The New Bill Clinton

Ten years after leaving office, the vigorous, newly vegetarian former US president is devoting his time to convincing billionaires to care about the world's poor

By Carl M. Cannon

William Jefferson Clinton is a man of the world, a globe-trotting celebrity as likely to show up at the World Cup in South Africa as he is at a humanitarian mission in Indonesia. As the 42nd president of the United State, he was lampooned, even by his allies, as a Big Mac scoffing, saxophone-blowing, sly lawyer from the Deep South. At the same time, his adversaries acknowledged his charm, intelligence and political acumen.

Clinton still keeps tabs on politics- he pays attention to polling, as he always has, especially to the approval numbers of a certain secretary of state- but he spends time every day running the public William J. Clinton Foundation, which takes on the most pressing issues facing the planet. Its signature endeavour is the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI), which in five years has facilitated 2000 "commitments to action" (it awards no grants) by its members- governmental bodies, non-profit organisations and individuals- valued at US$63 billion ($64 billion). CGI programmes have helped nearly 300 million people in more than 170 nations get better access to healthcare, safe drinking water, and job training, and its members have underwritten medical research and reforestation efforts and made thousands of small loans. Former South African president Nelson Mandela has praised the initiative for its ability to have "a direct impact on the lives of millions of people across our planet." President Barack Obama has called Clinton’s efforts “a remarkable record of achievement”. Last year’s annual meeting featured a star-studded guest list that included Barack and Michelle Obama, 60 current and former heads of state, and a host of celebrities including Bill Gates, CBS’s Katie Couric and Ben Stiller. As the world came to his door once again, it was clear that Bill Clinton’s foundation had not only helped redefine global anti-poverty efforts but had also set a new standard for what US presidents can do after they leave office. Clinton sat for an extended interview for Reader’s Digest with Carl Cannon, a former White House correspondent and executive editor of

Reader’s Digest: It’s been ten years since you left office, and you look more physically fit now than you did then. Is the secret not having to deal with the White House press corps?
Bill Clinton: [Laughs] No. I’m working as hard as ever. But after my heart surgery and my stent, I decided I had to try a radically more heart-friendly diet, and I started watching what I ate. And I try to walk a lot and do some work in the weights room. I feel great. 



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