Monday, May 30, 2011


(Red Deer Avocate) - CP

ANTIGONISH, N.S. — Bill Clinton says it will take strong leadership and good ideas to help rebuild Haiti, which has struggled to lift itself out of the rubble from last year’s devastating earthquake.

The former U.S. president, who is the United Nations special envoy to Haiti, was in Nova Scotia on Wednesday to officially open the Frank McKenna Centre for Leadership at St. Francis Xavier University.

The centre, named after Clinton’s friend and former New Brunswick premier Frank McKenna, will offer direction on leadership in areas such as public policy, business and health.

Speaking to a well-heeled audience of more than 600 business leaders, academics and alumni, Clinton said there needs to be more institutions that tackle the inequality and instability in the world — especially so in fragile economies like Haiti.

“All of it begins with someone with an idea, the ability to inspire, the ability to organize, putting other people together and working for a common goal,” Clinton said in a 20-minute speech that also touched on climate change and the need for co-operation between governments and business.

It’s particularly important for the United States and Canada to act, he said, given the large Haitian populations in both countries.

He applauded a recent move by the parliament in Haiti to grant dual citizenship to the Haitian diaspora. He said it will allow Haitians living in Canada, for example, to vote in an election in their native country.

What’s more, he said, Haitians will be able to buy land, start businesses and conduct economic affairs as if they were living in the island nation.

“What will happen is, it will lead to an enormous investment in Haiti and more people, I think, will go home and they will begin to build the kind of systematic opportunities that are important,” said Clinton, who is expected to lead the official U.S. delegation to the inauguration this weekend of Haiti’s president-elect Michel Martelly.

Clinton also gave examples of leadership he’s seen throughout the world. In Rwanda, he noted, every adult is required to help clean city streets one day a month to dispel the notion that poverty leads to uncleanliness.

“If you go to Rwanda, it’s shocking what it looks like . . . because of leadership and vision,” Clinton told the crowd gathered at the $150-per-plate gala.

Clinton said he’s plagued by the thought of those who are denied the chance to explore their leadership potential.

He said the new centre at St. Francis Xavier will help overcome that.

University president Sean Riley said the leadership centre will work alongside the Coady International Institute, which is also located on campus, to train leaders as they help develop more than 100 countries worldwide.

The centre’s namesake told reporters that the university has a long history of building leaders, including corporate executives and politicians.

“This campus has been a crucible for leadership formation,” said McKenna, a graduate of the school and a one-time Canadian ambassador to the U.S.

McKenna, who is on the school’s board of governors, donated $1 million toward the $10-million cost of the centre.

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