Former President Bill Clinton encouraged a University of Minnesota audience Monday night to focus on trust and compromise as a way to solve the challenges the country is facing, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports.
Clinton spoke after receiving the Dean's Award for Public Leadership from the Humphrey School of Public Affairs. The event was part of the school's yearlong commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which its namesake, Hubert Humphrey, championed as a member of the U.S. Senate at that time.
Clinton told the audience the passage of the Civil Rights Act was evidence that trust and compromise can work in politics, but he lamented that sort of approach is very rare in our polarized society, according to the Pioneer Press.
Americans have become less racist, sexist and homophobic, Clinton said, but "our one remaining bigotry" is that we don't want to be around people who disagree with us, the newspaper reported.
"In a larger sense we are too divided, not because we shouldn't argue but because we don't want to resolve," Clinton said, according to KARE 11.
The Dean's Award honors those who have made important contributions in promoting the common good through leadership and service, according to the Humphrey Institute. The school will honor several others with public leadership awards at another event later this month.
The Clinton event was a fundraiser for the school's scholarship program to promote diversity and inclusion. The dean of the Humphrey School, Eric Schwartz, said Clinton spoke for no fee, and he estimated the ticket sales raised $120,000 to $150,000 for the scholarship fund, according to the Pioneer Press.
Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was invited to speak in April as part of the civil rights series, but protesters objected to her appearance because of her role in the wartime presidency of George W. Bush, and the fact that she was speaking about human rights.
The school rejected calls to cancel her appearance, and Rice spoke to a crowd of more than 2,700 people on April 17. Rice received $150,000 for the appearance, and U of M officials have said the fee was paid by private donor funds.