"If you're a project manager and you're a professional, there's always going to be something you can do for the next 50 years in the 21st century," Mr. Clinton told the audience Sunday night at PMI Global Congress 2010 -- North America.
Saying he was "fascinated" by project management, Mr. Clinton saw how the profession played a role in his own career.
"The more I thought about coming here, the more I thought about how much my life [in politics] and my work now revolves around good, or not-so-good, project management -- how to allocate money, time and people in a way that achieves the desired objective," he said.
Since leaving office in 2001, Mr. Clinton has headed up the William J. Clinton Foundation, which works to " strengthen the capacity of governments and individuals to alleviate poverty, improve global health, strengthen economies, and protect the environment.."
Mr. Clinton said in six years, the Clinton Global Initiative, one of his foundation's separate initiatives, has raised about US$63 billion in commitments over a 10-year period while impacting the lives of 300 million people in more than 170 countries.
"All these things require establishing and executing projects -- and recognizing when they don't work, because not everything does," he said.
Even projects aimed at the greater good must have a solid plan of action. You have to prove sustainability projects make economic sense, he said.
Turning good intentions into positive outcomes -- that's what project managers do, Mr. Clinton said.
Mr. Clinton identified three specific challenges facing the world today:
• Global instability
• Growing economic inequality between rich and poor countries
• The need for change in the way energy is produced and consumed in the world
"We've got to do something about these three things, and we have to decide who is going to do it and how," Mr. Clinton said.
Mr. Clinton also highlighted the challenges facing Haiti and the projects his foundation launched in the wake of the massive earthquake that rocked the country in January. Calling his efforts in Haiti "the hardest thing I've ever done in my life," Mr. Clinton encouraged project managers to do their part.
"Anybody that wants to come help me develop building standards to make sure that everything we do is both earthquake- and hurricane-resistant, I would be happy to have your help," Mr. Clinton said. "The good news is, every day I live I become more convinced that intelligence, ability and hard work are equally distributed [throughout the world]. Organization and opportunity are not."
As the world begins its economic recovery, Mr. Clinton says he remains hopeful and that "the process of digging out of it will be somehow purifying for us."
Updated October 19, 2010: Ricardo Viana Vargas, PMP, past Chair of the PMI Board of Directors, shares interesting details of President Clinton's remarks at congress in a podcast on his website.