Orlando (FL) - Former United States Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton wowed the crowd at the CTIA Wireless keynote speech in Orlando Florida. The two presidents talked about funny moments during their presidencies, to roaring laughter from the crowd, and encourage wireless experts to do their part to serve the country and the world.
Both presidents, starting with Bush, gave a twenty minute speech which was then followed by a joint question and answer session conducted by a Price Waterhouse Coopers executive. Bush received a standing ovation as he was introduced and walked up to podium and while he had a noticeable limp, he appeared quite healthy for an 83 year old man.
Bush cracked jokes left and called his special relationship with Clinton as “the odd couple”. “People always ask Clinton what are you doing with that right-wing nut Bush… and I don’t want to tell you what they say about him,” said Bush.
Bush proved that he was still hip to new technologies and showed off his Blackberry which he said was one of his most cherished devices. He added, “I can send email, check spelling… and use diff color fonts – I’m not what you call a backward guy.”
Wireless communications played a big part in the Bush presidency, even though phones were just starting to appear in the market. Bush told the crowd about how he was able to keep in touch with world and congressional leaders during Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait before the first Desert Storm war. During the first few days of the invasion, he continued his vacation in Maine, but used a wireless phone to plan strategy. “I did not want to further upset or alarm the country,” Bush said and added that he was able keep in touch with “no problem whatsoever”.
Wireless communications also help Bush talk with former Syrian President Hafez Assad, former president of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev and General Norman Schwarzkopf in 1992. He recalled how he was able to call Schwarzkopf in 30 seconds to stop the original Desert Storm war.
Clinton, like Bush, also received a standing ovation on his way to the podium and immediately warmed up the crowd with a few jokes. He remarked that he will always follow Bush in keynote speeches, “You have just seen an example of the punishment I have received from god for defeating Bush… I will always be his straight man.”
But while Bush’s talk was more of a feel good, grandfatherly type of speech, Clinton tried to inspire the audience to use wireless tools and money to help poorer countries of the world.
He gave statistics of how wireless phone adoption rates can raise the Gross National Product and create high paying jobs in many countries. One example of this was in Haiti where street kids have turned into entrepreneurs by selling phone time cards. “It’s created a whole new class of entrepreneurs out of street kids who now instead of lining up living lawless and disorganized lives will be pulled into an ordinary and predictable economic system because of cell phone technology,” said Clinton.
Clinton also touted website Kiva.org which allows people to give small loans to residents of poor countries like Bangladesh, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Haiti. Many of those loans are used to buy cell phones which are then rented out to local village people. “Literally if you have 25 dollars, you personally can become an international micro-credit lender building a world with more partners and less terrorists,” said Clinton.