Michael Dell, Bill Clinton Share The Stage
Dell wound down his portion of the keynote with several customer testimonials designed to show how the company's offerings cater to large companies while also democratizing the competitive landscape by giving smaller organizations tools that were traditionally exclusive to the biggest players. These testimonials included a video from Barclays that described mobile innovations, such as instantly transferring money via text messages; Tulane University, which used Dell to affordably improve its data centers after becoming financially strapped by Hurricane Katrina; and a host of medical advancements related to big data analytics and genomics.
Dell looked to the future in his final remarks. The CEO mentioned the newly established Dell Center for Entrepreneurs, which he described as a "gateway for growing businesses" and part of Dell's effort to "figure out how to create jobs in this economic environment, and to power our economy forward." He cited partnerships with organizations such as the Clinton Global Initiative, which set the stage for President Clinton's appearance.
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Clinton charmed the audience by wearing boots emblazoned with the silhouette of a longhorn steer, mascot of the University of Texas. He also displayed all the rhetorical prowess that make him a successful politician, offering simple arguments that might have seemed like platitudes had they not been accompanied by thorough yet accessible examples. He touched on subjects ranging from health care to climate change to conflicts in Syria and Egypt to the fiscal cliff. But his primary argument involved avoiding zero sum outcomes.
"In a world that seems to be full of zero sum games and conflict models based on trying to hold onto a yesterday that can't be recovered," he said, "I believe the future belongs to networks and creative cooperation."
Clinton argued that because threats, cultural differences, debates and information are crossing borders to an unprecedented extent, "we are living in a world where we're compelled to share the future." He said that technology will be important -- but the issue is, how are we going to share it?
"If we want the world to work," Clinton stated, "we will need to create more non zero-sum arrangements, where we still have competition, and we still reward those who work harder or who have new ideas or are particularly gifted -- but we share."
To illustrate, he cited the $3 billion spent to sequence the human genome. "Most of it, I spent. It was your money," he said, eliciting laughs from the crowed. He detailed how the research had allowed St. Jude Children's Research Center, the nation's largest cancer hospital for children, to not only drive down the cost of treatment but also to more effectively combat diseases. The success, he said, involved the "open sourcing" of the research --"creative cooperation" in action. In addition to the human benefits, he pointed out, the approach has generated hundreds of companies and thousands of jobs.
Clinton contrasted the medical cooperation with his own attempt to build the Large Hadron Collider in Texas. While trying to pass the national budget in 1993, he was told that he couldn't get the necessary votes without giving up the project. "I said that's the dumbest thing I ever heard," he related. "Particle physics are going to determine a lot of our future, and it's not that much money." A number of Congressmen who didn't live in Texas disagreed, and the project ended up in Switzerland.
Such squabbling, he said, privileges individual interests over those of the group. Clinton called such attitudes antiquated and out of touch with modern geopolitical realities. Even so, he ended his speech on an optimistic note: "If we can get back to the tomorrow business and do it together, we're going to be just fine."
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