Bill Clinton surprises activists

Former president in Denver speaks about solar use in undeveloped areas

Former President Bill Clinton is greeted by Andrew Romanoff, iDE senior advisor, at the iDE annual luncheon in Denver on Tuesday. Clinton spoke about the importance of helping developing countries become agriculturally self-supporting and alleviate poverty. Enlarge photo

Ed Andrieski/Associated Press

Former President Bill Clinton is greeted by Andrew Romanoff, iDE senior advisor, at the iDE annual luncheon in Denver on Tuesday. Clinton spoke about the importance of helping developing countries become agriculturally self-supporting and alleviate poverty.

DENVER – Former President Bill Clinton made a surprise visit Tuesday in Denver where he told organizations fighting poverty in developing countries that they can make great strides through collaboration.

Clinton’s appearance drew gasps and a standing ovation at a downtown luncheon. Clinton spoke about his foundation’s work in Africa, Latin America and Haiti to help farmers living in poverty market and sell their products.

Clinton spoke about efforts to bring solar power to farming operations in Haiti, where electricity rates are high.

“Solar is much more economical in the developing world where there are no electrical grids,” he said. By combining solar and wind energy, Clinton said, “You can have an agricultural powerhouse in a way that would alleviate poverty.”

“All of these things are before you. This is stuff I’ve seen with my own eyes. These are the kinds of things you can do, and that’s why I wanted to be here,” he said.

Clinton was speaking to a luncheon commemorating the 30th anniversary of iDE, or International Development Enterprises. The group addresses poverty by educating farmers and giving them access to tools to become self-supporting.

The group is launching a collaborative with two dozen Colorado organizations that have similar goals around the world, and it is building a center in Denver.

Clinton praised the plan.

“I think the idea that you should work together, pool your resources, reinforce each other and not fall all over each other is very important,” he said.

More than 700 people attended the luncheon, and the money raised will go to iDE and construction of the new center, which opens next summer.

Andrew Romanoff, Colorado’s former Democratic House speaker and iDE’s senior adviser, joked to those at the luncheon that “Clinton just happened to be in the neighborhood.”

Clinton supported Romanoff’s unsuccessful U.S. Senate bid against Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet in 2010. Clinton said he was in town for a meeting for his foundation.

Romanoff said the goal of establishing a center is to provide a home for organizations and entrepreneurs who want to target their products and services to poverty-stricken countries and “improve the quality of life for some of the poorest families on Earth.” Some of the technologies the group has helped develop include ceramic water filters to provide safe drinking water and drip-irrigation systems to help farmers where water is scarce.

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