Former President Clinton talks diversity at commencement speech

May 15, 2017

Former President Bill Clinton was the commencement speaker at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva Sunday morning. Much of the 42nd president's speech focused on global interdependence and diversity.

Clinton insisted he wasn't making any political statements, but wanted to focus on how Muslims and immigrants are treated in the U.S.

"Does it mean we shouldn’t be tough on terrorism committed by Islamic radicals? Of course not. But it means we shouldn’t go around in a blind stupor mixing apples and oranges, terrifying some of the most devoted people in this country who want to make their contribution and make us better because diverse groups make better decisions, and make a more interesting life."

Credit Hobart and William Smith Colleges

Clinton told the students that, "You have to decide, and your generation will determine, whether we view diversity as a strength or a problem. Whether we think our common humanity is a problem or our differences matter more."

The colleges also awarded Clinton with an honorary doctorate of humane letters.

The president of the colleges, Mark Gearan, had served in the Clinton White House as Assistant to the President and Director of Communications and Strategic Planning. Gearan is retiring later this year.

The board of trustees named Gearan as president emeritus. Sunday's ceremony drew a record audience of more than 6,500 people.