Former US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and her husband, former US President Bill Clinton, shared their views about the challenges facing our future leaders with a packed audience at Swansea University’s Great Hall.
Back in Swansea for the first time since 2019, Secretary Clinton was joined by President Clinton for a public event hosted by the University and supported by the Welsh Government.
The couple were guests of honour at a special discussion which focused on current global challenges. They were joined on stage by the First Minister of Wales, Mark Drakeford MS, and the Vice-Chancellor of Swansea University, Professor Paul Boyle, for the conversation, which also emphasized the importance of engaging young people in leadership roles.
The 600-strong audience, which included Seren Network students from local schools and further education colleges, heard the former US Secretary of State touch on a wide-ranging series of issues including national identity and nationalism, the climate crisis and challenges posed by future technological developments.
She also urged young people to follow their ambitions, even in the face of difficulties.
She said: “If you think you can do a good job and you think you can make a difference then you’ve got to get out there and try. I live by the idea that you take criticism seriously but not personally.
“You have to develop the confidence not to be overwhelmed by negative attacks and advice.”
She added: “Let’s try to get leaders who are willing to be held accountable who take responsibility for their service, what they do and what they stand for. We need citizenship not just leadership.”
President Clinton had more words of advice for the audience: “In the world we live in, where people are killing each other over real and imagined differences I think having an environment where one participates in decision-making that is civil and decent is important.
“I advocate getting to know some people that disagree with you and bringing people together in a way where if feels safe disagreeing.”
This latest visit to the University built on the institution’s long-standing relationship with Secretary Clinton which has seen her lend her name to its Hillary Rodham Clinton School of Law.
Urging the young people in the audience to play their role in the Wales’s future, First Minister Mark Drakeford said: “I’m very much attached to the idea of the democracy of expertise. When you come across an issue that needs to be addressed the first question you ask yourself is not what is somebody else going to do about this but what contribution can I make to solving the problem.
“Everybody has a chance to get their voice heard and their contribution recognized but you have a responsibility as well and that is to not to do the easy thing. The hard thing is to ask yourself what I can do to make this better.”
During their time in Swansea, Secretary and President Clinton also took part in a fundraising event in support the University’s Sanctuary Scholarships programme, which provides opportunities for people seeking sanctuary in the UK to access higher education.
Professor Boyle said: “It has been an honour to further strengthen our friendship with Secretary Clinton and to welcome President Clinton to Swansea the first time. We were delighted to not only showcase our University’s strengths and impact to our guests, but also to share their time with us with so many local students and regional and national partners. We are extremely grateful to the Welsh Government for their support in delivering such a high-profile event for our region and for Wales.”
Secretary Clinton, who has a family connection to Wales, first visited Swansea University in 2017 and has since returned several times including to meet students on the Hillary Rodham Clinton Global Challenges Scholarship programme.