As the former Vice-chair of the Board of Trustees of the University of the District of Columbia and in my college days as the President of the graduate class at Baruch College in New York, I followed with interest the debate on what universities are paying Hillary Clinton to make a speech. It is clear the debate isn't driven by rational thinking but rather the palpable fear that Republicans have of Hillary Rodham Clinton running for President. The ridiculous attacks from Benghazi to the latest about her paid speeches are being picked up by both conservative and other media partly because whenever they write or talk about Hillary it gets them front page placement or on-air time, even if they have nothing of value to say or write about. We know based on recent polling the American voter is becoming immune to these attacks on her and still gives strong support to a potential Clinton run for the Presidency.
Hillary, like so many other politicians, celebrities, experts, and motivational speakers, is represented by a speaker's bureau. I haven't read much about the exorbitant fees being paid to others, but Hillary is being criticized for accepting invitations to speak at public universities because someone decided they can attack her and make it seem she is taking public money that would otherwise go to students even if this is totally not true.
Universities for years have known that bringing experts, motivational speakers, or just plain famous people to their campuses is beneficial to students and to the entire university community. The publicity generated by having a speaker of renown, paid or unpaid, is great for the University. When I was on the board of trustees of the University of the District of Columbia we received incredibly beneficial publicity boosting the reputation of the David A. Clarke School of Law when Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg came to speak. As President of my graduate student class at Baruch College we had a student fund that could be used to bring speakers to the school. It was a fund that was meant for that reason and to enhance the graduate program. Hillary brings everything to a University family when she comes to make a speech. She is an expert, a motivator, and famous enough to draw worldwide attention to the university and its programs.
Intentionally forgotten in the debate over what Hillary is paid is that the fees are donated directly to the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation, a non-profit organization that Bill Clinton started to do good in the world after he left the White House. Hillary receives no money for her work for the foundation. Some Clinton haters like Maureen Dowd in her New York Times column suggested that Hillary should give the money to a different charity. Dowd apparently doesn't like the work of the Clinton Foundation. Are we now going to attack Hillary because we want to direct her charitable giving? Give me a break.
I would be curious about which of the following projects of the Clinton Foundation Dowd doesn't like? The foundation contributes about $20 million every year to fund projects in the most needed parts of the country and the world, including: the Clinton Global Initiative, which has improved the lives of over 430 million people in more than 180 countries by working to secure over $103 billion to spur innovative solutions to global challenges; the Clinton Health Access Initiative, which has reduced the price tag of some of the most common HIV/AIDS tests by as much as 80 percent and has helped more 6.8 million people in the developing world gain access to low-cost, high-quality HIV and AIDS treatment - including more than 647,000 children; and the Clinton Hunter Development Initiative, which helps reduce famine by training farmers and providing them access to the best varieties of seeds and fertilizers and has fed over 30,000 people.
In regard to a speech at the University of Nevada Las Vegas (UNLV) some in the media tried to imply that the funds used to pay Clinton's fees, which went directly to the Clinton Foundation, were public money taken away from students when in fact a UNLV spokesman confirmed that no university funds were used to pay her and the fee was paid completely by private donors. The same was true at University at Buffalo where 6,500 came to hear her speak and many bought tickets to the event. Donors to university foundations know that their donations are often used for the extras that enhance a student's time at the university. I would suggest that for many students the highlight of their academic year may be attending a speech by Hillary Clinton whose words will surely impact the lives of many of those in the audience.
Hillary Clinton is one of the most well-known and respected women in the world. Her presence at a University brings it national and international attention. In the case of UNLV it even broadens people's understanding that Las Vegas is more than just a city in which to gamble. It is a city whose university brings to their students the major players involved in determining the direction that our nation and world will take in future years.