Bill Clinton: Let me just say a word about Georgetown. I think it’s unlikely I would have been president if I’d never gone there. That’s how important it was to me. When I wrote my autobiography my editor made me take out 20 pages that I wrote about Georgetown, and there’s still about 20 in there. He said, “It’s impossible you remember all these teachers and all the questions on the exam there,” and I said, “No, it’s not. You have no idea.” For me, it was like the world was opened to me.
So Quigley taught a course called “The History of Civilizations,” and at the end, he said that the great gift of Western civilization to the human race was the idea of progress in a very specific way. He said it was the idea that the future can be better than the present and that every single person, not just the rulers, not just the elected leaders, not just the billionaires, every person has a personal moral obligation to make it so, to keep it going, to make the future better. And it resonated with me. I thought, “That’s the purpose of politics.” It made me really think even more than I had before that I might like a career in public service.
It also made me aware of why in the aftermath of something like the 2008 crash you are going to have so much disorientation and anger and frustration because too many people have gotten up every day, and some still do, and looked in the mirror and thought all their tomorrows were going to be like yesterday.
It’s the ultimate disempowerment. There’s nothing you can do for yourself, and even worse, for your family. It’s going to be all the same, and Quigley made us understand that our whole culture in Western civilization was designed to counter that, to believe that you personally could make a difference, and I never got over it. I still think about it. You’d be amazed. I still think about it. I think about a lot of things I learned in college, but that was very important for me.