Sunday, September 30, 2007

Jon Stewart & Clinton Talk about Bill’s New Book, ‘Giving’

Jon Stewart of ‘The Daily Show’ (30 September, 2007), in introducing Bill Clinton’s new book, ‘Giving’, quipped that the question that plagued him as he read it was, “What’s in this for me?” Stewart got serious for a second saying ‘Giving’ was not cautious (in contrast to the style of many politicians), the book “feels completely free” and “it seemed as if you, as writer and giver, are allowing yourself to pursue [the work of giving] completely unfettered.”

The former President agreed and stated the point of his new book:
“I have included so many examples in this book because no matter whether you are old, young or in-between, rich, poor or in-between, possessing lots of time, time poor or in-between, there is something that we all can give.” In this statement, that echoes Martin Luther King Jnr—“Everybody can be great… because every body can serve”, Bill Clinton identified his boundless audience. He is happy about politicians, business tycoons and celebrities giving big bucks (and he includes many examples) but Clinton is more concerned to motivate ordinary readers (especially young people) to give what they can and cultivate a joyous habit of giving.

The scores of examples straddle the classes, the continents, the colours and the creeds (even the creedless). The all-inclusive nature of this book is one of its distinctive features. The mood and vision is captured in his peroration when he declares that “so much of modern culture is characterized by stories of self-indulgence and self-destruction. The media is dominated by reports about demeaning others, defining others by their worst moments and exploiting their agonies.” Clinton then asks, “Who’s the happier? The uniters or the dividers? The builders or the breakers? The givers or the takers? I think you know the answer. There’s a whole world out there that needs you, down the street or across the ocean. Give.” (p211)

‘Giving’ is an inspirational book because Clinton wants his audience to act upon his message by considering the innovative ways that they can give, searching the lists of resources and joining groups that are making a difference.

The book explicitly and implicitly identifies some important motivators including:
* The justice issue in redistributing the wealth in opportunities, investments and effective organization
* The humanity issue is which our commonality is more important than our interesting differences
* The action issue in which every person can make a difference
* The quality of life issue which leads to giving people a better chance

In addition to examples and motivators Clinton writes of the remarkable features of this current age that have sparked “an explosion of citizen service giving.” Furthermore, in opening up his subject he addresses not only the giving of money but the giving of time (full time to one hour a week), the giving of things (medical supplies for Indonesia and bicycles for Sri Lanka), the giving of skills (“education is the ultimate skills gift”), the gift of reconciliation and new beginnings, the gifts that keep on giving (like Heifer International which gives cows and goats that breed new ‘gifts’), the gift of a model of giving that others can copy or adapt (“Why reinvent the wheel?”), the organization of markets for the common good (e.g. Starbucks not only makes coffee but makes a difference in Aceh and Rwanda) and the gift of a good idea.

‘Giving’ in many ways is a human book about Bill and Hillary, their projects and contributions as well as some of the mistakes they have made along the way.

This readable book is a ‘must read’, especially by members of religions, community groups, schools, aid organizations and governments. In businesses and profit organizations this book should be required reading for professional development and team building and board room planning.

‘Giving’ will stimulate creativity and focus attention without inducing guilt, on the further contribution that individuals, groups and nations might make. This book will have served its purpose well if readers ask, “How best can we give and do our part for the good of others and for all life on this planet?”

Bill Clinton, Giving: How Each of Us Can Change the World (London: Hutchinson, 2007).

This book is available from Magrudy’s Bookshops in the UAE at a cost of Dh 98.00.

Reference is made in this book review to ‘The Daily Show’, Comedy Central, CNN International, 30 September 2007.

Geoff Pound

Image: Jon Stewart and Bill Clinton; front cover of Giving.