“The two ideas that bring us together tonight around this Foundation and what the Barracks have done with their fund are basically the importance of the rule of law and how it plays out in the lives of real people and the importance of public service generally, not just by people in elected office, but by private citizens.  And the idea, because of Temple’s heritage, that this is something that we not only need to do around the corner, but around the world.” – President Bill Clinton

President Bill Clinton served as the inaugural speaker in the Temple Law Foundation’s newly established distinguished speaker series, presenting remarks addressing the rule of law and the importance of public service.  He also drew on his own experiences as an “indebted law student” to emphasize the importance of scholarships, grants, and loan forgiveness programs for law students who pursue public service.

Noting that Temple Law has been instrumental in promoting the rule of law through its programs in China, President Clinton spoke at length about the critical importance of the rule of law as the foundation for political and economic stability.  He cited examples ranging from the difficulty in redeveloping Haiti following the 2010 earthquake due to the inability to show clear title to property (necessary to qualify for financing to rebuild
homes and businesses) to the current developments in Crimea and Ukraine.

President Clinton also spoke at length about the importance of programs that provide relief from student loan debt for lawyers who engage in public service, and calling for law students to pursue service for its social and individual benefits:  “Service liberates you because you cannot serve in any setting not common to your experience before without believing that our differences make life interesting, but our common humanity is more important. That is the ultimate bounty that service brings to those who render it.”

After President Clinton concluded his remarks, he was joined on stage by Governor Ed Rendell for a question and answer session in which he fielded questions submitted by Temple Law School faculty.  President Clinton shared insights into historic events like the Camp David talks between Ehud Barak and Yassar Arafat as well as into key decisions he made that later, some observers claim, led to the financial collapse of 2008-2010. He also weighed in on use of the filibuster, criticizing its use “as a governing strategy.”

President Clinton talked at length about the work done by the Clinton Foundation and the Clinton Global Initiative.  When asked what successes he was most proud of from this chapter of his public life, President Clinton cited the Foundation’s work in reducing the cost of children’s drugs and the cost of drugs used to treat HIV/AIDS, making them accessible to more people around the world.  He also discussed the Global Initiative’s role in bringing together leaders from various sectors around the globe to meet and not just discuss problems, but act to solve them:  “I just had this sense that people were sick and tired of going to meetings where they talked about problems and nobody ever asked them to do anything.  And that’s basically what happened.”

Asked about the nature of leadership, and whether it was an inherent quality or one that could be learned, President Clinton pointed to the American military as an example of effectively learned leadership.  President Clinton and Governor Rendell discussed the American involvement in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake and the leadership role the military took in running the airport near Port-Au-Prince, a critical step to accessing relief supplies and personnel.

The evening concluded with a discussion of issues relevant to many in the audience: law faculty pay and experiential legal education.  Citing the benefits of having had good teachers at many points throughout his life, President Clinton suggested that such teachers were sure to be worth more than they cost.  He then noted that to the extent law schools provided more experiential education, including overseas opportunities, community service, and practicums, they were likely to provide a more “cost-effective, relevant, and impactful” legal education.

The lecture was given as part of a fundraiser to support debt relief programs at Temple Law School, including the Barrack Public Interest Fellowship Program, which provides funds to graduates working in qualified public interest positions to help alleviate their law school debt.  The program is supported by Leonard and Lynne Barrack, who are longtime benefactors of the law school and in particular of the school’s public interest and public service-oriented students.  In addition to serving as director of the Temple Law Foundation, Leonard Barrack sits on Temple’s Board of Trustees and serves as the President of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia.  He is a graduate of Temple Law School and a founding partner of Barrack, Rodos & Bacine.

The Temple Law Foundation, the group that invited President Clinton, was formed in 1959 to bolster the school’s fund-raising efforts and to expand the opportunities that the law school offers to its students.  Through decades of dedication and diligent fund-raising, the law foundation has significantly increased the school’s endowment.  Today income from this fund is distributed annually for student scholarships, loan forgiveness for students working in public interest and research grants for professors.