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Clinton urges graduates to develop community

Former president Clinton delivered the commencement address and received an honorary degree yesterday at Middlebury College in Vermont. (Alden Pellett/associated press)

MIDDLEBURY, Vt. -- Bill Clinton told Middlebury College graduates yesterday that building a community in the world by recognizing similarities rather than differences among all of humankind would help solve the world's problems.

After listing a host of problems -- from resource depletion to global warming, avian influenza, terrorism, and economic inequality -- the former president told the Middlebury students that genetically all humans are 99.9 percent the same.

"Why would I come to you and ask you to think about community? Because I believe questions about community and personal identity will determine our collective capacity to deal with all the problems," Clinton said during a 20-minute commencement address.

The key is "the elemental knowledge that what we have in common is more important than what divides us," he said.

Clinton's spoke after a brief rain storm doused the 600 graduates and more than 7,000 guests and faculty sitting outside on the Middlebury campus.

Clinton, who served as president from 1993 to 2001, received an honorary doctor of humane letters degree for his commitment to service, from attorney general and governor of Arkansas, through his presidency and today as "a supportive spouse, global citizen, dedicated to the betterment of this world and mankind," said Middlebury president Ronald D. Liebowitz.

Since leaving office, Clinton has formed the William J. Clinton Foundation, which has worked to provide medical treatment to adults and children living with HIV/AIDS in 25 countries and to address climate change, childhood obesity in the United States, and other issues.