By Damilola Olawuyi (2010-2011 Sauvé Scholar)

It was happy faces all through for the 14 Sauvé Scholars as we got the opportunity for a one on one handshake and a photo session with the 42nd President of the United States of America, William Jefferson Bill Clinton.

The Sauvé Scholars got executive tickets to listen to President Clinton, who was in Montreal on Friday, 29th October, 2010 as a guest speaker at an international leadership summit organized by the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal. The event was moderated by Frank McKenna, former Premier of New Brunswick, former Canadian Ambassador to the United States, and current Deputy Chairman of the Toronto-Dominion Bank. It addressed issues relating to international leadership: how individuals can take steps to create meaningful results in their communities and organizations, the impacts of the global economic downturn on global politics and the importance of new technologies and the Web as means of transboundary knowledge sharing and collaboration.

The former President and founder of the William J. Clinton Foundation was at his usual best as he discussed how his foundation has contributed immensely to the rehabilitation of the Haitian society, where people are still recovering from the devastating effects of last year’s earthquake. He also described his role as a UN Special envoy to Haiti and his belief that it is best to empower Haitians to take over their own lives.

Speaking about leadership in this century, he charged youths to see themselves as leaders of tomorrow. He stressed that the days of selfish thinking are over as the effects of poverty in one nation or continent can make life difficult for the rest of the world.

He was also full of praise for Canada, especially itsbanking sector, which he described as strong even during the economic meltdown. He noted that “every Canadian ought to pat every banker in this country on the back… you remembered the rule that all the Americans in New York forgot. The one your mother told you as a child, that if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” He stressed the need for more disciplined financial strategies and policies by governments.

The former President ended on an optimistic note as he stressed that despite the current challenges facing our world, there are enormous reasons to believe that progress has been made and that there is a better future out there. “One day,” he enthused, “we will fix it all.”

At the end of the session, the Sauvé Scholars gathered for more group photos as they individually relived how happy and excited we were to get the chance to meet with one of the most successful US Presidents in history.