KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Former President Bill Clinton visited Kansas City Wednesday to receive the Harry S. Truman Good Neighbor Award.
Clinton took the stage at the Downtown Marriott-Muehlebach Tower a little late for the awards dinner. He apologized to the audience, saying he was visiting with some his relatives who were sitting together at one table. One relative had given him a band
program from 1957 that he was featured in, which he held up to show the crowd.
The former president said his relative was featured on the front page. He was listed on the back of the program, much to the delight of the audience.
Mentioning it was his third trip to Missouri to honor Truman, Clinton spoke on several topics, including the economy, climate change and trying to solve the modern complex problems that face the nation and the world today.
But he centered his comments on Harry Truman for whom the award he received was named.
The former president said he loved visiting presidential libraries, except his own.
"In 2007, I was honored to speak at at President Truman's library. I love visiting presidential libraries except mine. When I go home, I want to go home," Clinton said. "I was recently at the dedication of George W. Bush's library and I've become close to the Bush family, which some people find....weird."
"Barbara Bush has even referred to me as her black sheep son. You know the one that drops away from everyone else and joins the wrong political party," he said smiling as the audience responded in laughter.
Clinton spoke about his love for the Good Neighbor award and recalled when he was growing up in Arkansas, everyone there thought of Harry Truman as a good neighbor.
"I wish I had had the chance to know Harry Truman, the former president said. "He had a strong mind and a steel spine. Truman could explain problems in plain language."
He also mentioned when President Obama was first elected about how he had wanted to appoint Clinton "Explainer-in-chief" because he had the knack of being able to explain ideas in simple language like Truman was able to do.
Clinton touched briefly on the economic instability in the world today.
"There's too much instability in the modern world," he said. "Some instability is good for the economy, but too instability affects how institutions will lend and borrow money.".
On Truman, Clinton said, "If you think about Truman's public career, he showed how to be concerned about people in our community and people around the world. He had
a purpose. He had an understanding of people, and he understood politics."
"Harry Truman liked a good argument. You need different perspectives when dealing with problems. No one has all of the answers. Without exception there is creative cooperation when people talk together," he pointed out.
"Being a good neighbor requires seeing all of these complex problems in human terms. Our common humanity has got to be worth more. We've got to be able to work together and around the world. Harry Truman was right. Being a good neighbor is the best policy," Clinton said as he closed his remarks.
Foundation President Karl Zobrist said President Clinton was chosen for his remarkable record of public service.
“He was chosen, of course, for the significant things that happened during his eight years as president,” Zobrist said. “I mean, the longest sustained period of economic prosperity in American history.”
President Clinton is the second U.S. president to receive the award behind President Gerald Ford in 1977.
More than 1,000 tickets were sold to the event.