42nd U.S. President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton spoke at the Bell Centre on Nov. 28 as part of their “An Evening with the Clintons” tour, casually discussing topics such as their upbringings, role models, and the future of global politics. They also commented on Canadian affairs, recommending that Americans look to Canada as a model for inclusion. Before the talk began, Tanya Taylor, a McGill alumnus and event moderator, presented the couple with customized Montreal Canadiens jerseys, proclaiming that they were sitting on centre ice of the team’s home rink.
The duo commended Canada’s ability to celebrate cultural diversity, embrace immigrants, and elevate the middle class. Hillary Clinton reflected on how, in her various government positions, she has often cited Canada for its dynamic economy.
“In addition to really admiring the culture [of Canada], I also really applaud the economic model,” Clinton said. “We’re looking at how we can get some of that dynamism back into [the U.S.] economy as well as more opportunity for more people. Canada was always a good example because of the way that the economy has lifted people up here, especially in your healthcare system [as a] a basic level of support that everybody should have [….Healthcare] should be a right, not a privilege.”
Although never mentioning the incumbent U.S. President by name, Hillary Clinton expressed resentment for the ‘authoritarian model’ overwhelming the U.S. government and praised Canada for its leadership in these divisive times.
“There are the same tendencies [in Canada] toward partisanship and ‘resentment politics’ that you get in many other places, but to continue to fight against that and keep trying to bring the country together around common goals while maintaining your separate identities […] within an integrated whole seems to be the model that people will wake up and look for again,” Hillary Clinton said. “So, I’m looking to you, Canada, to bring us back to our senses.”
Bill Clinton echoed Hillary’s sentiments, sharing memorable experiences from his diplomatic work with Canada as president and praising the country’s optimism.
“I will always love this place, and I think you really [have to] think about how you can be Canada and still embrace the winds that are blowing in this world in a positive way,” Bill Clinton said. “The United States must return to that if it expects to play a positive role in the future. We should do more of what you’ve been doing.”
The Clintons, now grandparents, spoke about future generations, how their family has expanded, and the importance of helping those in need.
“I don’t know if we give enough kids today the chance to [volunteer],” Hillary Clinton said. “Kids are highly scheduled, [and] they spend a lot of time staring at a screen, so where’s that time to actually go out and interact with other people? When you’re not out in a community and not trying to be part of that, trying to make it better, then you lose track of people who are not like you.”
Bill Clinton also cited the importance of diversity when solving problems, specifically when trying to fight climate change.
“Complex problems are best solved by diverse groups […with] different experiences and different knowledge,” Bill Clinton said. “If you want humanity to be around for another two or three hundred thousand years, we have to work together to moderate climate change [and] we have to adapt to that which we cannot prevent.”
Taylor directed the discussion toward personal anecdotes and lighter topics. The couple talked about their first date at Yale, how Bill proposed to Hillary, and the best gifts they have given each other.
“The part that stood out the most [to me was] when Bill and Hillary talked about their mothers,” Carleton University student Hannah Vatour said. “I think they captured the audience’s attention the most with those stories.”