said:

'It is difficult to imagine how the world can grow together and overcome the instabilities and inequalities of global interdependence unless something serious is done to turn the tide on AIDS'.

He, therefore, took the initiative of putting in place an action plan to combat AIDS. In the forefront of this work is the William J Clinton Foundation established with the mission to 'strengthen the capacity of people throughout the world to meet the challenges of global interdependence'. The Foundation focuses on four critical areas: (i) health; (ii) economic empowerment; (iii) leadership development and citizen service; and (iv) racial, ethnic and religious reconciliation. The Foundation works principally through partnerships with like-minded individuals, organizations and governments, often serving as an incubator for new policies and programmes.

The first critical area identified by the Foundation is health care. To further this facet of the Foundation's mission, the Clinton Foundation HIV/AIDS Initiative was established with the goal of making treatment for HIV/AIDS more affordable and to implement large-scale integrated care, treatment and prevention programmes particularly for children and those living in poor countries. Affordability and availability were crucial elements of Bill Clinton's plan. However skilful our doctors and scientists, however generous our donors, however diligent our manufacturers, the benefits of HIV/AIDS treatment will not be felt by those most in need in the developing countries unless the necessary drugs and treatment are made available at affordable prices: that is prices that are affordable both to importing countries and to consumers. This point was memorably made by a leading member of the Thai Parliament when he said:

'The new drugs will help the yuppies of the world, but for most people with AIDS it's like a dog looking up at an aeroplane: he can see it but he can never get a seat'.

It is in this regard that the world needs leaders of stature to publicise the problems of affordability and access and overcome barriers to their solution. Bill Clinton readily stepped forward to fulfill this mission and he has, by his strenuous efforts, achieved outstanding success in making HIV drugs more widely available at affordable prices.

Let me give you some impressive statistics:

Since its inception the foundation has helped bring care and treatment to more than 1.4 million people living with HIV/AIDS around the globe.

The Foundation has negotiated breakthrough price reductions with 8 major suppliers on over 40 drug formulations and negotiated price reductions with 12 suppliers for 16 HIV/AIDS diagnostic tests.

The Foundation's successive agreements have reduced the price of first-line treatments by 50%, pediatric medicines by 90% and second-line HIV/AIDS medicines by a cumulative reduction of 30% in low income countries.

71 countries have access to the foundation's negotiated prices representing more than 92% of people living with AIDS globally.

Not satisfied with his health initiative Bill Clinton has founded several other important Initiatives. The China Global Initiative aims to bring together global leaders, business leaders and charities to discuss the major challenges facing the world and devise and implement innovative solutions to the world's most pressing challenges. The Initiative embraces such fundamental issues as energy and climate change, global health, the alleviation of poverty and the mitigation of religious and ethnic conflict.

Most recently Bill Clinton established CGI International to address major local, regional and global challenges. The first meeting of CGI International has just been held in Hong Kong and focused on three main areas: education, energy and public health. We wish it every success.

There can be no doubt that Bill Clinton's work as a philanthropist has been outstanding. A great world leader has become even greater.

Mr Chancellor, it is my honour and privilege to present Dr Bill Clinton for the award of the degree of Doctor of Laws honoris causa.

Citations written and delivered by Professor Michael Wilkinson, the Public Orator.


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