Bill Clinton gave the keynote address at the 2011 National Council Conference & Expo. The day after U.S. military forces found and killed Osama bin Laden, the former president noted the important achievement for the United States.
But the news also provided an opprtunity to ask attendees to consider the event in terms of their own life’s work, and to "put it into a larger context."
Clinton talked about bin Laden's ideology and his notion of an "absolute truth," noting that “anyone who claims to have an absolute truth is in trouble.”
Throughout history, Clinton pointed out, systems have failed because they became rigid. “Eventually, people became more interested in advancing their positions than advancing the policies that upheld the institution.”
In relation to mental health and addiction treatment, Clinton explained that “every time you help someone struggling, you’re not only empowering them, you are improving the odds that they will contribute to your community. In that way, he explained, “we are all connected."
Clinton challenged the members of the audience to think about how they propose to "turn their good intentions into real changes." The importance of this effort should not be underestimated, he added, because "people are dying to know how to do something that makes a difference."
While arriving at solutions is always challenging, he urged the crowd to consider whether the arguments in which they might be involved are the right ones, and whether the debate is “wrongly structured.”
“If the debate occurs in the wrong framework, asking the wrong questions will give you the wrong answers,” Clinton said. Focusing too much on the wrong questions, he added, “puts you at risk of doing long-term damage.”
“Getting this right is profoundly important,” he said. “Because mental health represents a big piece of America's future.”