When they booked their visit to Wales to discuss global challenges and leadership, former US President Bill Clinton and former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton couldn't have known yet another war would break out. Talking at Swansea University, the husband and wife took care not to name who they were talking about, but there were comments surely aimed at Hamas, Israel and another former US President, Donald Trump.

While Bill Clinton took care to call out Russia for invading Ukraine and made a plea for countries to continue arming Ukraine, neither he, nor his wife, used the names of other individuals, organisations, or countries.

Sitting alongside First Minister Mark Drakeford, the political power couple answered a series of questions by Swansea University Vice Chancellor Professor Paul Boyle, as well as sixth form students from Swansea. You can get more Swansea news and other story updates straight to your inbox by subscribing to our newsletters here.

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Here’s what Bill and Hillary said:

Hilary Clinton at Swansea University Bay Campus
Hillary Clinton at Swansea University Bay Campus

Hilary Clinton (second left) and former US President Bill Clinton (left) during an in-conversation about current global challenges and the importance of engaging young people in leadership roles at the Great Hall in Swansea University Bay Campus
The couple took part in an in-conversation event

We are living in an age of reaction - careful how you react:

Asked to characterise the current global situation Former President Bill Clinton said: “I think it’s a period of reaction to the impulse that we saw at the end of the Cold War to try to advance democracy and co-operation It’s only a matter of time before people who don’t believe in democracy or the rule of law believe differences with their neighbours are more important than what they have in common.

“We are living through a series of reactions which will either de-rail or lead to greater co-operation. Whether we will all get through this and resume co-operation, or conflict, is not clear yet.”

He said it was “terrible and heart breaking" as someone who worked for eight years for peace in the Middle East and who knows Gaza, Jerusalem and the West Bank to witness what had happened and was happening there.

Hilary Clinton during an in-conversation with former US President Bill Clinton, the First Minister of Wales, Mark Drakeford, and the Vice-Chancellor of Swansea University, Professor Paul Boyle, about current global challenges and the importance of engaging young people in leadership roles at the Great Hall in Swansea University Bay Campus.
America's political power couple
Hilary Clinton and the First Minister of Wales, Mark Drakeford, during an in-conversation about current global challenges and the importance of engaging young people in leadership roles at the Great Hall in Swansea University Bay Campus.
Wales First Minister Mark Drakeford joined them on stage

People in different nations need to recognise each other’s legitimacy

Asked what people could do themselves to help make a better world, the Former President said: “Each country’s own individuals need to acknowledge the legitimacy of other nations and religious, political and ethnic differences. It’s important you can say, “I like my country” and still recognise claims of others to live and think differently in a framework that respects fundamental human rights.

We must help Ukraine. We have no idea what things will be like if Russia wins

Bill Clinton said: “I think what Russia did in Ukraine is truly terrible”. And while countries around the world, including the US, questioned whether they could afford to carry on helping Ukraine in the face of invasion, he added: “They are not asking us to die for them, but the means to defend themselves. Yet you hear people say, “this is so expensive, we are going to get tired of this. But if you think this is bad you have no idea what Europe will look like if you let Russia win in Ukraine.”

Be as patient as your enemies

“I still think the best days are ahead but you have to be patient,” said the former US President. “The enemies of freedom are patient. they sometimes lie around for generations before reaching out to bite you.”

Beware fake news

Asked what individuals could do to build a better world, Hillary Clinton advised people to beware fake news and to get the best education they could. “It’s so important people develop the confidence and education and skills to be able to navigate changes in the world. It’s not just about intellectual things but developing empathy and understanding so you can bridge divides which are there by virtue of history and being weaponised by people who want to divide us.

“We need to try to see through the many smoke screens created by division. There is a concerted effort by a number of nation states, criminal groups and others trying to tell a version of reality that is not true, but quite effective fake news. Forces of divisiveness are prevalent on the internet which keeps people uncertain about what’s happening.”

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Migration is here to stay

In a week when the UK Government’s Rwanda asylum policy, which it says is needed to tackle small boats, was ruled unlawful Hillary Clinton was careful not to reference any one country directly, apart from the US, but she said: “Leaders have a duty to make sure (immigration) systems are well run, but we don’t have open borders and cannot sustain many tens of thousands of people desperate to get to the US climbing walls, swimming rivers and dying in the desert,

“You need enough people on borders to handle the influx of people coming to the US or UK so that people worried can see that when people arrive that the government is running an efficient migration system - we don’t yet have that in the US. The fear of migrants is, to some extent, fear of difference and that fear is hyped up by people wanting to play on fear for their own political benefits.”

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Former US President Bill Clinton during an in-conversation about current global challenges and the importance of engaging young people in leadership roles at the Great Hall in Swansea University Bay Campus.
Bill Clinton listens to the conversation

I’m not naming any names but...

Hillary Clinton didn’t name Donald Trump or any other political players but had a wry smile when she told the audience in Swansea: “In the US we have two different types of politician - performers and producers. We have a lot of performers getting clicks and attention drawing people to their social media accounts - they do little to improve peoples’ lives.

“Then there are the producers and it’s kind of boring. When you get up every day choosing to be responsible, how do you get attention? Citizens have to be more willing to support producers. Smile at performers, but don’t vote for them. Very manipulative political leaders use social media (in this way) and are very good at it. You notice I didn’t mention any names.”

My friends told me not to run for President

Hillary said her friends told her not to run for President, but she was glad she didn’t listen to them, even though it was hard at times. She said her advice was that if you think you can do a good job then you should try.

I wish I'd got a black belt in karate

And finally, asked what he wished he had done earlier in life Bill Clinton told Gower College student Rebecca Hammond: “Getting a black belt in karate and learning another language fluently.”