Can entrepreneurs save the world? Bill Clinton thinks so. In a keynote speech today at this year's Inc. 500 conference in Chicago, the former president encouraged owners of the nation's fastest-growing small businesses to channel their creativity into tackling the health-care crisis, poverty and other pressing social problems.
"We need a culture change here and an organizational change. Things that entrepreneurs do well," Clinton said, describing their role as private citizens doing public good. "Everybody can give something, whether it's time, money or talent."
As an example, he pointed to the rise of employee wellness programs that are helping to contain soaring health-care costs. Or a private-sector initiative aimed at helping low-income earners open bank accounts for a better financial footing — what Clinton called the flipside of the subprime mortgage crisis. "We're talking about people taking their money out from under a mattress and putting it in a bank."
More generally, successful business owners might also tap into a rising global consciousness among ordinary Americans — which saw more than a billion dollars in donations go towards tsunami victims in Southeast Asia — and an upward trend in corporate philanthropy, Clinton said.
So what do you think? Will CEOs save the world? Or, as many anti-globalization critics surely feel, does the world need to be saved from CEOs?