Another inauguration for President Clinton

Starting off a new Penn School of Arts and Sciences forum with a bang, President Bill Clinton addressed invited guests at Irvine Auditorium Feb. 24. Outside, a few demonstrators protested U.S. policies toward Iraq and China. However, the audience at the Granoff Forum, which will explore topics of international development and the global economy, greeted the president warmly. University President Judith Rodin, Philadelphia Mayor John Street and Penn alumnus Michael Granoff (C’80), for whom the forum is named, shared the stage with Clinton.

In his introductory remarks, Granoff, president, CEO and founder of venture capital firm Pomona Capital, said Clinton’s economic initiatives were “the kind of leadership this forum is all about.”

Clinton joked that the forum gave him “a chance to attend one more inaugural than I’m entitled to.” With the stated topic of “The New Economy,” Clinton took the opportunity to go over many of the accomplishments of his administration, including deficit reduction, slashed unemployment and a booming economy.

He focused in particular on the role of new technologies on the economy, noting that information technology industries accounted for one-third of the economic growth in recent years. Economic naysayers, he said, had not understood the importance of these industries, so the extended period of growth had caught them by surprise.

To continue the growth and spread its benefits, Clinton said, meant that we must continue to pay off the national deficit; open new markets in the United States and abroad; stay at the forefront of technological and scientific advancements and “close the digital divide” — that is, make the Internet accessible to all. To audience applause, he discussed his wish to see China in the World Trade Organization, aid indebted nations and make $10,000 of college tuition tax deductible.

But, he said, “Life is about more than economics.” Citing his campaign mantra of eight years ago, “It’s the economy stupid,” he said, “I believe that, but I never believed it was just about money. ... The purpose of all this is to build a more perfect union of our founders’ dreams.”

Originally published on March 2, 2000