The Leaders Who Influenced President Bill Clinton - OZY | A Modern Media Company


Because what’s good for the goose is good for the gander. 

By Rebecca Moreno

When OZY recently sat down with former President Bill Clinton, we wanted to know who he turned to for meaningful advice and guidance in his life, especially when he was Commander in Chief. As you’ll see in the video above, the president shared moving personal stories about three international leaders: Nelson Mandela, Yitzhak Rabin, and Helmut Kohl.

From Nelson Mandela, the anti-apartheid revolutionary and former president of South Africa, President Clinton learned the importance of letting go of hatred. He asked Mandela how he could possibly appoint people to his cabinet who’d been responsible for his 27-year imprisonment. Mandela replied that if he continued to hate his jailers he would remain a prisoner – and he advised Clinton to apply the same mindset to the animosity between himself and the Republican party, led by Newt Gingrich at the time. Moving past hatred was the only way to get things done, Clinton says . 

From Yitzhak Rabin, the prime minister of Israel who ”risked his life, and ultimately gave his life to reconcile with people he’d fought all his life,” President Clinton held onto the lesson that political decisions must be made in the interest of future generations. Because, as Rabin told him, “their children are not responsible for what they did, and our children are not responsible for what we did.” 

From Helmut Kohl, the chancellor who oversaw the reunification of Germany, he learned the value of placing decisions within a historical context. Seared by the experiences of World Wars I and II, Kohl wanted to unify Germany but also Europe in a way that allowed his own country to be both prosperous and a force for good in the world. Together, Kohl and Clinton made the choice to aid a struggling Russia, knowing that its economic stability was critical not just to Russia but to the prospect of peace and freedom in Europe. 

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